Good Economists for Hard Times is an economic self-help book by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Abhijit D. Mehta, all three professors of Economics at MIT. It was released on October 12,2021 by PublicAffairs, LLC, and Allen Lane. The book's overall premise is that in light of current challenges, it is time to think in new ways and dig deeper into the fundamentals of economics. It begins with a review of what happened over the last two decades, with an emphasis on how global factors such as the Great Recession and unconventional monetary policies have affected the U.S. economy.
The book then moves on to describe alternative macroeconomic policies, mainly focusing on what these policies should do for a suffering economy. After briefly detailing the four different paths to recovery, the authors then present their case, using rigorous economic theory and statistical techniques. The resulting model is called Econometrics, and the book gives numerous examples of this process being used to forecast future inflation and output growth. The book then goes on to describe several policies that have been adopted by countries around the world, with particular reference to Great Britain, Sweden and Canada.
The book concludes with a further look at the Great Depression, explaining that it was a crisis that could be understood by general economic theory. The book concludes with a wide range of policy recommendations, mostly centered around reducing consumer debt. The main recommendations of the book are to keep interest rates low, avoid excessive borrowing and reliance on credit, use fiscal stimulus packages sparingly, and increase government spending and infrastructure. These sound prudent, but it is also worth adding that they are not earth-shattering, just practical solutions to pressing problems.
There are many books that have been recommended as good economics for hard times. However, I find this one to be the best overall treatment of the subject. Authors Roth and Guriev take the reader through the four stages of financial crisis and explain the steps needed to get out of them. In doing so, they also show how the crisis can be used as a catalyst for change. Ultimately, they recommend ten steps towards a healthy economy through a careful planning and cautious implementation.
My own feelings about this book are that while the treatment is rather detailed, the overall message is not strong enough. It would have been more helpful if the book had been shorter, perhaps twenty pages instead of the eighty-page version that it is. I think it would have been better had it focused more on macroeconomic indicators and on a set of rules rather than a story of hope and recovery. However, the author did provide a good introduction to the topic and a lot of very useful advice was presented in the later chapters. I also think that much of what is taught would have been known even by the Great Depression.
I found myself really appreciating the author's caution when dealing with recession. I think many readers will agree with me that it is not a good time to experiment with policies that may only make things worse. I also think that a lot of what is taught about planning and recovery in these economic textbooks will be known by most people by now and will only need to be relearned from experience. This is true of all economic books but especially true of recessions.
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