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Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us [Hardcover]

John Quiggin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Oct 2010

In the graveyard of economic ideology, dead ideas still stalk the land.

The recent financial crisis laid bare many of the assumptions behind market liberalism--the theory that market-based solutions are always best, regardless of the problem. For decades, their advocates dominated mainstream economics, and their influence created a system where an unthinking faith in markets led many to view speculative investments as fundamentally safe. The crisis seemed to have killed off these ideas, but they still live on in the minds of many--members of the public, commentators, politicians, economists, and even those charged with cleaning up the mess. In Zombie Economics, John Quiggin explains how these dead ideas still walk among us--and why we must find a way to kill them once and for all if we are to avoid an even bigger financial crisis in the future.

Zombie Economics takes the reader through the origins, consequences, and implosion of a system of ideas whose time has come and gone. These beliefs--that deregulation had conquered the financial cycle, that markets were always the best judge of value, that policies designed to benefit the rich made everyone better off--brought us to the brink of disaster once before, and their persistent hold on many threatens to do so again. Because these ideas will never die unless there is an alternative, Zombie Economics also looks ahead at what could replace market liberalism, arguing that a simple return to traditional Keynesian economics and the politics of the welfare state will not be enough--either to kill dead ideas, or prevent future crises.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (3 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145822
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 16.4 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

One of Bloomberg News's (bloomberg.com/news) Top Thirty Business Books of the Year for 2010

Co-Winner of the 2012 Gold Medal Book Award in Economics, Axiom Business

One of Financial Times (FT.com)'s Books of the Year in Nonfiction Round-Up in the Science & Environment list for 2010

One of Naked Capitalism blog's , "Must Read" Economics Books, Yves Smith for 2011

"This book is certainly a good read for anyone eager to know why it is urgent that economists come up with a socially useful body of thought or suggestions."--Shanghai Daily

"Entertaining and thought-provoking. . . . [W]orks as a good summary for non-specialists of how the economics debate has developed."--Philip Coggan, Economist

"Quiggin is a writer of great verve who marshals some powerful evidence."--Financial Times (FT Critics Pick 2010)

"Lucid, lively and loaded with hard data, passionate, provocative and . . . persuasive. . . . [Zombie Economics] should be required reading, even for those who aren't Keynesians or Krugmaniacs."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Barron's

"Apparently some economists have a sense of humor, dismal though it may be. Quiggin uses the 2008 global financial crisis as the focal point for examining five core macroeconomic and financial theories that have been--to use zombie terminology--killed by our current predicament. . . . Economics students and interested lay readers will find this valuable."--Library Journal

"Erroneous economic ideas resemble the living dead, writes John Quiggin in his smart new book Zombie Economics. They are dangerous yet impossible to kill. Even after a financial crisis buries them, they survive in our minds and can rise unbidden from the necropolis of ideology."--James Pressley, Bloomberg News

"The financial crisis has disproved many cherished tenets of 'market liberalism', such as the 'Efficient Markets Hypothesis', yet these zombie ideas still shamble through newspapers and journals. Enter economist Quiggin, calmly wielding dual shotguns to blast them relentlessly in the face. . . . As Quiggin explains with elegance, lucidity and deadpan humour, the undead ideas here are interconnected: killing one causes it to knock over another in a sort of zombie-dominoes effect."--Guardian

"Zombie Economics is . . . a highly readable and sobering assessment of the role played by discredited economic ideas in the global financial and economic meltdown of 2008-09. Quiggin delves deeply into the origins and development of all the star culprits so loved by the economic right in recent decades: from the efficient markets hypothesis to privatization and Real Business Cycle Theory. None has stood up to the stern test posed by real markets and economies in crisis. Yet most live on, still featured in many curriculums and advocated by those academics who have staked their careers on them."--Globe & Mail

"It's hard to resist a book called Zombie Economics, and University of Queensland professor John Quiggin makes his tale as compelling as his title. . . . It's the rare read that's both thoughtful and fun."--Biz Ed

"[A]n excellent new book."--Jessica Irvine, Sydney Morning Herald

"I haven't done justice to Quiggin's book, so if you're interested in a readable exposition of the exploits of academic economists over the past 35 years I recommend it highly. It's the story of how economists forgot much of what they knew. Please, guys, don't do that again."--Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald

"As well as exposing how these flawed ideas brought on the global crisis and how they live on, Quiggin offers his view on a new way forward in economic theory. It's time to bury the zombie."--Fiona Capp, The Age

"From the so-called 'great moderation' concept to the implications of the efficient markets hypothesis, Quiggin does an excellent job summarizing each zombie idea and explaining why it is discredited in a simple (but not simplistic) manner."--Choice

"[Cogent] and readable . . ."--The Nation

"Cleverly titled, with a wonderful and very un-academic cartoon cover and written without excessive jargon, Zombie Economics provides an elegant critical introduction and analysis of some of the key ideas of modern economic thought."--Satyajit Das, Naked Capitalism blog

"Put a bullet through the decaying brain of walking-dead economics by reading Quiggin."--Seth Sandronsky, SN&R

"Peppered with humorous quotations, theory and history, Quiggin has assembled a compelling read about the misguided intellectual economic assumptions of the last forty years and also gives possible solutions to our current financial dilemma."--Ted Stamas, Bullfax.com

"I encourage my colleagues in sociology, psychology, and management to read this book and leverage it to lead to a more integrated social science and, perhaps, a more socially aware economic science."--Brent Goldfarb, Administrative Science Quarterly

From the Inside Flap

"Killing vampires and werewolves is easy enough. But how does one slay economic zombies--ideas that should have died long ago but still shamble forward? Armed with nothing but the truth, John Quiggin sets about dispatching these dead ideas once and for all in this engaging book. Zombie Economics should be required reading for those who would dare reanimate the economic theories that brought us to the edge of ruin."--Brad DeLong, University of California, Berkeley

"Tempted to tangle with your libertarian uncle or your Wall Street Journal bromide-spouting coworkers? If so, this book will arm you to rebut the clever phrasemaking and slippery reasoning that has allowed dead constructs like 'trickle down economics' to soldier onward. Quiggin's clear, elegant dissection of wrongheaded notions will appeal to both lay readers and academic economists."--Yves Smith, author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self-Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

"Zombie Economics provides a unique and comprehensive discussion of the ideas that failed during the recent financial crisis. But the book contributes much more. Its discussion of how macroeconomics developed, and the ideology that has grown up around it, is every bit as important and interesting."--Mark Thoma, University of Oregon

"This is a terrific book. Quiggin is an engaging writer, and the combination of quotations, history, theory, and hard evidence makes the book quite a page-turner."--Andrew Leigh, Australian National University


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Two years on from the beginnings of the Global Financial Crisis, books are emerging that step back from the initial, journalistic questions - what happened, and how - and are beginning to consider the implications for policymakers and economists, who with few and unregarded exceptions failed to predict the crisis and have since seemed at a loss for credible policy directions. 'Zombie Economics' is one of these books.

John Quiggin, an academic economist, takes his starting point from a remark by Keynes.

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

Quiggin argues that the debacle of 2008-9 exposed to merciless scrutiny a set of economic ideas, collectively forming an economic orthodoxy, that had been allowed to masquerade for thirty years as a living body of coherent doctrine but were in fact 'zombie ideas': intellectually vital only until their pulse was checked, and dangerous in their capacity to supplant real thinking.

The author organises his book around an analysis of five such 'zombie' conceptions: the 'Great Moderation'; the 'efficient markets hypothesis'; 'dynamic stochastic general equilibrium'; 'trickle-down economics'; and 'privatization'. In each case, he presents a description of the concept, an historical account of its rise to prominence, an analysis of its weaknesses and a provisional verdict on whether, like the zombie, the concept in question has been killed definitively or is likely to prove inconveniently undead.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Like the villain in a horror movie, discredited economic theories can return to haunt you. Australian economist John Quiggin claims that some of these ideas - like total privatization, perfectly rational markets and trickle-down policies - nearly destroyed the world's economy, and that they are trying to make one more comeback. In an attempt to drive the final stake through the brain-eating, dead soul of "zombie economics," he knifes through the five most dangerous principles of "market liberalism." With no apparent fear of being controversial, he presents a compelling case as to why each of those "zombie ideas" failed and describes a new, alternative approach, melding the best of free-market capitalism with judicious use of government involvement to address crucial social needs. Quiggin heavily annotates his work and provides a thoughtfully researched bibliography. Though the economic jargon can, at times, slow your progress, Quiggin's book rewards your persistence. getAbstract recommends this eerie tour through defunct yet durable economics to anyone who enjoys a good scare. Find your silver bullets, construct your booby traps and carry your axes for good measure: Quiggin says it is high time to kill those zombies once and for all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
John Quiggin is Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland in Australia. In this superb book, he refutes the leading ideas of current mainstream economics:
"*the Great Moderation: the idea that the period beginning in 1985 was one of unparalleled macroeconomic stability;
*the Efficient Markets Hypothesis: the idea that the prices generated by financial markets represent the best possible estimate of the value of any investment;
*Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium: the idea that macroeconomic analysis should not concern itself with economic aggregates like trade balances or debt levels, but should be rigorously derived from microeconomic models of individual behavior;
*Trickle-down economics: the idea that policies that benefit the well-off will ultimately help everybody; and
*Privatization: the idea that any function now undertaken by government could be done better by private firms."

Quiggin points out, "The Efficient Markets Hypothesis provides a case against public investment in infrastructure and implies that macroeconomic imbalances, such as trade and current account deficits should not be regarded with concern and, provided they arise from private sector financial transactions, are actually both beneficial and desirable."

Supply-siders claimed that free trade, more migration, lower taxes and de-regulation would improve productivity. But they haven't. They claimed that Reagan's 1981 corporation and income tax cuts doubled US government revenues - not true. Income tax receipts grew more slowly in the 1980s.

Income tax is not the only tax on income: payroll taxes are regressive, falling mostly on wages. Most capital income is taken in the form of capital gains.
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