Friday, April 04, 2008

ASI Roundup

As the ASI has very kindly subsidised my alcohol habit over the last year or so—by providing me not only stimulating meetings but also plenty of free booze to accompany them—I feel that I should plug a couple of their worthwhile efforts.

First, there is Dr Madsen Pirie's book, Freedom 101.
The book refutes many of the common errors of economic, political and social debate. Many of them are in daily circulation as if they were truisms. We are told that, 'the world is running out of scarce resources' or that, 'we should protect the poor by fixing the price of essential goods'. But as Madsen shows, some of these are based on errors of fact, some on false arguments, and many of them on a misunderstanding of how economics works. The book is designed to help readers clarify their own thoughts and equip them to bring that same clarity to aid the understanding of others in discussions.

The Common Errors are still appearing on the ASI blog (the most recent Error being No.81. "Under capitalism the rich waste resources on luxuries.") and the book collects them together in one handy (and cheap) little book. It's well worth getting your hands on: Amazon are currently selling it for a mere £4.79.

Second, there is a new book out by the ASI's other director, Dr Eamonn Butler, called The Best Book On The Market.
My Adam Smith Institute colleague has written a new book on how (free) markets work – called, modestly, The Best Book on the Market.

It covers all the basics about choice, competition and entrepreneurship, and prices. But it's short, fun, anecdotal and accessible. So hopefully it will serve to spread the the understanding among the public, students – even politicians – that markets are actually a good thing. Indeed, the book's sub-title is How to Stop Worrying and Love the Free Economy.

John Blundell of the Institute of Economic Affairs says it vividly and simply explains competition, entrepreneurship and prices. Václav Klaus, President of Czech Republic, says that it presents solid arguments against government attempts to 'perfect' markets by obstructing competition and private ownership. And former Chancellor Lord Lawson says Anything which educates the public and politicians on how the free economy actually works is always welcome. Dr Butler does this in style.

There is also a very positive review over at the Libertarian Alliance blog.
Witty an easy to understand, it challenges the mathematic, quasi-scientific way that economics is often taught and gets back to a more human-centred way of thinking. It trashes the idea of “perfect competition”, often used as a stick to beat the market with, saying that: “the perfect world of the textbook explanations, where markets always balance, is a strange place indeed”.

This pretty much echoes what Eamonn said to me—that the book is designed to illustrate how markets work in relation to people, rather than merely to economists' models—and what he says on his own site.
So when I studied economics at St Andrews University in Scotland, I knew something wasn’t right. The textbook writers were trying to make their subject a science, like mechanics. They treated people like robots, not human beings. By stripping out every trace of human psychology—irrationality, generosity, habit, ignorance—they stripped out everything that makes markets actually work.

It's currently available for pre-order from Amazon.

Finally, like The Englishman, I shall also be attending the Curbing The Crap Artists event on Wednesday 16th April.
The date is Wednesday April 16th, and the bloggers are out in strength at the Adam Smith Institute. The evening's theme is "Curbing the Crap Artists," with three top line bloggers to show how.
...

All this will be punctuated by the finest ales, quality wines and gourmet sandwiches. It starts at 6.30pm in the ASI's Westminster offices. Ask Steve nicely for an invitation at events[AT]adamsmith[DOT]org and mark the date.

I know that both Madsen and Eamonn are keen to get as many bloggers along as possible, so do drop a line to the ASI. Just think how impressed they'll be if you bring those books along too...

2 comments:

Ian said...

That sounds like a thoroughly cool event - Hopefully I'll be there.

Chalcedon said...

The problem with economics is that it is treated as a science which it is not. It uses some scientific tools, such as mathematics to an analyse and explain various things. This tends to be mostly statistics. It often does not explain the methodology. And trust me, knowing how drug trial data is manipulated using statistical methods, you can indeed manipulate raw data to give specific trends. Double reciprocal plot anyone?

Creation 'science' does much the same thing. It hijacks scientific jargon and uses it to give gravitas and a seeming complexity when in fact the emperor has no clothes.

Economics is really a description of commerce which has nothing to do with science. How many testable hypotheses has economics produced? Is supply and demand a law or just common sense.

Am I rambling and should I shut up?