On Classical Economics [Paperback]

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Thomas Sowell's many writings on the history of economic thought have appeared in a number of scholarly journals and books, and these writings have been praised, reprinted, and translated in various countries around the world.

The classical era in the history of economics is an important part of the history of ideas in general, and its implications reach beyond the bounds of the economics profession.  On Classical Economics is a book from which students can learn both history and economics. It is not simply a Cook's tour of colorful personalities of the past but a study of how certain economic concepts and tools of analysis arose, and how their implications were revealed during the controversies that followed. In addition to a general understanding of classical macroeconomics and microeconomics, this book offers special insight into the neglected pioneering work of Sismondi—and why it was neglected—and a detailed look at John Stuart Mill's enigmatic role in the development of economics and the mysteries of Marxian economics.

Clear, engaging, and very readable, without being either cute or condescending, On Classical Economics can enable a course on the history of economic thought to make a contribution to students' understanding of economics in general--whether in price theory, monetary theory, or international trade.  In short, it is a book about analysis as well as history.

Item Specifications...

Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 28, 2007
Publisher   Yale University Press
ISBN  0300126069  
EAN  9780300126068  

Availability  0 units.

More About Thomas Sowell, David Read Johnson, Susan L. Burden, Judith Gilbert Kautto, Joel M. Carp, M. H. Offord, Eric Kingson & Kevin Nowlan
Thomas  Sowell Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. As with many others in his neighborhood, Thomas Sowell left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service, Thomas Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics. Thomas Sowell graduated from Harvard University, received his Master's in Economics from Columbia University and his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago. In the early '60s, Sowell held jobs as an economist with the Department of Labor and AT&T. But his real interest was in teaching. Sowell began the first of many professorships at Cornell University, and his other teaching assignments include Rutgers University, Amherst College, Brandeis University and the UCLA, where he taught in the early '70s and '80s. Thomas Sowell has a large volume of writing including a dozen books, and numerous articles and essays; covering a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to civil rights and judicial activism, even choosing the right college. Much of his ground-breaking writing will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today! Though Thomas Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984. In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute.
"George F. Will's writing," says Sowell, "...proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing."
Sowell's very timely book,The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition attempts to determine whether what is being done to deal with America's 2009-2010 housing boom and bust problem is more likely to make things better or worse. His examination of racism and Liberalism in Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a classic from a daring perspective rarely heard in the Black Community. Nowhere else will you read about the co-dependent relationship between "..black rednecks.. and white liberals.." Currently Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Good History of Classical Economic Thought  Aug 27, 2008
This is a good book for those seeking a more detailed understanding of the history of classical economic thought from the perspective of a free market economist. Since Sowell does not spend much time providing broad overviews of the ideas of the major classical economists, I do not recommend this as the *first* book to read on the history of economic thought. Instead, I recommend Mark Skousen's "The Big Three in Economics" as an excellent first book on this important subject.

There is much good to be obtained from this work. From reading this book, you will also learn about, amongst many other things, the following:

* The various ideas underwriting the methodology of the classical economics

* How David Ricardo shifted economists away from empirical observation and ideas and towards mathematical models.

* Say's Law. The extensive discussion on Say's Law is particularly helpful.

* The different theories of value amongst Classical Economists.

* Malthusian population "crises" and Marxian economics "crises". Sowell also does a good job of dissecting these ideas and exposing the fallacies contained within.

* A decent amount of insight on Adam Smith. For example, Smith was an abolitionist on both moral and economic grounds, he thought of landlords as "idle rich", disliked collusion, did not see society as merely a sum of individuals and favored regulations to handle externalities in public works and banking.

* John Stuart Mill's key ideas, including the idea that income is inversely proportional to the intensity of work.

* Karl Marx's exploratory method of sequential approximation in Das Kapital. That is, for example, in the second volume of Das Kapital, Marx refutes assumptions made in the prior volume and subsequently introduces new assumptions to correct the previous flaws. Thus, according to Sowell, many critiques of Marx's arguments, such as the famous one by Eugen Bohm-Bawerk, actually refute Marx on the same grounds that he later refuted himself. Nevertheless, Sowell still concludes that Marx's economic ideas are still deeply flawed, especially due to his overemphasis on the importance of labor.

Overall, this is a very good book to add to your reading list if you want a better picture of the history of economic thought. However, to reiterate, I recommend that this not be the first book on your list.

My main complaints are as follows. One, this book does get a little bombastic at times, which makes it a slower read. Second, although the summarizing conclusions at the end of each chapter are very helpful, Sowell sometimes probes deeply into pedantically settling minor points that are surely largely limited to academic interest when he could be spending more time illustrating the essential ideas at hand. For example, consider how Sowell repeatedly contrasts Sismondi's view with the Ricardian interpretation of Say's Law on whether an increase in savings *necessarily* leads to a subsequent growth in production.
A very illustrating synthesis  Aug 23, 2008
Many economists at some point of their careers have met Schumpeter's magnificent opus "History of Economic Analysis". However, for the vast majority of them, who are not normally devoted full time to the study of economic doctrines, reading all Schumpeter's work represents a huge effort that maybe they are not willing to do. Thomas Sowell's On Classical Economics is a handy alternative to grasp just the core ideas of the dismal science. I would simply define this book as a concise review of the doctrines of the modern economic science in a brief, methodical and enjoyable manner.
Sowell's account of classical economics is outdated and unreliable  Sep 18, 2007
Thomas Sowell's On CLASSICAL ECONOMICS is about how little Sowell thinks of classical economics, not a critical restatement of classical economic principles to assist modern economic analysis or policymaking. Moreover, it is the dissenters from classical economic principles, in particular, Thomas Malthus, J. C. L. Sismondi and Karl Marx, whom Sowell credits with superior insights. Readers may be attracted by the facts that Sowell wrote two books on classical economics (1972 and 1974) and that he currently writes a weekly newspaper column on topical issues from a perspective many might think reflects classical economic principles. But the book seriously disappoints. Half of the eight chapters are merely a reprint of Sowell's CLASSICAL ECONOMICS RECONSIDERED (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974), with no attention to the secondary literature since the late 1960s. He repeats claims that have been corrected since the early 1970s, especially on the classical theory of value and Say's Law of markets. The other four chapters also do not benefit from the secondary literature written since the early 1970s. Thus, accepting Sowell's conclusions about classical economics without verification would amount to a four-decade retreat in scholarship. Sowell's copious referencing of the primary literature in his "rapid-fire" style of summarizing classical arguments--often three or four or sometimes even eight (p. 30) citations within a sentence--may give the appearance of reliable scholarship, but several of the citations I checked appear inconsistent with Sowell's interpretations. Thus, to anyone familiar with the classical literature, the book may be quite frustrating. In the hands of someone attempting to understand classical economics, it may be quite misleading....

In ON CLASSICAL ECONOMICS, Sowell seeks to reflect "on a lifetime of research in the field [the history of economic thought] that first attracted [him] to economics" (p. viii), but the field has developed considerably since the early 1970s, even as the subject has been deemphasized in most universities' economics curriculum. Sowell's failure to keep up with the literature since the 1970s thus should caution prospective readers to verify his numerous references, in particular those that appear counter to their expectations. For example, I would not interpret Smith's arguments that "[i]n all great countries the greater part of the cultivated lands are employed in producing either food for men or food for cattle. The rent and profit of these regulate the rent and profit of all other cultivated land" (WEALTH OF NATIONS [New York: Modern Library 1937], p. 152) and "the rent of the cultivated land, of which the produce is human food, regulates the rent of the greater part of other cultivated land" (p. 159) by saying, as Sowell does, that "Adam Smith had long before [J. S. Mill] recognized that rent was a price-determining production cost when the land had alternative uses" (p. 151). Ricardo is also well known for recommending tax, trade, and monetary policies for economic growth. It thus appears inconsistent to interpret his argument that "[i]t has been well said by M. Say that it is not the province of the Political Economist to advise:--he is to tell you how you may become rich, but he is not to advise you to prefer riches to indolence, or indolence to riches" (WORKS [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951], 2: 338), to mean "Ricardo disavowed any intention to advocate growth-promoting policies in general" (Sowell, p. 33). I also would interpret Ricardo's argument cited on page 69 as a leftward shift of the supply curve rather than as a rightward shift of the demand, as mentioned on page 70. Sowell also credits several writers with being the "first" to have said or done something (e.g., pp. 32, 45, 68, 100, 104, and 175). I would investigate these claims further before repeating them.

On Classical Economics  Sep 10, 2007
This book is essential reading for anyone aspiring to understand more fully the field of economics in general and classical economics in particular. As often as Dr. Sowell has mentioned one particular author, a first or fifth reading of F. Hayek's, The Road to Serfdom, would make an excellent preface, or addendum, to this book.
On Classical Economics - by Thomas Sowell  Jan 9, 2007
This book is more for the trained economist then Dr. Sowell's previous books, Basic Economics and Advanced Economics. While some terms will be unfamiliar to the general reader, with care it is still possible to follow his analysis. I especially found his assessment of Marx to be useful. And not to be found anywhere else.

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