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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Great Economists written and read by Linda Yueh.

Since the days of Adam Smith, economists have grappled with a series of familiar problems - but often their ideas are hard to digest, before we even try to apply them to today's issues. Linda Yueh is renowned for her combination of erudition, as an accomplished economist herself, and accessibility, as a leading writer and broadcaster in this field; and in The Great Economists she explains the key thoughts of history's greatest economists, how their lives and times affected their ideas, how our lives have been influenced by their work, and how they could help with the policy challenges that we face today.

In the light of current economic problems, and in particular economic growth, Yueh explores the thoughts of economists from Adam Smith and David Ricardo through Joan Robinson and Milton Friedman to Douglass North and Robert Solow. Along the way she asks, for example: what do the ideas of Karl Marx tell us about the likely future for the Chinese economy? How does the work of John Maynard Keynes, who argued for government spending to create full employment, help us think about state investment? And with globalisation in trouble, what can we learn about handling Brexit and Trumpism?

In one accessible volume, this expert new voice provides an overarching guide to the biggest questions of our time. The Great Economists includes: Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Alfred Marshall, Irving Fisher, John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, Joan Robinson, Milton Friedman, Douglass North and Robert Solow.

©2018 Linda Yueh (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"The best place to start to learn about the very greatest economists of all time." (Professor Tyler Cowen, author of The Complacent Class and The Great Stagnation

"Economics students, like others, can learn a lot from this book." (Professor Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion)

"Not only a great way to learn in an easily readable manner about some of the greatest economic influences of the past, but also a good way to test your own a priori assumptions about some of the big challenges of our time." (Lord Jim O'Neill, former Chairman at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, former UK Treasury Minister, and author of The Growth Map)

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  • nk99
  • 06-11-18

Part History, Part Speculation

This book attempts to do three things at once, with varying degrees of success. The first is to provide potted biographies of the lives of various major economists from history - these sections were thankfully not overlong, as in most cases the lifespan of an economist turns out to be about as interesting as you’d expect (ie. not very).

The author’s second aim is to detail these economists’ major theories within the context of the times in which they lived. These passages struck me as the real meat of the book. I learned a lot about historical events and economic concepts which had previously been little more than names to me, and the chronological structure of the book made it interesting to see how various schools of thought had waxed and waned in influence across different generations of economists.

The third and final aspect of the book is what makes it more (and less) than just a history of economics, as the author attempts to apply each chosen economist’s theories to a current major world issue and so speculate as to what these figures from history might have had to say about our modern times. Unsurprisingly most of these sections focused on the 2007-8 financial crisis and its aftermath leading up to Brexit and Trump. Some of the author’s speculations felt dubious to me, especially since the historical passages made it obvious how much each economist had been shaped by their own particular times and how often they had changed their ideas when new events necessitated a fresh outlook. I also sometimes felt frustrated that each economist had effectively been allowed to comment on only a single aspect of modern finance - although this made the chapters more digestible, it had the effect of treating each issue in isolation rather than drawing a full range of connections between them. I wonder how it was decided which economist was most applicable to which issue, because at times the choices had the feel of recycled lecture notes, awkwardly cramming everything into a single syllabus.

The author reads the audiobook herself, which has both the pros and cons you’d expect - she obviously knows her material better than anyone, but also tends to be drily academic in style. On the whole this book was a mixed bag for me - I found my interest flagging in the later chapters, because by that point it felt like all the fundamental issues had already been covered and more recent economists were simply rehashing the same old debates. Ultimately I was left with the sense that even economists often understand very little about what might happen next in the economy, but are very good at retrospectively explaining why things went right or wrong.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-09-18

Great overview of economic thought

For those who wish to learn about the key people and milestones in the development of economic thought. Excellent links to key economic event in the world over the past century.