• Thinking Like an Economist

  • How Efficiency Replaced Equality in U.S. Public Policy
  • By: Elizabeth Popp Berman
  • Narrated by: Suzie Althens
  • Length: 12 hrs and 3 mins
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For decades, Democratic politicians have frustrated progressives by tinkering around the margins of policy while shying away from truly ambitious change. What happened to bold political vision on the left, and what shrunk the very horizons of possibility? In Thinking like an Economist, Elizabeth Popp Berman tells the story of how a distinctive way of thinking - an "economic style of reasoning" - became dominant in Washington between the 1960s and the 1980s and how it continues to dramatically narrow debates over public policy today.

Introduced by liberal technocrats who hoped to improve government, this way of thinking was grounded in economics. At its core was an economic understanding of efficiency, and its advocates often found themselves allied with Republicans and in conflict with liberal Democrats who argued for rights, equality, and limits on corporate power. By the Carter administration, economic reasoning had spread throughout government policy and laws affecting poverty, healthcare, antitrust, transportation, and the environment.

Thinking like an Economist offers critical lessons for the future. With the political left resurgent today, Democrats seem poised to break with the past - but doing so will require abandoning the shibboleth of economic efficiency and successfully advocating new ways of thinking about policy.

©2022 Princeton University Press (P)2022 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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A hole in the middle

A tedious recitation of institutional organization, this book never actually says much about how economists think (meaning, of course, how many but not all economists think). The narrator's mispronunciations and flat delivery suggest similarly casual attention to audio production.

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  • Bjørn-Rune Hanssen
  • 06-28-22

Good history and useful analysis undermined by political illiteracy

The author chooses to frame the thesis of the book as if the economic style is a product of ‘the left’, explicitly defined as those liberals who align with the US Democratic Party. This is to distinguish this concept of the economic style from the work already done on the rise of neoliberalism, wanting to frame that as a predominantly right wing phenomenon.

This is a poor analysis. Not only are liverals by definition not meaningfully left wing, but it is also a mistake to consider neoliberalism as distinct from the economic style. The style of argument is a foundational part of the ideology, in that it provides the rhetorical and analytical frame that gives rise to the infamous TINA principle; that There Is No Alternative.

So if there is s meaningful distinction to be had at all, it is that for Democrats and those who consider themselves ‘centrists’, the neoliberal ideology is an actual system of belief, while for the right wing it is merely a political weapon of convenience.