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Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  374 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
"Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man." -- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (1946)

Every day economic claims are used by the media or in conversation to support social and political positions. Those on the left tend to distrust economists, seeing them as friends of the right. There is something to this, since professional economists
ebook, 352 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2009)
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Dec 06, 2009 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
It was the subtitle of this book that got me in – ‘Economics for those who hate capitalism’. I’ve been reading a few books lately that have been economics for those who love capitalism and I was hoping that this would take to task some of the fundamental assumptions of free market economics and present some way forward for people who are sick of seeing obscene amounts of social product go into increasingly fewer hands while large numbers of the world’s population have nothing or, if they are par ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada-eh
Joseph Heath debunks the myths of modern capitalism, hoping that, by doing so, this book's readers will gain an understanding of economics without the illusions that arise from tendentiousness and/or wrongful intuition: a bit of filthy lucre wherein we better grasp the lucre itself, as well as why the grime accumulates, how we occasionally mistake the lucre as being grimy, and that washing off the grime doesn't always cleanse the lucre.

Heath is a lefty himself from way back, and one who, as he n
Ian Vinogradus
A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

What we now call Economics was once, at the time of Marx, called Political Economy.

One of the major achievements of this book is to reveal just how much political philosophy sits behind Economics, and vice versa.

The book is written from the perspective of the Left. Well, a Left.

It reflects a reasonable level of economic literacy. It acknowledges past errors on the part of both the author and the Left, and seeks to remedy them. In the words of o
Jun 17, 2016 Marco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Economics without Illusions is a rare case of "myth-busting" book that actually does its intended job, rather than simply exposing a contrarian position as if it were divine revelation.

Writing from a Leftist position, the author starts by showing how some positions traditionally associated with Conservative politics (even if the author is a bit too prone to lump everybody outside of the Left tent, blurring some relevant policy distinctions with a convenient label) are not a natural consequence
May 24, 2012 Suhrob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a chance that one could rate a book like this high just because one agrees with it. I do agree with vast majority that is said here, but even if I try to account for this bias I still think it is an incredibly worthwhile read and arguably there is genuine attempt to be balanced (there are 6 fallacies both for left and right). Don't get turned off by the sensationalist title, this is a well thought through, reasonable discussion. Heath might suffer a bit of hindsight smugness, some point ...more
This is a "landmark" book which anyone on the political "Right" and, especially anyone on the political "Left" should read. The author challenged, and in many cases destroyed my economic assumptions. Heath is a very witty, intelligent and, when need be, blunt writer, who isn't afraid to tell it like he sees it and back up his points logically. His being a philosopher first, instead of an economist or activist enabled a relatively balanced book, and produced a paradigm of constructive critical th ...more
Kevin Vejrup
Dec 28, 2012 Kevin Vejrup rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 07, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is intended for people on the left interested in social justice or politics who dislike capitalism, economics and the market without really understanding how the market works. Joseph Heath is a moral and political philosopher from the left himself, frustrated with the lack of understanding among other leftists and how it leads the left to propose solutions that are unrealistic or certain to fail.

But it really works as a primer on economics for anyone interested in politics or making th
May 31, 2015 Tessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I am nearly the ideal target audience for this book, as I'm someone who really wants to understand economic theory but am often put off by the yay-markets-boo-government tone of many introductory texts. I felt Heath gave clear and engaging examples covering a wide variety of economic topics. The structure of the book, which addresses popular economic fallacies on the right and the left in turn, really helped point towards the areas where I tend to get economics wrong.

Some particularly in
Aug 12, 2015 Dragos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs, non-fiction
A must read for anybody that has not benefited from an education in both economics and philosophy Heath's book is a page turner. Initially called Filthy Lucre: Economics for People who Hate Capitalism it is sort of an ex-Marxist's (but still centre-leftist's) appeal for people on the fringe to take a good look at both capitalism and economics in a new light but it works just as well at debunking the fallacies of the conservative/libertarian right, trying to bring confused Atlas Shrugged worshipp ...more
Aug 23, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rachel by: Molly
Shelves: read-2010
I finally finished! And it only took almost three months! I learned a lot from this book, although I've probably already forgotten a significant proportion of it. The book mostly puts forth good explanations of broad economic theories and truths/falsehoods, but he also explains some specific things, too. For example, I now have a much better handle on the current economic/housing crisis.
Jan 17, 2010 Craig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very simplified overview of the field of economics. With critiques of both left and right wing economic policies and theories. A fascinating and humorous introduction for a chap like myself who knows virtually nothing about economics. I'll probably read it agin some day to remind myself.
In principle, this is a book that I would really enjoy- clever marketing in part of the book's subtitle. I'm sure there were some important terms discussed in the book. But... if you asked me to describe a paragraph a minute after I had read it, I probably wouldn't be able to do so.
Maybe it's the unappealing nature of nonfiction or the appearance of new terms every 5 words, but there's a reason why it took me a literal year to finish reading this book.
With that said, I think I would keep this
Edward Amant
This book and Crisis Economics, N Roubini & S Mihm, lead me to give a detailed response of Capitalism's enemies' major points. While it is hard to love "Capitalism" and it's "Creative Destructive" components, if evolution and natural selection teach us anything, it’s that getting something for nothing is simply human sacrifice. So, if you are interested in further reading, (a refutation or counter-point if you will of these books); then see Getting Off the Junk at

Alexander Weber
Mar 04, 2016 Alexander Weber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really great, especially for someone like myself. I think that the subtitle is a little misleading. It's economics for everyone. The book is divided into six fallacies the right always make about economics, and six fallacies the left always makes. I have to admit I found reading it challenging, in a good way. That it, it wasn't hard to read, it just made me question things I believed were rooted in firm reasoning.
Several things I didn't like about Heath's style: he comes off as cond
Eustacia Tan
Sep 16, 2012 Eustacia Tan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Ever since I've come to Japan, I've started to believe that some books are meant to be bought. Books that are meant to be bought will always be on the shelf when you return - like this book. I didn't know if I wanted to buy the book, but after thinking over it, I really wanted it, and was so happy when I went back a few weeks later and found it on the shelf.

This book aims to show why the favourite views of the Right and Left (the American Right and Left political views that is), are both wrong.
Jan 23, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book highly enough. This guy seems to understand a lot of things, including economics, on a really deep level, and is very good at explaining them. Although the author describes himself as center-left, and his greater sympathy for liberals than conservatives is sometimes apparent in his comments, he doesn't try to score points for any "side". His clarity of thought, objectivity, and his use of conceptual tools to make complex issues easier to understand shows why philosoph ...more
Oct 04, 2013 Westcoastsusan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
So it turns out that 'hyperbolic discounting' is not actually an annoying debate technique but rather a description of the universal human tendency to over-weight near term costs and to over-discount long term ones.

We already know this about ourselves. We don't stick to our own virtuous long term plans; Yeah, we're better at it as older adults than we were as teenagers, but we 'sign up to show up' and lock ourselves in to accountability because we know; We know the power of appetite; We know tha
Zachary Jacobi
Jul 24, 2016 Zachary Jacobi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moderates who like markets, leftists with no grounding in economics
Recommended to Zachary by: Tessa
A solidly decent book, although I think hamstrung a bit by its structure. It's seems fairly clear to me that Heath's real purpose with the book is to argue against leftist economic fallacies (god only knows our movement needs this!). Even though they come first, the right wing fallacies section felt like somewhat of an afterthought. It was still fascinating and engaging, but it seemed like it wasn't where his heart was.

I spotted one factual error in the book (although it was probably correct at
David Laurin
Jun 20, 2014 David Laurin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book and I think it should be taught in high schools across the country. It is important to learn about money and all the strange ways the it exists. It is an excellent stand point to reference when thinking about economics and political philosophy. Also a great starting point into the world of economics.
Despite the title, it thoroughly discredits every economic argument from both the left and the right. I have read loads of popular economics books, and Mr. Heath enjoyed debunking all of them (he hated Freakonomics!) Despite my prior knowledge, some of the content was too in-depth for me to follow, but I liked being challenged.
Aug 05, 2009 BC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I fit the profile the author describes quite well - someone without much background in economics or in math. I like to think that I avoid the thought-traps Heath describes, but am sure I fall into them from time to time. I really liked the way the book describes the facile ways many people treat economics/the markets/etc. Anyone who wants to discuss politics and policy should read this book. I did not really like the balance in the book - Heath really goes after the Right, while offering a bit m ...more
Mike Blyth
Aug 13, 2016 Mike Blyth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think the title is a bit misleading, since the ideas presented are not anti-capitalistic. Good explanation of a lot of basic economic reasoning and debunking of simplistic thinking of both right and left.
Jun 08, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it
Overall, this is a good book. I particularly appreciate Heath's intellectual honesty: although he is on the left, he is willing to follow the arguments where they lead. Consequently, he criticizes several ideas prominent on the left. He also, of course, criticizes several ideas on the right. So overall it is a pleasant and fairly balanced read.

The major problem with the book is that he often fails to explain his arguments in sufficient detail. Given that Heath's aim is to give us a book that is
Jan 23, 2010 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent & thought provoking. The book examines the use (and more often mis-use) of economic thought as it applies to public policy issues like health-care, taxation, welfare, trade and competition. While I don't agree with all the author's positions, and wouldn't recommend one rely on it alone (on trade, for example, again I would recommend people read Ha-Joon Chang's 'Bad Samaritans'), it is an excellent, very readable and useful text for general readers about economics and public policy ...more
Charles Lindsay
May 24, 2014 Charles Lindsay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully non-technical. Thought-provoking. Not sure I agree with everything in it, but a book I will keep handy for whenever I want a refresher on e.g. "Comparative advantage"
May 08, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and very readable. Particularly good for those who have avoided economics on the theory that it capitalism is morally doubtful. Right wingers get away with economically fallacious arguments that they probably know are wrong because so few progressives understand economics well enough to call them on it. Heath is a philosopher who understands moral qualms about capitalism, but not only equips us to criticize fallacious arguments from the right, but also self-defeating policy proposals f ...more
Jose Manuel Vera
Excelente argumentación sobre las ideas comunes del capitalismo, tanto de un lado como de otro.
Sep 27, 2010 Robin rated it really liked it
This book makes a really interesting foil to Naked Economics, which I just read. The author isn't an economist, as he points out, but he knows what he is talking about from both philosophical and public policy standpoints. This outsider perspective is part of why his ideas help cast light on some of the typical arguments that economists make. I would highly recommend this book, but I would also aadvise reading something like Naked Economics before reading this, because it will give you a better ...more
May 06, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it
Some times it was a little hard to follow the reasoning of the author, but a very good book. No simple answers.
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Joseph Heath (born 1967) is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto. He also teaches at the School of Public Policy and Governance. He received his bachelor of arts from McGill University, where his teachers included Charles Taylor, and his master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees are from Northwestern University, where he studied under Thomas A. McCarthy and Jürgen Habermas. ...more
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