The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society

Little, Brown. Sept. 2019. 448p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316512329. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780316512275. POl sci
New York Times journalist Appelbaum has written a thoughtful history of the role of economists in U.S. government and public policy debates. He argues that this influence has become much more important from the second half of the last century up to the present day, and maintains that the differences between liberal and conservative economists is often overstated; economists have tended to be supportive of consumption over production, free trade, free capital flows across countries, floating exchange rates, deregulation, and the concentration of industries into a relatively few major corporations. Appelbaum is open about his support of a regulated market economy with a strong safety net, but he is far from being simplistically ideological. For example, he believes the decline of U.S. manufacturing was inevitable owing to automation but also suggests it could have been allowed to proceed more slowly, giving time for individuals and the country itself to adjust. A minor flaw in the overall work is that early discussions of military conscription are not well integrated with the rest of the book.
VERDICT This work offers an intelligent assessment of free-market thought in modern times and the resultant policies and should prove of interest to those interested in public policy.

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