... the latest attempt by economists to defend their profession. It is, happily, an excellent antidote to the most dangerous forms of economics bashing: the efforts of opportunistic politicians to weaponise discontent with mainstream politics and to press it into the service of a xenophobic ideology that denies facts and serves the interests of a nativist, global oligarchy ... The book’s authors write beautifully and are in full command of their subject. They examine the most crucial issues humanity faces with a combination of humility over what economics cannot tell us and pride over its contributions to our limited understanding. On every page, they seek to shed much-needed light upon the distortions that bad economics bring to public debates while methodically deconstructing their false assumptions ... Their own conception of what economists should be doing is disarmingly down to earth ... there are passages in Good Economics… when this reader would have liked a little more of Keynes’s ambition. For without it, the plentiful facts do not go far enough in exposing the deeper causes of our current predicament ... The book’s greatest contribution is its methodical deconstruction of fake facts ... Every book as important as this one must include a theory of change: how shall we use its insights to bring about a more humane world?...This is unconvincing, but it could not be otherwise. To provide a persuasive progressive policy agenda at a time when the usual fixes (quantitative easing, taxation) no longer work, the roots of capitalism’s stagnation and flirtation with climate catastrophe must come to the surface ... Perhaps the greatest contribution of Good Economics… is precisely this: it demonstrates both the brilliant insights that mainstream economics can make available to us and its limits, which a progressive internationalism has a duty to transcend.
Great so far, but then the book takes some wrong turns ... This isn’t merely introducing cellphones to fishermen ... Would such a big redesign really work?...How do you redesign policies for effectiveness if you won’t know whether something works until 20 years later? ... Politicians and voters are also unlikely to select policies based on what the academics recommend ... Unfortunately, the book’s tone does not help foster trust...They engage in some ad hominem arguments, discounting their opponents’ views if they have appeared on television or in the press, if they work for the private sector, are 'strident' or belong to 'a previous era' ... lives up to its authors’ reputations, giving a masterly tour of the current evidence on critical policy questions facing less-than-perfect markets in both developed and developing countries, from migration to trade to postindustrial blight. But the book is less convincing when it suggests that a wholesale redesign of social programs is a viable or desirable replacement for our messy democracies and sticky markets. The evidence is lacking for such an ambitious evidence-based policy.
Banerjee and Duflo apply pragmatic, real world–tested economic ideas to such issues as global trade, immigration, prejudice, income inequality, and the feasibility of a universal basic income in this lucid and frequently surprising account ... Banerjee and Duflo’s arguments are original and open-minded and their evidence is clearly presented. Policy makers and lay readers looking for fresh insights into contemporary economic matters will savor this illuminating book.
Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones ... Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.