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Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences

Steve Keen

posted on 30 January 2003

reviewed by Joe McCauley

This book provides a far more clear explanation of the ideas of standard economic theory (neo-classical economics) than do the standard texts (compare with Samuelson, Mankiw, or Barro, e.g.). The book explains utility maximization, indifference curves, and the assumptions underlying the standard economic model that is used by the IMF, the World Bank and all major western governments. Keen uses simple language that even the lay person can follow. The text should be standard reading for every student of elementary economics, but even an experienced economist like Alan Greenspan might benefit from the clarity of thought displayed therein.

Macroeconomic theory is covered from the right perspective, from the result of Sonnenshein et all which shows the basis in microeconomic theory for the standard macroeconomic model. Kirman is mentioned but his seminal connection of liquidity demand with uncertainty is not discussed. The work of Radner should have been included, but then Samuelson and Varian do not discuss Radner's contribution either.Chapter 7 presents the correct perspective on general equilibrium theory, with good advice for students of econ 101.Chapter 8 on Keynes is outstanding, presenting the clearest (and even correct!) textbook discussion of Keynes that I am aware of. Marx's contribution to the basis of capitalism, the recognition of the central role played by the profit motive, is also made apparent in the Keynsian context. The profit motive is ignored completely in Samuelson and the other standard texts, which discuss merely pure barter economies and leave out financial markets altogether. Hicks' interpretation of Keynes' ideas is also correctly presented. All in all, students of economics would be well advised to make Keen's book their main econ text.