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Principles of Economics (Large Print Edition) [Large Print] [Paperback]

Carl Menger , Peter G. Klein , F. A. Hayek
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2007
LARGE PRINT EDITION! More at LargePrintLiberty.com

In the beginning, there was Menger. It was this book that reformulated, and really rescued, economic science. It kicked off the Marginalist Revolution, which corrected theoretical errors of the old classical school. These errors concerned value theory, and they had sown enough confusion to make the dangerous ideology of Marxism seem more plausible than it really was. Menger set out to elucidate the precise nature of economic value, and root economics firmly in the real-world actions of individual human beings. For this reason, Carl Menger (1840-1921) was the founder of the Austrian School of economics. It is the book that Mises said turned him into a real economist. What's striking is how nearly a century and a half later, the book still retains its incredible power, both in its prose and its relentless logic.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Lrg edition (1 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1479210218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479210213
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 21.3 x 27.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Bent A
Format:Paperback
An alternative (English) title for this fundamental and seminal treatise of economic theory could have been The FUNDAMENTAL Principles of Economics, since that is what Menger set out to accomplish - and indeed did accomplish. Menger only covers the basics and that was a most important thing to do in his time (it was first published in 1871).

Because at that time (1860-1870)it had become apparent that the system of classical economic theory suffered from fundamental flaws, making further progress and a coherent understanding of human action in the economic sphere of life impossible. Much classical theory was descriptively correct (and some not), but it all lacked a coherent theoretical platform to stand on.

Menger covered only the fundamental part of economic theory because a fundamentally new and different approach needed to be developed before further theoretical economic investigation could continue, indeed if economics was to become a coherent theory at all. Essentially, it is the shift from the belief that an objective approach to economics was possible (or natural), towards a fundamentally subjective approach, starting from human material need and human action based on this need (but still without ending "totally up in subjectivity"). The most important part of that paradigm shift is the displacement of the Labour theory of Value developed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo with the Marginal Theory of Value.

In contrast to the English and the French (Swiss, really) approach (made by Jevons and Walras respectively), Menger's approach is non-mathematical. The focus is on concepts and explaining how they apply to basic economic theory. That is why the book is relatively easy to read, especially for non-economists.

Even today, this book is radical!
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original thinker 17 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
These early thinkers seem to view economics with a clarity unseen by the modern Wall St wallies or City sidewinders. "Could it be that it was all so simple then?"
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Indispensable 22 Feb 2004
By D. W. MacKenzie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At first glance, one could hardly imagine important of this book. Menger's Principles is a modest sized paperback, much smaller than modern Principles textbooks. However, its contents are of colossal importance. This is the book that set value theory straight in economics, and more. Menger resolved the Diamond-Water Paradox posed by Adam Smith. Menger did this by showing how exchange values in markets to derive from marginal value in use. Menger's Marginal Value theory quickly displaced the Labor Value theory of Adam Smith. Nowadays only Marxists cling to Labor Value theory. Menger also worked out a detailed theory of economic goods. He worked out the principles of pricing for final goods and factors of production- all in a way that shows the interconnectedness and complexity of these individual elements. Not only did Menger perform the invaluable service of explaining the correct theory of value, he set the stage for many further developments in economics.
Menger looks at everything in terms of cause and effect. He identifies the four conditions that make any commodity an economic good. He then extrapolates out to show how the interdependence of complementary inputs in production means that their value depends both upon the existence of final goods as well as other inputs. Trade depends upon `reverse valuation' up to the point of indifference. Menger also understood how transaction costs (the economic sacrifices that exchange operations demand, p 189) limit trade.
The early chapters stress two points. First, the importance of goods being compliments to each other. Second, men must possess correct foresight and knowledge concerning the means available to them for the attainment of the desired ends (p89). We must have knowledge of the causal connections between goods with the characteristics that satisfy our wants and our future wants in order to carry out effective economic planning. These insights point to crucial issues in economics.
Menger's references to the division of knowledge concerning causal connections between goods and wants led directly to a devastating critique of Socialism. Mises and Hayek used the ideas of this book to prove that communal ownership of resources precludes rational economic planning. Socialism prevents the effective use of knowledge concerning consumer demand and the means of production. Without real property rights we lack the communications network known as the price system. Menger's stress on knowledge is especially clear on pages 89-92.
As the book progresses, he switches emphasis from goods being complements to their being substitutes and stresses scarcity and the control of resources. Here Menger goes beyond the complexity issue that he raised with goods being numerous, complementary, and with production taking place in many stages across time. The elements of substitutability and scarcity begin to paint a picture of intense and possible ruinous rivalry. Here he shows briefly how property rights emerge as a natural consequence of economizing behavior. Menger claims that property is not an arbitrary arrangement but "the only possible solution of the problem that is, in the nature of things, imposed upon us by the disparity between requirements for, and available quantities of, all economic goods". He also has a brief discussion of public goods, which he terms quasi-economic goods. Menger understood the public goods issue, but he also anticipated the absurdity of collective welfare. His definition of national wealth as a complex composite of individual wealths anticipated absurdities of modern welfare economics.
Menger showed how money emerges from barter. This is a vital principle. Vital social institutions like money emerge from self-serving behavior by individuals. This kind of thinking is present throughout this book. While Menger stresses conscious rational choice, he also understood the unconscious and spontaneous order that emerges out of and beyond conscious individual choice. We are largely unaware of the social order of markets, property, and money while it is functioning normally. Only the interruption of commerce turns our attention to the functioning of the system as a whole (this is most clearly stated on p63).
Menger's theory allowed for real errors. Some hold irrational beliefs and therefore `imaginary goods' exist. Some people imagine that `snake oil' goods deliver results that they do not. Others imagine needs that do not really exist. So progress in learning more about real causal connections between commodities and real wants leads to a higher proportion of real goods to imaginary goods. Menger's emphasis on learning and gradual progress and learning is important because it allows for a middle ground where the world can be imperfect, but not hopelessly so. Scholars who focus rational choice and equilibrium end states can easily conclude that the world is as good as it can be. Scholars who assume away rationality and all equilibrating processes end up seeing voluntary social interaction as hopelessly chaotic. By focusing on evolution and learning Menger opens doors to real progress, and allows for the possibility that we have not yet passed through every one of them just yet. To Menger real progress comes with greater correct knowledge concerning the causal connections between commodities and wants. Anyone familiar with the empirical work of Julian Simon will see the importance of Menger's insight immediately.
The contributions of this book are monumental, especially when one considers its relative brevity. It resolves several vital issues and points the way to others- and in only a few hundred pages. This is a book that everyone who studies economics or any other social science should read first. Mises, Hayek, Coase and Buchanan should come soon after. I assign it in my introductory price theory class, and so should all economists. Economists and other social theorists themselves should read this book, as all too few have. This is a foundational book in economics, but even the most advanced experts in economics need to be careful about their understanding of foundational concepts. This book should be read and periodically re-read by all those interested in social theory. The concepts in this book are indispensable to those who want to understand the workings of complex social orders.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These truly are the "principles" of economics! 27 July 1999
By Scott A. Kjar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this masterful work, Menger manages to precede works in several other disciplines. For examples, Menger's implied heirarchy of needs substantially precedes Maslow's famous theory on that topic. Menger's pre-requisites for a thing to become a good are the foundation for the bulk of modern marketing (at least, modern marketing that is of any value to consumers), and his explanation of exchange is vastly superior to the robotic theories offered by Jevons, Marshall, and the other predecessors of modern mainstream economic thought. I require all of my students to read this book, and they come away with an appreciation for Menger's complex and subtle thought (although they hate the Germanic twisting of the language!). If only I could get my colleagues to read this book....
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Aristotelian Economist 1 Oct 1999
By Andrew West - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Probably due to his study of Aristotle, Menger was meticulous in forming his economic principles from observations of reality. Thus he looked at man and his nature, and drew appropriate conclusions (much like philosopher Ayn Rand). Contrast this to the Platonist floating abstrations of modern mainstream economics.
Note that Menger's principles are fundamental and therefore basic. He creates an excellent foundation and starting point for further study of economics. Unfortunately few economists have adopted his fundamental method and approach to economics (even the Austrians veered away). Yet this is the most promising path an economist could take.
One example of the way Menger can spur a re-checking of premises: Menger disputed Adam Smith's assertion that division of labor was the fundamental cause of human economic progress- Menger announced that the most fundamental cause of human economic progress was a growing knowledge of the causal connections required to make goods, combined with the ability to act on that knowledge. A fantastic observation.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Primer of Economics I have ever read 5 Jun 1998
By David M. Kramer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The reader from Michigan must have read a different version of this book than I just read. Menger CLEARLY shows that all value is subjective (including that non-sensical theory of labor value put forth by Marx and his adherents). He shows that NOTHING is of any material value to an INDIVIDUAL until an INDIVIDUAL decides that some product or service (i.e., labor) has a use value or exchange value for himself. It is understandable how this book became the starting point for all of the Austrian School of Economics economists who followed Menger. He laid the foundation upon which the towering edifices of Ludwig Von Mises and Murray Rothbard were built. Absolutely a must read for anybody who wants to understand real basic economic thought, not the Keynesian garbage that has polluted our universities for most of this century.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real economics clearly explained! 24 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In his Principles, Menger states clearly that the conditions for something to be a good are (reinterpreted by myself):1-There must be a neccesity(or, more propely, a desire of any kind to be satisfied). 2- The thing must serve to satisfy that neccesity(or, again, the individual must at least believe that it does so) and 3.- The individual must be aware of the relationship between his need and the thing which is able to satisfy it. When such conditions get together in a scarce thing, we speak of an economic good, to which the individual assigns subjective value depending on the degree of satisfaction of a particular need that a unit of the good provides. There is no such a thing as an objective value, and this basic idea hasn't been perceived by many still in the 20th century. May Menger's book serve as a remedy to those misleading( and source of so many mistakes)interpretations.
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