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Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism
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Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  307 ratings  ·  46 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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(showing 1-30 of 810)
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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
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 Klappenskoff
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
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 Christensen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Alexander Weber
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
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.
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
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
David Laurin
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.
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
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
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
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"
Jose Manuel Vera
Excelente argumentación sobre las ideas comunes del capitalismo, tanto de un lado como de otro.
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
Some times it was a little hard to follow the reasoning of the author, but a very good book. No simple answers.
Probably the best pop-economics book I've read recently. It's an easy read without condescending to the reader, and although I don't agree with all of Heath's points he supports them fairly well. It's also a surprisingly balanced book - aimed at the left, certainly, but he starts by dismantling enough arguments from the right that you can tell he's not going to be one of those people who ignores the moral dimension. Because of that, I can think of a number of people I'll be recommending this to.
I'm sure an economist would think this book is an easy read but I was not able to speed read it (hmmmm...a sign of my limited intelligence!?). The title of the book is misleading as the author is very unbiased and tends to relate facts not opinions. It had many surprising examples of economic policies that failed or flourished which I found the most interesting. I may re-read this book when I have time to absorb more of its ideas. I would be interested to hear what an economist thinks of this b ...more
Paul Childs
Not bad but a simplistic view of economics in places, so it misses some of the nuance and completely misses economics as a form of analysis. You could do worse.
Justin Douglas
A really challenging, but eye-opening read. The author is a philosophy professor who has taught himself economics, and is able to point out the logical fallacies of both the right and the left and refute their arguments (from the standpoint of conventional economics) with conviction. The writing is very clear and there's no fancy math involved. Anyone who wants to know more about how the economy really works, and to come up with better solutions, should start here.
Heath posits and refutes several common fallacies which he breaks out as five fallacies of the right and the left. For a philosopher dealing with economics, he does all right. But his hand is shown as a Canadian when he takes it as a given that redistribution of wealth is a legitimate function of government.
Otherwise a very good book that tries to be even-handed. I lent my copy to my wife's uncle.
Aug 23, 2010 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Bill Bell
Although I can't accept all of his arguments, I learned a lot.
Good. Probably an easier read for those with more economically-oriented backgrounds, but overall this appears to be a very balanced appraisal of the fiscal fallacies promoted by both sides of the political spectrum. Although there are no revelations or catch-all solutions, Heath provides plenty of food for thought no matter how much you "hate capitalism."
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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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