Thursday, April 26, 2012

Anybody know what the new Larry White book is like?

Is it good? I think we've all gotten a massive dosage of history of twentieth century macroeconomic thought in the last several years, and it ranges between being a stiff regurgitation of what everyone knows to a good rendition (which may or may not be objective). Knowing White I'm guessing that his book is not on the regurgitation end of the spectrum, but is it worth a read outside libertarian/Austrian circles? Does it give a new and insightful look at this history or is it just a well-done presentation of the libertarian angle on the matter?

I'm hoping to get more reading done this summer. Aside from a few during winter break I haven't really gotten a chance to read much of anything. My May will be spent reading Wickens and Varian practically cover to cover to prepare for my theory comps. But after that I want to read Pissarides's Equilibrium Unemployment Theory (which I started for a paper this semester - it's quite good and well written despite being fairly technical) and probably Roger Farmer's Expectations, Employment, and Prices. This is all of course the labor/macro literature that I should know before getting out of the program. I want to read some history too - Dolan's history of the American whale fishery has been on my list for too long... need to get to that.

I've also tossed around the idea of reading two classic labor books: Labor Supply, by Killingsworth, and Labor Demand, by Hammermesh, but I'm not sure if they're "read straight through" books or more reference books. They're both a little dated, although the Hammermesh book is newer. The advantage is that reading them thoroughly would really bring me up to date on the labor literature in a way that course work just can't.

Any other ideas?


  1. Well, I haven't read Lawrence H. White's book, so I can't comment on that.

    Regarding Roger Farmer's book...have you seen Dr. Michael Emmett Brady's review of that book? While it may be state-of-the-art, Farmer makes the mistake of claiming that there is no mathematically-formulated theory of effective demand in the General Theory when there actually is.

    Regarding "other ideas"...I do have other suggestions for you to read, Daniel, even though they may not be related to your field of specialty.

    1.) "Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision" by Daniel Ellsberg

    2.) "Probability, Econometrics, and Truth" by Hugo A. Keuzenkampf

    3.) "The (Mis)behavior of Markets" by Benoit Mandelbrot

    These three books are not related to labor economics - the first is related to decision theory, the second is related to the methodology of econometrics, and the third is related to financial economics, but all three would be worth purchasing.

    If I had to pick only ONE book of the three, I'd read Daniel Ellsberg's doctoral dissertation, "Risk, Ambiguity, and Decision". It's expensive, but it's worth the investment, Daniel Kuehn. ;-)

    1. I don't know what Brady's standards are, but typically putting together two functions doesn't constitute a "model". Whether Keynes had the structure of a model in mind is another point, of course. I think he probably did have something in mind. But I think it's fair to say that no formal mathematical model appears in the General Theory.

      It is true that several functional relations are provided at different points to more clearly make Keynes's point, though.

      Ya, for reasons we've talked about before I don't think I'll get around to reading any of those - but I may try to see if the second one is in the library, to skim through it.

  2. I bought White's book a few days ago and I'll prob. put up a review, although that might not be until late May or mid-June.

  3. Regarding Keynes's model, Daniel, Dr. Brady DOES concede that the equations that Keynes uses *dispersed* throughout the book, but the important parts are in Chapters 20 and 21. The model is buried and dispersed in parts.

    I've given you a copy of Dr. Brady's 1996 History of Economics Review article about John Maynard Keynes and James E. Meade. It's just a matter of following the equations in the GT carefully.

    I hope you enjoy Keuzenkampf's book, if you can get the chance to read it. As for missing out on
    Daniel Ellsberg's dissertation, you're missing a chance to *empirically* support Keynes's theory of liquidity preference.

  4. Larry is very, very sharp -- I can't imagine him writing a bad book.

    1. That's definitely my impression of him too - I don't mean to give the wrong idea about it. Some people do good history of thought and have a definite position on who's right and who's wrong (let's say Rothbard, for example), and some do good history of thought and are more objective in presentation (let's take Rothbard's own mentor, Dorfman). Both styles have their advantage - in the flood of history of economic thought commentary since the crisis, I'm just a little curious what style this book is like.

  5. Every chapter is availaible as a working paper on the Mercatus site.

  6. I was preceded by Larry White when I gave my lecture in Toronto. He's a great lecturer, as well as author.

  7. 1) Busy reading Pissarides for my macro course as we squeak.

    2) On the subject of economic history, I'm nearing the end of Agnar Sandmo's Economics Evolving. I've found it a superb book and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a clear and concise exposition of the history of economic thought.

    3) On whaling, I was only recently made aware of the fundamental role that the US Civil War played in ushering in the transition from whale oil to kerosene... When war broke out in 1861, Union whalers were forced to keep their ships in port lest they risked capture by Confederate raiders. Kerosene had made sufficient market inroads by the time the war ended in 1865 to effectively sound the death knell for the whaling industry. (This is one of many interesting anecdotes from another excellent book that I read recently, But Will The Planet Notice? by Gernot Wagner.)


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