This masterly exposition of the history of economic thought—and the context in which it developed—goes back to the seventeenth century but concentrates on the last hundred years ... Skidelsky also offers an illuminating treatment of the 2008 financial crisis, the ways in which economists were blindsided by it, the monetary and fiscal policies that governments adopted in response, and the fragile and sometimes faltering recovery.
I disagree with a lot of it ... I would...hope that governments are not tempted to go down the protectionist route by the arguments presented here. Skidelsky notes that there are seven general arguments for protectionism ... Most economists would say that these only provide arguments for temporary protectionist measures, but Skidelsky argues that the conditions in which free trade is beneficial are so often lacking that there can be 'no general presumption' in favor of it. That is dangerous territory ... Skidelsky is more convincing about the requirement for economics to change ... Skidelsky favors reopening economics to sociology, history, politics and ethics to prevent it turning into 'a drying reservoir of abstractions.' He has a point.
The terminus toward which the sometimes tedious monetary and policy history in this book rumbles is the 'puzzle of what went wrong' in the reaction to the Great Recession ... It is indeed the essential question. But Mr. Skidelsky claims on the basis of thin evidence all manner of terrible imperfections in the way a free economy works, while offering no quantitative evidence that governments are wise enough to fix the imperfection without adding worse ones ... The proposal is indeed socialism all the way down.