Some books on the economy
After listening to another unconvincing and — more importantly — unscientific oversimplistic rant about a magical world without government, I decided to post a comment on Youtube! Actually a bunch of them. Maybe I should just write blog posts again…
I’m doing some soul searching in my life… i don’t really know if I’m a libertarian or a liberal
I know the feeling. As much as I enjoy Peter Schiff’s podcast, as soon as he ventures away from monetary policy and the need for a balanced budget, his all-government-is-bad conviction often leads to some really clumbsy reasoning.
There’s almost a religious element to some peoples hate for government and blind faith in the mythical free market. Statements are based on dogma, not on actual facts or observation. There’s a lot of “you can’t understand, because the truth has not been revealed to you” retoric. And there is the usual gospel: how people always used hard money (not true), that government is always bad, etc.. The tone is invariably highly emotional, which is another sign of some sort of brain-washing.
Anyway, the real world is much more complicated. I responded with a list of books I read over the past decade. Let me share those here:
Anthropology / biology:
Friendly reminder that the economy consists of humans.
- Debt: The First 5000 Years (first, read Peter Schiff’s hilarious How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, particulary the first few extremely naive chapters)
- Guns, Germs and Steel — Jared Diamont
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Steven Pinker — this alone will cure you of voluntarism)
- Swimming with Sharks — Joris Luyendijk (I read the Dutch version)
- Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence — William L. Silber. My favorite part is where he needs to explain Nixon —with the attention span of a toddler— the whole gold standard issue in 1973. Quite a different setting than the conspiracy theorists like to imagine.
- Per Slot van Rekening — Zijlstra (in Dutch, but a friend of mine translated some of it): Dutch Central Bank president from 1976 to 1982 and Minister of Finance before that.
- Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises – Tim Geithner. He’s both humble and entertaining; he also shows how important it is to have competent people in government (and elsewhere) when a crisis hits; let’s hope Trump recruited wisely.
These are just people, usually quite competent. They have lots of meetings, make decisisons on limited information, experience frustration, etc. Reading their stories tends to cure the sense conspiracy.
- The Airport Economist — Tim Harcourt
- Irrational Exuberance — Robert J. Shiller (I read the 2006 edition)
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (about the South Sea Bubble, Dutch Tulip Mania and some other events that nearly bankrupted their respective countries)
- The real price of Japanese money (mostly as reminder that weird things can happen during bubbles)
- Nasim Taleb (Black Swan, Antifragile, I still need to read Fooled by Randomness)
- Hayek — Road to serfdom just to throw in a bit of libertarianism, but he is much more reasonable than his followers. Check out his rap battle with Keynes by the way.
None of these will offer you a framework to understand everything, or offer a simple recipe to salvation for humankind, sorry.
P.S. don’t forget to buy some Shitcoin!