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on 24 December 2015
Steve Keen debunks every economic myth you can think of and there are many. He also proposes a newish economic way forward to make capitalism work for society rather than against it. Keen is not a communist or a revolutionary - he is simply explaining why neoliberal economics does not work and does not serve society in general at all well.

This book explains the economic principles well but it uses a lot of mathematics which was for me was easier to understand in Steve's graphical representations of the maths.

Steve also explains how modelling techniques can be used to help predict alternative economic outcomes without claiming that any form of economics is able to predict the future from a scientific point of view.

Once again this is not good bed time reading but neither is the Economist.
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on 30 October 2011
Steve Keen's "Debunking Economics" is a thorough and most challenging document in the ongoing struggle to understand the limitations of modern social science and economics in particular. It deserves a most careful reading and comparison with other credible studies of economics listed below.

It is similar to, but much longer than Hill and Myatt's "The Economics Anti-Textbook" in that they both follow the main topics of undergraduate textbooks (micro only in EAT). Hill and Myatt present the orthodox textbook economic positions clearly, succinctly and sufficiently to understand their eclectic critique. By comparison, for the depth and extent of Keen critique I doubt his summaries of the orthodoxy will truly be understood by the non-economically trained general reader, and therefore his critique might also not be fully appreciated: One still needs to study an economics textbook to understand Keen's critique.

But what a critique it is! Eminiently clear and precise it is hard to find fault with it.

Taken overall, Keen's is the far more comprehensive, deeper, more integrated, and more cogent critique. Both are helpful to grasp the weakness of positivist economics with its false and fictional 'value free' status (concealed value judgements abound in every choice made in every textbook!) and the urgency of the need to radically revise it, as mentioned above, for truth sake and the public interest. One question: Does the self-referencing throughout the text help or hinder the argument?

Perhaps a second, shorter simpler version for the general public (say between 50-250pp with a catchy title like "The Market Mechanism: Why it doesn't work and what does." might penetrate the mass media, and then the public consciousness more directly and lead the policy elites to take note of the larger work. What is most needed is a radical re-examination of economics (and social science altogether) to see how we can improve it, both for the sake of truth and the common good (after all economics like politics is a practical knowledge).

But, I would like to recommend a book that penetrates more deeply into the political and economic philosophy behind the modern "science" of economics by examining Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Marshall, Keynes, Hayek, Myrdal, and Rational Expectations Economics partly in the light of Aristotle.

That book is "Deductive Irrationality. A Commonsense Critique of Economic Rationalism" 073911624X) by Stephen McCarthy and David Kehl based on the teaching and writings of Dr. Richard W. Staveley here in Brisbane, Australia from the 1960s to the end of the last century.

Together, Deductive Irrationality and Debunking Economics are complementary and deserve assiduous study as part of the renovation of the social sciences.

Other books of interest reviewing economics include:

1. Deductive Irrationality.A Commonsense Critique of Economic Rationalism
2. The Economics Anti-Textbook by Rod Hill and Tony Myatt;
3. The Skeptical Economist by J. Aldred;
4. Economics for the Rest of Us by Moshe Adler;
5. How Markets Fail by John Cassidy;
6. Animal Spirits by George Akerloff and Robert Schiller.

It is indeed an exciting time to think through the meaning of economics and consider what must eventually come after the failure of positivist social science.

Happy reading!
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on 23 March 2014
How our societies are governed should be, and to an extent are, an evolutionary process. Each and every impediment to such evolution promoted by the "establishment" is but a step to rebellion or revolution. It is easy to 'debunk' neo classic free liberal economics that ensures the rich get richer while the poor get 'trickle down' poorer, but seems to me that academia is is now corrupted so the people of the world have no intellectual leadership to follow. I would encourage everyone to read this text as "lightweight" introduction to understanding that "accepted wisdom" is a dogma formatted to resist evolution, as related to fair distribution of world resources of which all citizens of our planet have (should have!) equal claim.
Sadly those in academia do not understand themselves and so there is no chance of the young being rduvatefd to revise neo-liberal-capitalistic administration to induce the greatest happiness for all?
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on 20 September 2012
Coz' if they cannot do that, in as plain language and logic as those in which Steve Keen leads his assault on mainstream economic theory, then that theory is not only irrelevant to policy-making, but outright harmful to it, and therefore to us all.

At times, I could not believe my eyes when I read the book.

I sure hope that someone comes with that explanation soon ...
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on 18 January 2012
This book is a heavyweight critique on the way much of economics has been taught and shaped by a mainly neoclassical establishment of economists. It engages in detail on many fronts with both notable economists from the past and the big economic debates. If you are really into economics then it's for you, but it may not be suitable for every general interest reader.

Steve Keen has an advantage and a head start over other late-comers to neoclassical economics bashing, because he was one of the few economists whom cogently warned of dangerous personal debt levels etc way before 2007. There are plenty of adequate Coroners out there, confidently establishing what went wrong after the event, but Keen is a GP Doctor who tried to warn us that the patient was in very bad health before things got serious. As her Majesty would agree, why were there not more economists also recognising the dangers ahead.

This is a comprehensive and long book, but there are a few points that stuck out for me. Firstly the central issue of this recession was and is debt, and Keen details how neoclassical economics attaches too little an importance to rising personal debt levels, (but as we know they dislike government debt). Personal debt just does not fit adequately into any of their models of how they perceive economics and risks in the future. This is a very strong weakness he is identifying. He goes on to distinguish between debt incurred for purchasing a productive asset, and debt motivated by an asset bubble in what turns out to be a "ponsi" type scenario. This book emphasised to me how in normal times, the personal debt of the population is tied to their (usually wage) income, as financial institutions rightly balance the opportunity for extra business with the ability of the borrower to pay back. However when an asset bubble like housing price rises break this restraint, problems are around the corner, especially if financial institutions who should know better try to get in on this ponsi type action. Markets are not always correct and wise, they can be irrational and reckless. Keen's suggestion of limiting the amount of debt that can be borrowed against a property to 10 times its rental value, is a sensible possible way of holding back future housing bubbles.

Secondly Keen emphasises the weaknesses of neoclassical economist's use of mathematical models. He also discusses how some economic models are based on the physics models of the past, but these are models which physics itself now considers redundant. To me this highlighted how much economics is different to the more hard sciences, and the enormous time, effort and money which has been sunk into areas of economic study over the years which are either of little use or blatantly misleading. I would hope that economists like Keen now are able to shape the teaching and publishing / funding of economics to a greater extent.

Finally from my point of view one weakness of this book is the lack of content regarding the changing international economic competition from China and co. One of the main tenants of neoclassical economics is the promotion of free markets, which therefore forces and encourages different countries to rely on their comparative advantage. If Western countries lose their historical comparative advantage head start, then suddenly neoclassical free markets don't look so attractive. Even debt would not look like such a big problem if the average American and European factory worker still had more comparative advantage in the world, and did not have out-sourcing and off-shoring undermining their incomes. Keen thoroughly identifies many weaknesses of neoclassical economics from a domestic standpoint, but this international factor must be another which will also aid it's demise.
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on 28 February 2013
. Steve Keen trashes virtually every orthodox economic theory held by mainstrean economists. Of course this appeals to me because I believe that M Freidmans wisdom is in tatters.I have to declare my bias by saying I am already searching for a new type of capitalism on the grounds of the failure of the current system.
Much of this book gives a rational argument that discredits the basis of economic theories built on the utility of a single consumer. If you can accept his argument (which I obviously do) it seems logical that other theories constructed on a falacy must be called into disrepute. To non-economist such as myself this argument seems patently obvious. The reality that economists don't really understand economics seems a reasonable assumption when you consider their miserable failure to predict the mess they have made. The bogus notion that economics has a scientific foundation needs to disproved and I think Keen does this well.
His theories may not represent the absolute answer to our problems but they are a refreshing alternative to the current failure of debt and the absence of any future growth. If you are a mainstream neo-classical economist you might reject this book wholesale. But then I doubt very much that you predicted the economic meltdown and delude yourself we have just strayed from the "great moderastion". The real absence of peer reviewed journals predicting this is indicative of the failure of the current hegomony.

However the book itself was not an easy read to a curious non-economist such as myself. His discussions around diagrams and graphs may have been helped by giving some illustration. It took me two efforts of reading this book to reach a good understanding of his challenges.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 March 2013
"Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists" - Galbraith.

This book is not an easy read but Keen really knows his stuff. He demonstrates that there are exceptions to Galbraith's Rule - some economists actually know what they're talking about. Not all of them live in a royal nudist colony.

As Keen says in his "Preface to the First Edition":

"Why has economics persisted with a theory which has comprehensively been shown to be unsound? Why, despite the destructive impact of economic policies, does economics continue to be the toolkit which politicians and bureaucrats apply to almost all social and economic issues?"

Why indeed?

I also particularly liked his pertinent observations on probability theory.

There is hope for a science of Economics yet. A science that can actually help people instead of hindering them.
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on 25 February 2012
Steve Keen has a deep understanding of the conventional, 'didn't see it coming' Economics which dominates all the major academic establishments. He explains, patiently, but with devasating clarity why they are wrong. He even, in the last chapters, tells us what the alternatives might be.

The key to Keen's success (and the failure of the assembled armies of economics 'experts') is the insight that Money is not just a commodity like any other. Financial Capitalism, which is what we have, must include analysis of Money, how it is produced (out of think air by Banks), how it is distributed into the economy (as debt in bank loans).

To all economists, students of economics and anyone looking for an in-depth understanding of the Crisis that conventional economics has got us into, this is a MUST READ.
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on 8 January 2014
A difficult read but very worth the effort.

Despite the populist title of this book and the scale of error in current thinking being suggested the ideas in this book are very lucid and pragmatic. They are well argued and backed up by extensive references and reasoning. As well as his own ideas Steve summarises the ideas of other economists who's work he builds on.

If you want to here and explanation of why the financial crash of 2007/8 happened and why mainstream economists did not predict it but why a few unorthodox economists did then this is a book for you.
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on 30 September 2015
Philip Warrington's 1 star review of Debunking Economics is more of a visceral reaction than a 'review' and, as such, is hardly helpful to anyone trying to decide whether to read the book. While the book might contain too much detail and too many facts for PW, his review contains no facts at all. My curiosity having been spiked, I therefore decided to read all of the book to find out for myself. What I found is a lengthy and thorough analysis of the key theories of neoclassical economics. One by one Steve Keen demolishes them with impeccable, detailed logic. The book is detailed, as PW complains in his review, but the detail is helpful. The book is clearly written and reasonably easy for even a non-economist like me to follow, provided you are capable of embracing an analysis that shakes 'establishment' economic theories to their core. Not everyone will welcome such an iconoclastic approach. It takes a lot of intellectual horsepower to prove, theory by theory and assumption by assumption why neoclassical economics is fundamentally flawed and why adherence to these beliefs by mainstream economists lies behind the Great Recession that we are now in. Steve Keen, the author, predicted this calamity as far back as 2005 or before and published many detailed reasons behind his prediction. For his efforts, he was the winner, among 96 candidates, of the Revere Award for providing the first and most clearly anticipated public warning of the Global Financial Collapse whose work was deemed most likely to prevent another GFC in the future. This guy knows his stuff and writes clearly enough for non-economists and non-mathematicians like me who seek the truth. If you want to understand why neoclassical economists like Ben Bernanke sound impenetrable when they speak, read this book. It truly is a revelation.
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