A New York Times editorial writer and business reporter charts the rise of the economist from marginalized figure to key player in federal policy in the years after World War II, dramatically changing the nation's financial and social landscape.
Appelbaum does have an ax to grind, but unsheathes it only occasionally, usually to offer cutting one-sentence dismissals of particularly dubious claims by economists. His book is a marvel of popular historical writing, propelled by anecdotes and just the right amount of explanation but also impressively well grounded in the latest academic research by historians, sociologists and others. Much of the territory it covers was familiar to me, but I was constantly learning new twists and nuances.
Appelbaum...writes lucidly about a number of connected subjects: the content of economics scholarship during the postwar era, the highly interpersonal and institution-specific story of how particular ideas and individuals came to have influence with those in power, and, most strikingly, how economists came to enter policymaking and insinuate themselves into the governing class ... The result is a convincing historical interpretation that shows both the origins and consequences of economists’ most self-serving myths ... No one has told this whole story, operating over multiple economic subfields, as well as Appelbaum. In fact, Appelbaum’s assiduousness with the sources and the thoroughness of his footnotes means that the book will be of some use even to the scholarly community, since very few have such facility spanning all the domains that Appelbaum covers. But it is exactly because Appelbaum’s book is so good and so convincing that I fear his subjects will find reason to denounce it rather than take seriously what it has to say.
It is a tale that has been told before, but Appelbaum adds flesh to the narrative by recounting it through the lives and careers of a small group of economists associated with the University of Chicago ... [a] lively and entertaining chronicle ... The Economists’ Hour should help to dispel the myth that economists are invariably dull ... The Economists’ Hour is a reminder of the power of ideas to shape the course of history, a heartening thought for those of us in the ideas business.