Book 11: Grand Pursuit: The story of Economic Genius

Book 11 is a tome by Sylvia Nassar called The Grand Pursuit:The Story of Economic Genius. This well written but sometimes obstruse story of the history of economics is by the author of A Beautiful Mind.

  • The story begins with Thomas Robert Malthus and  John Stuart Mill who held a pessimistic view that the poor would always be there because of increased population which would be without sufficient food supply. Only catastrophes like plague and famine or population control could prevent this
  • We go on to Henry Mayhew who did direct observation of the conditions of the poor and Charles Dickens who wrote about it.
  • We learn about Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, and Beatrice and Sidney Webb and the Fabians who were all concerned about the welfare of the poor and the working class.
  • The book is relatively easy to understand until we get to Maynard Keynes, Irving Fisher and others who were concerned about the gold standard.  Things become a bit more difficult to follow then unless one is well versed in economic theory.
  • The main idea I grasped from the book, though, is that economic theories were developed, taught, wrote about and put in practice until it was discovered that they did not work.  Something new would be tried and we still do not have a economic theory of everything which can be applied to all economic and monetary problems.
  • Although parts of the book were rather hard reading it taught me that the field is one in which there is still much to be discovered.
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