Economist Published an article on books to understand how economists think Sorting begins with Milton Friedman Capitalism and Freedom,* which is always good. It includes Freakonomicsthe old Secular philosophers By Robert Heilbroner (for a broad introduction to economic thinkers you could do worse), Capitalism, alone By Branko Milanovic and Africa: Why Economists Get It Wrong by Morten Jerven, which I have not read; So I can’t comment.

What I find funny is the broad tone. So the author writes about Milton Friedman:

Ignore the fact that Friedman was an ultra-libertarian. It doesn’t matter. Often his arguments were plain wrong. It doesn’t matter. This book is probably the best way to learn to think about trade-offs, because that’s how Friedman always thought about the world. Consider, for example, the minimum wage. Friedman admits that those who accept them charge more. But then the trade-off evaporates. He asks, what about people who are now out of the labor market? or take medication control. Unnecessary, he said. Yes, you can save some lives by insisting that pharmaceutical companies jump through hoops before bringing drugs to market, because less dangerous drugs sell. But these reviews also cost lives, he says, by delaying the delivery of safe drugs to patients. (In 2006 we published this article on Friedman and his legacy.)

I hope it sounds more like this: Get rid of your ideological prejudices for a moment, read Friedman with a clear mind, and you’ll find he was a fascinating thinker. But it just doesn’t sound like it. This sounds like an apology: I recommend a book by Friedman, but I must make it clear that his arguments were (which?) “plain mistakes”. Now, remember that Economistno Jacobin.

The sad truth is that we classical liberals do not realize how far we are now from the mainstream of Western elites. You can tell me that this was always the case. Well, up to a point. Twenty years ago this was true for anti-war libertarians, a small group who were ostracized by the right and the left. But broadly speaking, a certain understanding of the market economy and the dangers of over-regulating it was shared by many people who fit perfectly within the political establishment. Fears of inflation and appreciation of accommodative monetary policy were mainstream. For a while, nationalizations were unpopular with the left, socialist parties offered proposals to make welfare more efficient, and it was common, globalization was a good thing for the men at Davos and the business elite. Now you have to apologize to the readers Economist Before reminding them, hey, there are trade-offs!!!

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