• The Economists' Hour

  • False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society
  • By: Binyamin Appelbaum
  • Narrated by: Dan Bittner
  • Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (258 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

In this fascinating character-driven history, a New York Times editorial writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist spotlights the American economists who championed the rise of markets and fundamentally reshaped the modern world.

Before the 1960s, American politicians had never paid much attention to economists. But as the post-World War II boom began to sputter, economists gained influence and power - first in the United States and then around the world as their ideas inspired nations to curb government, unleash corporations, and hasten globalization.

Milton Friedman's libertarian ideals, Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics and Paul Volcker's austere campaign against inflation all left a profound mark on American life. So did lesser-known figures like Walter Oi, a blind economist whose calculations influenced President Nixon's decision to end military conscription; Alfred Kahn, who deregulated air travel; and Thomas Schelling, who put a dollar value on human life.

The economists promised steady growth and broadly-shared prosperity, but they failed to deliver. Instead, the single-minded embrace of markets has come at the expense of soaring economic inequality, the faltering health of liberal democracy, and the prospects of future generations.

Timely, engaging, and expertly researched, The Economists' Hour is a "powerful must-read" (Mohamed A. El-Erian, New York Times best-selling author) about the rise and fall of a revolution - and a compelling call for people to retake control of markets.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Binyamin Appelbaum (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"I very much enjoyed reading The Economists' Hour, an entertaining and well-written look at how market-oriented ideas rose from the academy and transformed nations. I do not agree with each and every perspective, but found this a valuable and highly recommendable book, which I devoured in a single sitting." (Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation)

"Binyamin Appelbaum has written a powerful must-read for all those interested in reinvigorating the credibility of economics, especially in policymaking circles. Through an engaging discussion of how economists' influence grew and spread, he shows how free-market economics evolved into an over-promising 'affirming religion', only to disappoint too many of its followers and lead others astray. His insightful analysis also helps us identify what's needed to ensure that the market economy remains 'one of humankinds most awesome inventions.'" (Mohamed A. El-Erian, author of New York Times best sellers When Markets Collide and The Only Game in Town)

"Writing in accessible language of thorny fiscal matters, the author ventures into oddly fascinating corners of recent economic history...Anyone who wonders why government officials still take the Laffer curve seriously need go no further than this lucid book." (Kirkus)

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  • Overall
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    3 out of 5 stars

One-sided ridicule of economists

This is not necessarily a criticism of the book, but it almost seems like this was written in 2009, stored on a hard drive for a decade, and then had a concluding chapter slapped on so it could be published in 2019. What I mean is that one should not go into this expecting a detailed breakdown of how what economists did from 1960-2010 got us to where we are today.

As one would expect from a lead writer on The New York Times' Editorial Board, the book is well-written and accessible. It is written for the layperson, but does have a rather obvious leftward bias. That doesn't make it right or wrong, but it is something to be aware of going in. Appelbaum chooses Milton Friedman as his principle antagonist, with a shift toward Greenspan in the book's final chapters.

You'll be left with a generally negative perception of economists, whether or not that was Appelbaum's intention - My guess is that it was. There is no mention of liberal economists like Paul Krugman or Robert Reich, passing reference to Joseph Stiglitz, and nothing said about Thomas Piketty's 600-page bestselling economics book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century".

I thought "The Economist's Hour" as a concept had a lot of potential. There are a lot of growing pains associated with economics as it has come to prominence, but I think Appelbaum let his initial thesis be combined with confirmation bias as he made his case.

48 people found this helpful

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Biased

The book was interesting. although I agree with many of its premises I disliked how the author cherry picked evidence and quotes, or how he jumped to conclusions using causal statements.
Why he omitted that inequality has declined sharply in Chile in the last 15 years? Why compare chilean gdp growth to Taiwan instead to countries in Latinamerica? My guess is that he wants to emphasize the flaws of the market (which are many), but he always belittled the benefits which are substantial. The biased views takes away credibility in the authors conclusions in my opinion....

9 people found this helpful

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Very biased

The book was too biased and one sided to be an enjoyable read - even if just looking for a different perspective.

2 people found this helpful

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Great historical perspective

The book explains the economical shifts in philosophy and policy that have occurred over the past century, that have created the present day economy. I found it very informative and helpful in understanding the conditions and policies that have created our current global economy.

2 people found this helpful

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All hail the power of communism

Sort of interesting history of economic theory. The problem is he does not present a cohesive argument for his conclusion. Multiple hours to stay that the countries should be socialists bordering on communist basically because the markets lead to the 2008 economic slowdown. The isssue is a single data point does not lend itself to a conclusion. He also completely ignores the fact a growing number of countries that instituted huge social safety net programs have been slowly pulling back due to the enormous cost. He also harps on the fact that the US is the only developed country without social medicine but the fact he completely skips is that the profit motive in the US is the main driver of medical advances. Another major point in the conclusion is that countries should structure policy around the lowest common denominator and the issue with that is it leaves a ton of potential for the middle to upper side of the market untapped. A better argument would have been for less government interference in the markets during the 2008 downturn. Yes it would have lead to severe pain in the short term but it would have allowed markets to strengthen and not count on government intervention to keep them solvent after risky investments go south.

10 people found this helpful

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Fantastic, Engaging, Packed with Knowledgeable Insights!

Heard about this book while listening to NPR Marketplace. Kai said the book was fascinating, and it was! Not something I would typically listen to, but loved it. Great story content, which brought to life economies and the history of markets. Thank you to the author for researching and writing the book and creating a fantastic audio book. The clarity, tone, inflection and pace of the reader was perfect.

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excellent narrative explanation

I really enjoyed listening to this. The book is filled with quotes that lend highly relevant perspective on how we got where we are today with regard to economics and economic thinking. Highly recommended!

2 people found this helpful

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Enlightening

Being strictly an amateur when it comes to Economics I found this book educational with respect to the use of economics and the variety of economic theories. The way author connects economics and history is especially useful. I will undoubtedly listen again.

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Sarcasm does not come through in print

Start with the final chapter to get the tone. It would have saved me challenges with the first few chapters.
It covers the Keynes v Milton in action rather than in publication. I like Milton's point on neighborhood effects and administration costs, but it seems like every political interaction he has is to push complete deregulation. I hate the tone and attempt of using algebra to legitimize non-cited assertions in theory of employment, but, while an ineffective communicator in print, it seems Keynes did cause less damage in the real world.
I would attribute the success and failure of economics to an absence of appropriate forum. Economics should be presented in a peer review format with debate and never taken from any individual. I guess that counts as a free market failure...

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Well researched & written

If you’ve ever wondered why we are where we are, or why we did what we did, or why things happened a certain way, this book sheds light on several historical events all of which were driven by and can be traced to an economics.