The Making of Modern Economics Wins 2009 Choice Award

My book The Making of Modern Economics has just won the Choice Book Award for Outstanding Academic Title for 2009. Choice is the reviewing journal for academic libraries. I was delighted by this surprise announcement, especially for a 2nd edition!

Winner of 2009 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title

Winner of 2009 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title

Some of the unique characteristics of The Making of Modern Economics:

1. A major critique of Karl Marx’s theories of capitalism, labor, imperialism and exploitation, and why most of his predictions have utterly failed. (Many former Marxists report that that this chapter alone converted them to the free market.)
2. Two chapters on Keynes and Keynesian economics, what one economist has called “the most devastating critique of Keynesian economics ever written.”
3. Five full chapters on the Austrian and Chicago schools of free-market economics. It is the only one-volume history of economics written by a free-market economist (all previous histories had been written by socialists, Keynesians and Marxists).
4. How Keynes saved capitalism — from Marxism!
5. Over 100 illustrations, portraits, and photographs.
6. Provocative sidebars, humorous anecdotes, even musical selections reflecting the spirit of each major economist.

Choice Review: “With a supreme, lively blend of economics and sociology, Skousen has magnificently managed to put flesh, blood, and DNA on the skeleton of economics in this survey of great economic thinkers. This new work is must reading for economists who want to acquire professional depth and richness. Essential. All economics collections and all levels of readers.”

Description: Here is a bold, updated history of economics–the dramatic story of how the great economic thinkers built today’s rigorous social science. Noted financial writer and economist Mark Skousen has revised this popular work to provide more material on Adam Smith, Marx, and Keynes, and expanded coverage of Joseph Stiglitz, “imperfect” markets, the financial crisis of 2008, and behavioral economics.

Available in hardback and paperback on Amazon.com.

Other quotes about The Making of Modern Economics:

“Mark’s book is fun to read on every page. I have read it three times, and listened to it on audio tape on my summer hike. It deserves to stay in print for many decades. I love this book and have recommended it to dozens of my friends.” — John Mackey, CEO/President, Whole Foods Market

“I champion Skousen’s new book to everyone. I keep it by my bedside and refer to it often. An absolutely ideal gift for college students.”– William F. Buckley, Jr., National Review

“Mark Skousen has emerged as one of the clearest writers on all matters economic today, the next Milton Friedman.” –Michael Shermer, Scientific American

“Both fascinating and infuriating….engaging, readable, colorful…”–Foreign Affairs

“Provocative, engaging, anything but dismal.”–N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University

“Lively…amazing…good quotations!” –Journal of Economic Perspectives

“One of the most original books ever published in economics.”–Richard Swedberg, University of Stockholm

“Lively and accurate, a sure bestseller. Skousen is an able, imaginative and energetic economist.” — Milton Friedman, Hoover Institution

“Having no previous interest in economics, I was honestly surprised to find your book so captivating.” –Haila Williams, Production Manager, Blackstone Audio Books

“Skousen gets the story ‘right’ and does it in an entertaining fashion, without dogmatic rantings.” –Peter Boettke, George Mason University

“One of the most readable ‘tell all’ histories of the 20th century.”–Richard Ebeling, Hillsdale College

“I couldn’t put it down! The musical accompaniments for each chapter are a wonderful touch. Humor permeates the book and makes it accessible like no other history. It will set the standard.”–Steven Kates, chief economist, Australian Chamber of Commerce

“The most fascinating, entertaining and readable history I have ever seen. I highly recommend it for translation abroad.”–Ken Schoolland, Hawaii Pacific University

“My students love The Making of Modern Economics! Mark Skousen makes the history of economics come alive like no other textbook.”– Roger W. Garrison, Auburn University.

“It’s unputdownable!”–Mark Blaug, University of Amsterdam

“Skousen is the only economist I know who I can understand. He writes for the common man!” — Dr. Laurence Hayek, U. K.

“Mark Skousen has a genius for explaining complex issues in a clear way and connecting ideas. He is the Henry Hazlitt of our time.” –Steve Mariotti, President, NFTE

“Mark Skousen is a great economist, great philosopher, great entrepreneur, and great friend. He should win the Nobel in economics.” — Steve Forbes

Available in hardback and paperback on Amazon.com.

Book Review: The Making of Modern Economics

Click here to purchase The Making of Modern Economics by Mark Skousen

Click here to purchase The Making of Modern Economics by Mark Skousen

From an online book review on BillyBush.Net:

I recently finished “The Making of Modern Economics” by Mark Skousen.  I found this book quite intriguing.  It provides a powerful foundation and historical background to economic thought by offering the histories of the individuals that most contributed to modern schools of economics and public policy.

It All Started with Adam

Ideas On Liberty
Economics on Trial
May 2001

by Mark Skousen

Adam Smith, that is. Having just completed writing a history of economics,1 I have concluded that, despite the protestations of Murray Rothbard and other detractors, the eighteenth-century moral philosopher and celebrated author of The Wealth of Nations deserves to be named the founding father of modern economics.

The reason: Adam Smith is the first major figure to articulate in a profound way what has become known as the first fundamental theorem of welfare economics: that the invisible hand of competition automatically transforms self-interest into the common good. George Stigler rightly labels Smith’s model of laissez-faire capitalism (Smith never used the phrase) the “crown jewel” of The Wealth of Nations and “the most important substantive proposition in all of economics.” He states, “Smith had one overwhelmingly important triumph: he put into the center of economics the systematic analysis of the behavior of individuals pursuing their self-interests under conditions of competition.”2

In short, Smith’s thesis is that a “system of natural liberty,” an economic system that allows individuals to pursue their own self-interest under conditions of competition and common law, would be a self-regulating and highly prosperous economy. Eliminating restrictions on prices, labor, and trade meant that universal prosperity could be maximized through lower prices, higher wages, and better products. Smith assured the reader that his model would result in “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”3

Indeed it has. Published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations was the intellectual shot heard around the world, a declaration of economic independence to go along with Thomas Jefferson’s declaration of political independence. It was no accident that the industrial revolution and sharply higher economic growth began in earnest shortly after its publication. As Ludwig von Mises declares, “It paved the way for the unprecedented achievements of laissez-faire capitalism.”4

For or Against Smith

The most amazing discovery I made in researching and writing over the past three years is that every major economic figure—whether Marx, Mises, Keynes, or Friedman—could be judged by his support of or opposition to Adam Smith’s invisible-hand doctrine. Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes, and even British disciples Thomas Robert Malthus and David Ricardo denigrated Adam Smith’s classical model of capitalism, while Alfred Marshall, Irving Fisher, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman, among others, remodeled and improved on Smithian economics.

For example, Keynes is unsympathetic to Adam Smith’s worldview. “It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive ‘natural liberty’ in their economic activities. . . . Nor is it true that self-interest generally is enlightening. . . . Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less clear-sighted than when they act separately.”5 The basic thesis of Keynes’s magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), is that laissez-faire capitalism is inherently unstable and requires heavy state intervention to survive. Keynesian disciple Paul Samuelson correctly understood the true meaning of Keynes: “With respect to the level of total purchasing power and employment, Keynes denies that there is an invisible hand channeling the self-centered action of each individual to the social optimum.”6 Thus, I conclude that Keynesian economics, rather than its savior, is an enemy of Adam Smith’s system of natural liberty.

Karl Marx went even further. Instead of creating a system of natural liberty, Marx set out to destroy it. Modern-day Marxist John Roemer agrees. The “main difference” between Smith and Marx is: “Smith argues that the individual’s pursuit of self-interest would lead to an outcome beneficial to all, whereas Marx argued that the pursuit of self-interest would lead to anarchy, crisis, and the dissolution of the private property-based system itself. . . . Smith spoke of the invisible hand guiding individual, self-interested agents to perform those actions that would be, despite their lack of concern for such an outcome, socially optimal; for Marxism the simile is the iron fist of competition, pulverizing the workers and making them worse off than they would be in another feasible system, namely, one based on the social or public ownership of property.”7

Adam Smith as a Heroic Figure

By measuring economists against a single standard, Adam Smith’s invisible-hand doctrine, I found a fresh way to unite the history of economic thought. Virtually all previous histories of economics, including Robert Heilbroner’s popular work, The Worldly Philosophers, present the story of economics as one conflicting idea after another without resolution or a running thread of truth. This hodgepodge approach to history leaves the reader confused and unable to separate the wheat from the chaff.

My approach places Adam Smith and his system of natural liberty at the center of the discipline. Think of it as a story of high drama with a singular heroic figure. Adam Smith and his classical model face one battle after another against the mercantilists, socialists, and other enemies of liberty. Sometimes even his “dismal” disciples (Malthus, Ricardo, and Mill) wound him. Marx and the radical socialists attack him with a vengeance and leave him for dead, only to have him resuscitated by the leaders of the marginalist revolution (Menger, Jevons, and Walras) and raised up to become the inspiration of a whole new science.

But the “neo-classical” model of capitalism faced its greatest threat from the Keynesian revolution during the Great Depression and the postwar era. Fortunately, the story has a good ending. Through the untiring efforts of free-market advocates, especially Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek, Adam Smith’s model of capitalism is re-established and in the end triumphs. As Milton Friedman proclaims, “To judge from the climate of opinion, we have won the war of ideas. Everyone-left or right-talks about the virtues of markets, private property, competition, and limited government.”8

Long live Adam Smith!

1. The Making of Modern Economics (Annonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe Publishers, 2001).
2. George Stigler, “The Successes and Failures of Professor Smith,” Journal of Political Economy, December 1976, p. 1201.
3. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, 1965 [1776]), p. 11.
4. Ludwig von Mises, “Why Read Adam Smith Today,” in The Wealth of Nations Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1998), p. xi.
5. John Maynard Keynes, “The End of Laissez-Faire,” Essays in Persuasion (New York: Norton, 1963 [1931]), p. 312. Keynes’s speech was given in 1926, a full decade before The General Theory came out.
6. Paul A. Samuelson, “Lord Keynes and the General Theory,” The New Economics, ed. Seymour Harris (New York: Knopf, 1947), p.151.
7. John E. Roemer, Free to Lose (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 2-3. Note the title, imitative, albeit negatively, of Milton and Rose Friedman’s popular Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980).
8. Milton and Rose Friedman, Two Lucky People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 582.