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Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  299 ratings  ·  55 reviews

In the graveyard of economic ideology, dead ideas still stalk the land.

The recent financial crisis laid bare many of the assumptions behind market liberalism--the theory that market-based solutions are always best, regardless of the problem. For decades, their advocates dominated mainstream economics, and their influence created a system where an unthinking faith in marke

Kindle Edition, 249 pages
Published (first published 2010)
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This book is a lot of fun. It is *not* an introduction to economics. It *is* a political statement, with heavy economics backing up that statement. If you're looking to learn more about economics this is not likely to help you, but if you're looking to go argue economics-based politics with a bunch of friends, this will fit into your arsenal nicely.
For each of five major topics: trickle-down economics, privatization, moderation economics, efficient markets, and dynamic stochastic general equilib
John Quiggin in an Australian economist. He made his name in the early 1980s in an esoteric area called decision theory. The Econometrics Society made him a fellow on the basis of this work, a distinguished award. He writes a blog, which has many devoted followers. The book is primarily about macroeconomics, however, which is not his area. Asking Quiggin about macroeconomics is like going to a podiatrist for your headache: it's the wrong end of the body.

The chapter on Dynamic Stochastic General
Dave Burns

Disappointing. Bites off quite a lot, but fails to chew it. Why am I so disappointed? I guess I don't see a strong connection between these ideas and the 2008 crisis, probably because I've heard so many conflicting explanations of the crisis. The explanation in this book is something like "The crisis happened because economists believe these stupid ideas." Huh? Maybe I missed it because I am skimming around looking for the beef, but I missed the part where he connected the crisis to specific po
A great overview of modern economics, how it went wrong and gave us gross inequality and the Global Financial Crisis, and possible avenues for new research. And it's not as pro-Keynesian as some reviewers would have you believe.

Quiggin covers the Great Moderation (unsustainable in the long term), the Efficient Markets hypothesis (wishful thinking), Trickle-Down Economics (self-serving bullshit), and Privatisation (actually a good idea when done pragmatically instead of ideologically). He also c
(x-posted from
An interesting book that talks about "dead" (read: disproven by events) economic ideas and how they continue to influence thought and policy. Quiggan goes about his work in a straightforward fashion, and although the death of some of these ideas is more controversial then others, he makes a pretty good case that all of them need to be consigned to the scrap-heap. There's a certain amount of academic-economics inside-baseball involved here,
I've read John Quiggin as a blogger for a while, mostly on the group blog site "Crooked Timber." I knew he was working on this book--he published draft passages for feedback--but didn't read the preliminary stuff and wasn't really planning to buy it. Then I see it at the local bookstores, pick it up out of curiosity and found I couldn't resist the combination of a B-movie zombie cover with chapter titles like "Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Theory."

The basic theme is a review of intellec
I thought this book was pretty good, though I think it's primary effects on me were to (1) make me think even less of economics (as a discipline) than I already did, and (2) feel a bit hopeless that things will ever get better (despite Quiggin's sensible proposals at the end). Three thoughts:

1. I love decision theory (I'm a philosopher of science who works on Bayesian stuff), but I think the attempts by economists to derive interesting macroecomic results by doing decision-theory problems on age
Don’t be deceived by this book’s playful title and cover that looks like a comic book. It is almost as bad as an economics textbook. I did feel a little cheated and used once I started reading this book as it is quite heavy in parts.

Much is devoted to economic debates that are presented in a way that it not very entertaining, with the occasion reference to zombies at the end of each chapter. I needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open when reading about the Efficient Market Hypothesis and you’ll pr
Andrew Davis
Introduced to me a Gini coefficient. It shown that in 2007 in the US the top 1% owned over a third of all assets. Top 10% owned 73% of all the assets. In Australia the top 10% holds 45% of all the assets.
Introduces Real business cycle theory (RBC theory), is a class of macroeconomic models in which business cycle fluctuations to a large extent can be accounted for by real (in contrast to nominal) shocks. RBC theory differs in this way from other theories of the business cycle such as Keynesian e
Elinor Hurst
This book slays the assertions of free market liberalism, sometimes known in Australia as "economic rationalism".. Written by an Australian academic economist, it thoroughly dissects the claims of free market economics for trickle down benefits, financial deregulation, privatisation, productivity improvements and supposed moderating effects on the economy. The GFC has blown many of these claims out of the water, but more than that, Quiggin painstakingly analyses the evidence from a historical an ...more
Justin Campbell
Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us: Review

Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us is a critique of many of the free market ideas that have defined government policy in the last 30 years. The author John Quiggin a professor of economics at the University of Queensland is a well known Keynesian. The fact Professor Quiggin advocates a return to regulation of financial services and a returned to the mixed economy is not surprising. Taking this into account readers shou
Only read this book if you are prepared to be grumpy. I've been wondering for the past 2-3 years why politicians have been arguing back and forth about the bailout, healthcare, the budget, etc. without really having any intelligent or substantial feedback from economists. I figured they were just ignoring the economists because they were dumb politicians. Actually, the truth is that there are hardly any macroeconomists who have had anything useful to say about the recession.

Quiggin does a very g
Gareth Evans
Garish cover, eye-catching title - it certainly did the trick for me as this is the first mainstream economics book I read. The title - certainly the subtitle - is consistently followed throughout the book with 5 ideas from market liberalism analysed with particular reference to the 2008 financial crises. As an economics novice, I found the book very readable having enough explanation of basic concepts. A more entertaining version of this book would have reduced the repetition and introduced som ...more
Economics, as a topic, tends to be dry and dull, and frankly, if your looking for something as 'hip' as say Freakanomics, this ain't it. But what this is, is a very timely look at idea's in economics that are still being defended and put forward, despite history and reality having repeatedly disproven them(most especially in the most recent economic crisis.) I think the books over-all thesis and presentation and excellent, and it's explination of idea's, as well as the layout for the books refer ...more
Decent. It is what I expected. The book goes through five theories of economics that have been around for awhile but were discredited prior to or as a result of the recent financial meltdown experienced globally in 2008. Their historical inception, popularity, and the motivation behind such are explored with an eye toward showing how the ideas are discredited by empirical evidence. The basics of an approach for moving beyond failed ideas toward new ones are suggested but receive a very short tre ...more
Chris Aylott
An Australian economist explains why supply-side economics, reckless privatization, and other hallmarks of recent financial strategy are Really Bad Ideas and Should Not Be Done Again. The theory gets a little thick at times, especially when taking about things like "Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium," which I'm not sure I could define or use in a sentence. But he does get across how many of these ideas ignore common sense practices like estimating reasonable risks and paying what you owe.

Jamie Johnson
John Quiggin's Zombie Economics makes a very creditable critique of the key economic ideas that supposedly drove the neo-liberal boom from the 1980's through to 2008 (the Great Moderation) and then all came spectacularly unstuck in the GFC. That the crises was not in any way obvious to the world of economics academia and they're media spokespeople just goes to show how out-of-touch the profession has become.

My one quibble with Professor Quiggin is that after some very astute and well documented
There are many books which I'm pleased to have read, but only a few that I'm PROUD to have read. This is one of the later. Much like the books I've read on subatomic physics, and the history of the Supreme Court, this one was challenging to say the least. Yes, there's a reason they call economics the "dismal science". Regardless, this was a fascinating journey through many of the theories accepted as fact by the purveyors of market liberalization and unregulated finance. One would think that the ...more
I'm still in the second chapter, but I've seen enough to safely recommend this book. Quiggin gives historically-grounded assessments of some of the stubborn solecisms of the economics profession (e.g. the Efficient Markets Hypothesis). After each chapter, the reader is left with a firmer understanding of how and why these ideas achieved popularity, to what extent they have been discredited, and what the policy consequences have been and might be in the future.

Quiggin can write, and the book is
In fairness to John Quiggin, I probably wasn't quite in the mood to read about economics, but he explains stuff well. Especially enjoyed the chapter on privatisation, which is what I was mostly interested in.
One of the more fun books on economics out there. If you know anyone who is a fan of the gold standard, you'll recognize some of the zombie ideas that just never die no matter how often they are killed.
this is a very good book! i've only docked stars because the whole chapter entitled 'dynamic stochastic general equilibrium' went over my head (surprisily!). but it's good to read a ruthlessly intelligent economist who isn't beholden to corporate interests, Chicago-school ideology or self-referential modelling. quiggin thoroughly dismantles the economic/financal/political obsession with the garbage notion of the efficiency of unbrideled free-markets. the chapters on 'efficient markets', privitis ...more
The is a good survey of modern economic ideas which, in the author's opinion, should be dead but aren't. Based on the title I thought it would be more satirical and funny, but it a fairly straightforward take down of such things as The Efficient Market Hypothesis, the crusade to privatize everything, and (this is an actual chapter title) Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium---all of which seem to based on the idea that humans are perfectly rational economic units.

The idea marches on even thou
A very good book, made me revisit my Econ 101 to verify his points. Supply Side Economics, remember that one?
I probably won't finish this book at this time - maybe later. He did have some interesting ideas, challenged some of my ideas, and gave me things to think about. I already felt that much of popular ideas about economics are riddled with misinformation and out of date perceptions. Economic thought is definitely being manipulated and polarized for the political ends of people with power to control media and, through it, public perception. Trickle down economics still is at the root of a lot of pop ...more
The author had a great idea for this book but it doesn't quite live up to my expectations. It is a good, simplified, history of the ups and downs (and returns to life) of various flavours of economics over the last century but doesn't do a good job of addressed the structural and cultural forces that play such a strong role in the curious revivification of ideas that by all logic should have long since withered. Indeed, it is a strangely apolitical book given the way in which economics and polit ...more
Kai Palchikoff
Princeton University Press
Interesting, but it tends to drag. It wasn't quite as quirky as the cover suggests.
Some interesting ideas about the state of modern macroeconomics. Frustratingly neither systematic nor interestingly idiosyncratic, but pseudo-systematic. The "zombie" framework doesn't really fit everything the author wants to say, and starts to get in the way. It's not entirely clear, from the evidence presented here, who actually holds (or held) the views under discussion, and whether they are undead within economics or in the wider sphere of nonprofessional consumers of economics.
John Quiggin who seems to be a left wing Keynsian, rounds up the usual suspects to blame for the Crash of '08 and the continuing economic turmoil and finds that policy makers who argue endlessly about how to intervene and then do the wrong thing don't listen to economists.

Which seems to be OK, since most the economists get thing wrong most the time anyway. A text on political economy with the emphasis on political. Quiggin has a lively style and a ready wit.
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