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Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science

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“A hugely valuable contribution. . . . In setting out a defence of the best in economics, Rodrik has also provided a goal for the discipline as a whole.” —Martin Sandbu, Financial Times In the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, economics seems anything but a science. In this sharp, masterfully argued book, Dani Rodrik, a leading critic from within, takes a close look at economics to examine when it falls short and when it works, to give a surprisingly upbeat account of the discipline. Drawing on the history of the field and his deep experience as a practitioner, Rodrik argues that economics can be a powerful tool that improves the world—but only when economists abandon universal theories and focus on getting the context right. Economics Rules argues that the discipline's much-derided mathematical models are its true strength. Models are the tools that make economics a science. Too often, however, economists mistake a model for the model that applies everywhere and at all times. In six chapters that trace his discipline from Adam Smith to present-day work on globalization, Rodrik shows how diverse situations call for different models. Each model tells a partial story about how the world works. These stories offer wide-ranging, and sometimes contradictory, lessons—just as children’s fables offer diverse morals. Whether the question concerns the rise of global inequality, the consequences of free trade, or the value of deficit spending, Rodrik explains how using the right models can deliver valuable new insights about social reality and public policy. Beyond the science, economics requires the craft to apply suitable models to the context. The 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers challenged many economists' deepest assumptions about free markets. Rodrik reveals that economists' model toolkit is much richer than these free-market models. With pragmatic model selection, economists can develop successful antipoverty programs in Mexico, growth strategies in Africa, and intelligent remedies for domestic inequality. At once a forceful critique and defense of the discipline, Economics Rules charts a path toward a more humble but more effective science.

272 pages, Paperback

First published October 13, 2015

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About the author

Dani Rodrik

48 books231 followers
Dani Rodrik is the Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Niels.
47 reviews11 followers
December 27, 2015
As a former economics student, who subsequently switched to political sciences and now doing a PhD in this domain, I find myself in a privileged position and in the middle of the crunching criticism and debate this book furthers. In some ways, Rodrik is the teacher I never had, and this book is the qualified nuanced bible I never read during my Econ years. That's not to say my professors nor my curriculum was bad - on the contrary. But I do recall finding myself in discussions with PhD students at that time were I was voicing concerns such as "I do feel as if there is a certain ideology that benefits from economic sciences (and vice versa)" or "I do not feel as if I have, even after these 4 years, the skill-set available to understand how the world works. There should be more to it." This uneasiness was one of the reasons why I switched to political sciences as well, a move that broadened horizons, with the intertwining of both giving a broader picture of societal dynamics.

There are many important implications to take away (and I would recommend every student that is even remotely enrolled in (introductory) Econ classes to read this book), but the most profound for me is this one: "It is better for the public to be exposed to these disagreements and uncertainties than to be lulled into a false sense of confidence about the answers that economics provides." Economics is probably the most-(mis)used profession of the "Research shows that ..."-group-of-people. The amount of times that politicians, professionals or even citizens in a bar (from different traits) precisely select "that economic model" that supports their ideological view is so pervasive that it is indeed lulling - and maybe cheating - public opinion into a stance such as "Well there really is nothing else we can do, because economists say that ...". As Rodrik shows, economists disagree by nature, and we should be extremely open-minded in how to perceive models, how to select and use them, under what conditions and with certain (critical) assumptions in mind. This may be too big of a task for the common newspaper reader that wants to keep up with the on-going, but it is certainly the task of economists themselves to clearly state the contingencies of their "models", and go against claims made by people that use ready-made stylized models for their own good. It wrecks the social science of economics, which should be reinvigorated by the specific focus on this qualification and nuance that is already present, and not broken down by critics who claim to dismantle them all together.
Profile Image for Phakin.
445 reviews145 followers
April 23, 2018
คนที่เข้าใจความรู้ของตัวเองดีที่สุดไม่ใช่คนที่เพียงอธิบายมันออกมาได้ดีที่สุด แต่เป็นคนที่ตระหนักถึงข้อจำกัดของความรู้ และสามารถวิพากษ์วิจารณ์สาขาความรู้ของตัวเองได้ด้วย

หนังสือเล่มนี้พยายามอธิบายว่า โมเดล (aka ทฤษฎี) สำคัญสำหรับนักเศรษฐศาสตร์อย่างไร แต่ขณะเดียวกัน ตัวโมเดลเองก็มีข้อจำกัดมากด้วย เพราะท้ายที่สุด ไม่มีโมเดลไหนที่สามารถใช้อธิบายปรากฏการณ์ต่างๆ ได้อย่างเป็นสากลทุกกรณี แม้จะมีนักเศรษฐศาสตร์บางคนเชื่อ/หรือพยายามจะเชื่อแบบนั้น

การตระหนักในข้อจำกัดของโมเดลจึงเป็นสิ่งจำเป็น เพราะนั่นช่วยปูทางให้เราสามารถเลือกโมเดลในการวิเคราะห์ปรากฏการณ์หนึ่งๆ ได้อย่างเหมาะสมและสอดคล้องกับบริบท บทเรียนตรงนี้สำคัญมาก ไม่ใช่เฉพาะกับนักเศรษฐศาสตร์ แต่อาจรวมถึงนักสังคมศาสตร์กลุ่มอื่นๆ แม้ว่าคนเหล่านั้นจะไม่ได้มองสาขาความรู้ตัวเองว่ามีความเป็น 'วิทยาศาสตร์' มากเท่ากับเศรษฐศาสตร์ก็ตาม

ข้อสังเกตที่ดีมากอีกอย่าง คือรอดริกบอกเราว่า เป็นเรื่องธรรมดาที่โมเดลหนึ่งๆ จะลดทอนความซับซ้อนของปรากฏการณ์ และอาจไม่ได้คำนึงถึงปัจจัยทุกตัวที่สัมพันธ์กับปรากฏการณ์นั้นๆ เพราะถึงที่สุด โมเดลที่คำนึงถึงทุกปัจจัยและอธิบายทุกอย่างอย่างละเอียดที่สุด อาจเป็นโมเดลที่ซับซ้อนจนไม่เกิดประโยชน์

รอดริกเห็นว่า โมเดลอาจไม่จำเป็นต้องสมจริงทุกกระเบียดนิ้ว เช่นเดียวกับการทดลองทางวิทยาศาสตร์ที่เกิดขึ้นในสภาพแวดล้อมที่อาจต่างจากโลกข้างนอกห้องทดลองเป็นอย่างยิ่ง แต่สิ่งเหล่านี้ยังมีประโยชน์ตราบเท่าที่มันยังคงระบุและอธิบายสาเหตุปัจจัยที่สำคัญยิ่งต่อสิ่งที่เราอยากรู้หรือปัญหาที่เราสงสัย โดยเข้าใจเป็นอย่างดีว่า 'สมมติฐานจำเป็น' (critical assumption) ของตัวเองคืออะไร

รอดริกยังชวนให้คิดว่า การถกเถียงบนฐานของโมเดลของนักเศรษฐศาสตร์อาจทำให้วงวิชาการทางเศรษฐศาสตร์หน้าตาต่างจากสังคมศาสตร์สาขาอื่นๆ ในสองด้าน หนึ่งคือมันเปิดโอกาสให้นักวิชาการรุ่นใหม่สามารถโค่นล้มข้อเสนอของนักวิชาการระดับท็อปของวงการได้ง่ายๆ ด้วยการวิพากษ์วิจารณ์ตัวโมเดลของนักวิชาการคนนั้น แต่ในทางกลับกัน การคลั่งโมเดลของนักเศรษฐศาสตร์ (แบบที่นักประวัติศาสตร์คลั่งหลักฐานจนคิดว่าการยัดเอกสารลงมาเยอะๆ จะทำให้งานตัวเองเป็นประวัติศาสตร์ หรือถ้าพยายามเขียนงานโดยมีกลิ่นอายของทฤษฎีก็จะกลายเป็นงานที่ 'ไม่เป็นประวัติศาสตร์') ทำให้นักเศรษฐศาสตร์ดูแคลน ทั้งสาขาความรู้อื่นๆ ซึ่งไม่ได้มีโมเดลอะไรมาถกเถียงด้วย และกระทั่งนักเศรษฐศาสตร์ที่ไม่ยอมเล่นภายใต้กติกาเดียวกัน

ในแง่นี้ การวิพากษ์เศรษฐศาสตร์โดยคนใน ต่อให้เบาแค่ไหน ก็มักดังกว่าการวิพากษ์โดยคนนอก ซึ่งนักเศรษฐศาสตร์มักทำเป็นไม่ได้ยิน
77 reviews2 followers
December 4, 2015
I would not recommend this book unless you have a strong interest in economics and have read several other economic books intended for the lay person. Not that it is hard to understand, it is an easy read. However, its value is in understanding how to evaluate economic arguments and I don’t think it has general value unless you are interested in following different economic topics and trying to learn about them. That said, I found that the book had an immediate significant impact on how I read economics. I now quickly try to discern what economic model the author working with, is he consistent with that model or does he shift models in mid argument, are the core assumptions of the model valid for the case in question, and in general first focus on the model being used. The mark of a good book for me is whether it changes my outlook, shifts my biases, or gives me a deeper understanding of something. This book met that test.
October 10, 2018
เสียดแทงใจนักเศรษฐศาสตร์สายบูชาโมเดล เรียกว่าแกะประวัติศาสตร์ออกมาอ่าน ตีแผ่ และทำความเข้าใจ ว่าทำไมเหล่านักเศรษฐศาสตร์ถึงรักนักรักหนากับกราฟเส้น สมมติฐาน และความง่ายที่เกินกว่าที่ควรจะเป็น

เช่น สมมติโลกนี้มีสินค้า 2 ชนิดที่ทดแทนกันได้แบบสมบูรณ์ ฯลฯ

สนุกเนิร์ดมาก อ่านแล้วสมองสั่น คาดว่าเร็วๆ นี้คงได้กลับมาอ่านอีก เพราะมีแง่มุมให้คิดเยอะดี

เหมาะอย่างยิ่งสำหรับทำความเข้าใจนักเศรษฐศาสตรํ (สำหรับบุคคลทั่วไป)​ และช่วยให้เปิดใจกว้างขึ้น (สำหรับนักเศรษฐศาสตร์)
Profile Image for Steve.
916 reviews134 followers
December 16, 2015
Well worth reading, if you have any interest in economics!!! I'd recommend the book, if for no other reason than the author (an insider) fully embraces, doesn't shy away from, and offers a convincing explanation as to how the economics community (as a group, profession, or academic discipline) could have so badly failed to predict and/or mis-judge the 2008 financial crisis.

There are so many great things about this book, it's hard to know where to start, other than to say that one of the book's (many) strengths is its logical organization and presentation (and internal cross-referencing), so that the necessary building blocks are laid down and then re-introduced when necessary to drive home critical points. Rodrik's prose is straightforward and clear, far more efficient (yup, that's the word), precise, and almost Spartan than some may desire, but I found it incredibly effective and digestible (as well as understandable and compelling).

I can see folks concluding that the book would be worth it just for the 20 (10+10) commandments that conclude the book, but it would be a waste, and it would diminish the elegance of the rules, to simply attempt to read/digest them out of context. Still, if nothing else, it's good be reminded (and it's not a spoiler) that, as a general rule, "it's a model, notthe model."

Kudos and applause for Rodrik for making not only the principles, but also the academic study, the very discipline itself, and the community, so accessible to non-insiders. After almost every chapter, I found myself thinking, gee, I wish I'd read this before I took Economics as a freshman in college, and then acknowledging/admitting to myself that, nah, I wouldn't have understood, let alone appreciated, it at that age - either before or after I took Economics....

I'm assuming most readers won't like or dislike economists or economic models or economic analysis any more or less after reading the book, and I have no doubt than many readers will only become infuriated by the academic community's insularity, norms, and behaviors. But knowledge is power, and Rodrik empowers readers to better understand what economists do (and don't or shouldn't do), what models represent (and the opposite), and, why policy-makers, the media, and the public tend to over-react to economic models, analysis, research, predictions, commentary, etc.

Ultimately, Rodrik does a masterful job of putting into context - and articulating the strengths and weaknesses of - the academic discipline (in and of itself) as well as applications of economic models that the public are constantly exposed to (alas, all too often, lacking that meaningful - and as Rodrik reminds us - critical context necessary to fully understand them). That's a useful public service (in the broadest sense of the phrase).
179 reviews2 followers
May 6, 2016
Given all the praise I've seen of this, it was rather disappointing. There's some good and useful insight into the internal workings of academic economists, particularly wrt to the importance of models. But too often I don't think he's really facing up to the more serious and thoughtful versions of the criticisms he's addressing--he's erecting straw men, basically. And his discussion lacks some of the semantic rigor which is required for this kind of endeavor to succeed, and which he claims for his discipline. It's also just repetitive at times.
Profile Image for Jason Furman.
1,167 reviews764 followers
December 7, 2015
Any knee-jerk supporter or critic of economics should read Dani Rodrik’s Economics Rules which argues that economics offers a collection of models which are internally coherent because of the discipline of mathematics or empirics but whose external validity depends on the particular circumstances.
5 reviews
May 24, 2020
My interest in Economics was fueled largely by what the great economist John Hicks called the subject's "intellectual attraction". However, there always were a few questions lagging at the back of my mind which made me skeptical of my decision to pursue Economics beyond collehe. This short book has answered the questions I had been pondering on since the moment I decided to pursue an academic career in Economics, like, what is the value of economics as a discipline? How relevant are the things that Economists say? Do they really know what they talking about? Are abstract mathematical models really helpful in understanding social phenomena?

Although I have read several attempts at those questions, Dani Rodrick's appeared to me the most satisfactory, perhaps because of his interdisciplinary predilections.
Unlike popular books like Freakonomics or Economics in one lesson, this book is not likely to appeal to those who have never had any contact with the subject. It targets two types of audience. One one hand, it is targeted at the insiders of the discipline and tells them how to practice their craft in a legitimate manner. On the other hand, it is targeted at the outsiders who criticize the discipline on several counts. Rodrick defines an agenda for the subject which is slightly more modest than that of physical sciences but which makes the subject much more useful than the agenda which is mistakenly attributed to it both by insiders and outsiders. He ends the book with 20 commandments, 10 each for insiders and outsiders outlining his arguments.

This highly readable and easy book is recommended especially for college students who are trying to decide whether to delve deeper into the subject.
Profile Image for Kamran.
14 reviews2 followers
April 16, 2020
Dani Rodriki başa düşmək çətindir deyə fikirləşirdim amma bu kitab başa saldı ki, sadəcə iqtisadi biliyim azdır.
Profile Image for Maxim.
99 reviews16 followers
September 6, 2020
A book every critic of Economics (as well as every Economist) should absolutely read. Not because it invalidates every critique or is a flaming defense (it isn’t), but because it provides a nuanced insight what contemporary Economics actually is - which is quite a bit removed from the strawman of much of popular critics’ attacks.

Rodrik himself is somewhat of a “dissident economist” and he does not spare with criticism of his fellow economist where they go astray and push recommendations that are more grounded in value judgments than they’d acknowledge. But coming from “the inside” enables him to finely delineate between criticism which has merit and such that attacks straw mans. Models are simple? That’s their purpose! Assumptions are incorrect? Yes, but are those critical assumptions? Social and cultural context is ignored? Sometimes yes, but it’s still possible, and often done, to take note of it. People are not fully rational? Of course, that’s why behavioural economics exists!
Profile Image for Cam Cam.
88 reviews46 followers
February 2, 2020
Tiêu đề của quyển này (Các quy tắc trong kinh tế học) làm mình hơi bị misleading hồi đầu. Đúng ra thì nó là một cuốn sách về việc học và nghiên cứu kinh tế, hơn là về tìm hiểu cách thức hoạt động của nền kinh tế (Economics, not Economy). Kiểu Economics Literacy. Thế nên sẽ phải hơi chật vật với starter để đi hết quyển (như mình, may mà vẫn còn tí kiến thức hồi học FTU rơi vãi lại, vẫn còn biết Lợi thế so sánh là gì lol). Cũng không hẳn vì tác giả nói dở, mà tại mình thấy nó không liên quan lắm tới mình.
Còn kết luận của quyển này về quy tắc của Kinh tế là nó chả có cái quy tắc gì cả ;_;
Profile Image for Sina Mousavi.
28 reviews32 followers
July 25, 2019
دنی رودریک، اقتصاددان برجستۀ توسعه و استاد دانشگاه هاروارد، در این کتاب تلاش می‌کند تا به نحوۀ کارکرد علم اقتصاد بپردازد و انتقادهای وارده به آن -از درون و بیرون حرفه- را بررسی کند. در مجموع رودریک موضعی میانه را در برابر این منتقدان اتخاذ می‌کند: او در عین دفاع از متدولوژی عمومی اقتصاد و استفاده از مدل‌های انتزاعی ریاضی، ابایی ندارد که برخی شکست‌های علم اقتصاد که منجر به سیاست‌گذاری‌های اشتباه و مخرب شده‌اند را بپذیرد و حتی برخی باورهای رایج اقتصاددانان (برای مثال «اصول اقتصاد» منکیو) را زیر سوال ببرد.

از دید رودریک، مدل‌های اقتصادی کارکردی مشابه حکایات (Fables) پندآموز اخلاقی دارند؛ این حکایات بعضاً توصیه‌های متضاد و حتی متناقضی را به مخاطب ارائه می‌دهند. با این حال، همین حکایات می‌توانند در شرایط خاص برای انسان‌ها مفید و آموزنده باشند. به طرز مشابه، در صورتی که مسئلۀ اقتصادی مورد نظر ما در دنیای واقعی با فرضیات حیاتی یک مدل همخوانی داشته باشد، آن مدل می‌تواند با روشن کردن فرایندهای علّی کلیدی درک ما را بهبود بخشیده و توصیه‌های سیاستی‌ای ارائه کند که منجر به بهبود کیفیت زندگی میلیون‌ها نفر شود. رودریک نظام برتون وودز که پس از پایان جنگ جهانی دوم و تا پیش از دهۀ 70 منجر به رشد اقتصادی و ثبات پولی در سطح بین‌المللی شد را به عنوان یک نمونه از موفقیت مدل‌های اقتصادی در پیش‌بینی و برنامه‌ریزی برای جهان واقعی ذکر می‌کند.

از طرف دیگر، مصداق‌های بسیاری از عدم موفقیت مدل‌های اقتصادی در کتاب مورد بحث و بررسی قرار می‌گیرند. رودریک ریشۀ اکثر این شکست‌ها را در استفاده از مدل‌های نامناسب برای مسئلۀ مورد نظر می‌بیند. او سیاست‌های «اجماع واشنگتن» که بر آزادسازی بازارهای مالی، خصوصی‌سازی صنایع دولتی و مقررات‌زدایی برای کشورهای جهان سوم تاکید داشت را به عنوان مثالی از این پدیده ذکر می‌کند. در صورتی که فرضیات اولیه‌ای برقرار باشند، مدل‌هایی وجود دارند که بهینه بودن این سیاست‌ها را اثبات می‌کنند؛ اما نبود حاکمیت قانون، فرایندهای اجرای قرارداد و قوانین مستحکم رقابتی در این کشورها از جمله دلایلی بودند که فرضیات چنین مدل‌هایی را به وضوح نقض می‌کردند. به همین دلیل اجرای این سیاست‌ها در عمل به نتایجی بسیار متفاوت با پیش‌بینی‌ها انجامید.

پیام اصلی کتاب این است که بر خلاف علوم تجربی همچون فیزیک، اقتصاد علمی اجتماعی‌ست که برای درک جهان از مجموعه‌ای از مدل‌های ریاضی استفاده می‌کند. عاملیت انسانی و پیچیدگی‌های روابط اجتماعی موجب می‌شود که این مدل‌ها جامع و جهان‌شمول نباشند و هر کدام تنها در شرایطی به‌خصوص جوابگوی نیازهای سیاست‌گذاران باشند. بنابراین تنها وظیفۀ اقتصاددان ساخت و تحلیل یک مدل نیست، انتخاب مدل مناسب برای هر مسئله به مراتب اهمیت بیش‌تری دارد. به بیان دیگر، علم اقتصاد در صورتی می‌تواند عاملی برای بهبود رفاه بشری باشد که ویژگی‌های جوامع و پرسش‌های مختلف را به درستی شناسایی کرده و یک مدل مطابق با آن را به کار گیرد (A model)، نه این‌که توصیه‌ای واحد را در نتیجۀ اتکا به یک مدل (ظاهراً) جامع (The model) برای تمامی پرسش‌ها ارائه کند.
Profile Image for Reid.
884 reviews60 followers
January 20, 2018
Let me say at the very outset that if you don't care about the ins and outs of economics, this book probably isn't for you. There are, I suspect, some fine books for the general reader about this subject, but this really is not one of those. Not that the concepts will go over your head (though some it certainly did travel over mine), but rather that you probably won't care enough to figure out what the heck Dr. Rodrik is going on about.

But if, like me, you have the amateur's fascination with how all this monetary stuff works, then I strongly recommend Economics Rules. Ask yourself these questions: do you really understand what went wrong in 2008? Do you know what quantitative easing is and why it worked to ease the shocks of 2008? Do you comprehend why the gradual raising of interest rates by the Federal Reserve matters and why some people are so worried it is going too slowly (and a few think it's going too fast)? If any or all of these pique your interest, please give this book a try.

One of the most interesting things about Economics Rules is the fact that Rodrik is clearly sticking his neck out and putting his flag into a particular set of beliefs, specifically the idea that there is no one model of the way any economic system works or should work, that the multiplicity of models is one of the great strengths of modern economics and not a weakness, as it is sometimes perceived. Unlike other sciences in which one can seek a unified theory (no matter how elusive that may be), Rodrik asserts that in economics this would actually be a destructive exercise.

This is good news for at least one such amateur, because I was having a tough time figuring how the problems faced by, say, Venezuela relate in any cohesive way to those of Russia or the United States and, as it turns out, they really don't. Now, one could argue that open markets could lead all three back to equilibrium, but that would be a pretty simplistic argument. And when you delve into resource-rich developing countries with problematic governments, it becomes clear that the tools they need to succeed will be entirely different not only from developed countries but from one another.

So, hey, geek out with me if economics fascinates you. While you may scratch your head once or twice and have to remind yourself quite often what things like The Invisible Hand mean in an economic context, for the most part this is a compulsively readable and very user-friendly book.
Profile Image for Laura.
135 reviews20 followers
January 14, 2021
In my opinion this would have been better as an essay than a full length non-fiction book.
That being said I enjoyed it and got some insights into economic models and why they are the way they are, which could soothe some of my frustration that I had with my economics module this semester. It‘s true, studying is so much easier when you know the background on why things work the way they do and why they are handled in a certain way.
That being said I think for people who are majoring in economics, this won‘t bring much new to the table (except for when you‘re a first-semester then it could be great for you), and for people who have absolutely nothing to do with economics in an academic context, the focus on the models might be uninteresting but if you‘re unsure, just try it out!
Profile Image for Devrim.
6 reviews15 followers
April 4, 2019
Kitabın sadece iktisatçılara değil herkese yönelik olduğunu düşündüğümde dilini fazla akademik bulmakla birlikte, iktisatçılara yönelik yazılmışsa da fazla basite indirgenmiş buldum. Okuması oldukça keyifli ve akıcıydı, sadece bazı kısımlarda modeller üzerinde fazla durulmuştu ve yer yer kendini tekrarlıyormuş gibi hissettim.
Profile Image for Alejandro Alvarez.
66 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2022
This is a great book but is not for everyone tho. The reason might be that the author describes a lot of technical things from economics, and it gives the sensation that this book focuses on people in the same field.
To give you a short resume, this book shares some thoughts about economic models, the evolution of our economic perspective, and all the accomplishment that economics has made thru the years.
I would say this book is not for everyone but for those who find themself very passionate about economics and want to understand the world objectively, this might be a great book to start.
Profile Image for Richard Marney.
491 reviews15 followers
September 5, 2022
A book only economists will like.

The discussion on the nature and utility of models is the most thought provoking theme of the book.

However, still, the challenge of translating much of the content of models dominated by the make-believe of perfectly-rational economic agents remains……….🤪
Profile Image for Dieu-Hoa Nguyen.
61 reviews5 followers
March 5, 2017
so good to read it before graduation. Love his epilogue which summarize all the important points of book.

After reading the book, I feel like it needs one Newton of physic for this science of Economics (if can say so).

41 reviews3 followers
July 10, 2019
Excelente libro para entender la disciplina. Sirve para recordar las raíces de ciencia social que tiene y como ejercicio de humildad, la economía NO tiene verdades universales. También resalta la variedad de puntos de vista de la disciplina. El libro debería ser lectura OBLIGADA de todos los programas de pregrado y posgrado en economía.
October 18, 2021
This is the book I wish I had read a couple of years ago; it would have saved me some effort in trying to understand how economics as an academic field works. The book itself is fairly simple in its structure and arguments, and should not pose problems to the informed reader.

Its main contribution to my own thinking is the emphasis on the fact that economics works through models that are contingent/local, and never general. Their assumptions and conclusions do not apply to all historical periods and all places, but rather to particular situations. This does not mean that they are perfectly contingent, working for only one circumstance at a time, but it does mean that we should be suspicious of those who argue that their model is the model to understand the economy.

Apart from that, the book has two other interesting contributions. The first is in its analysis of the most common outsider criticisms of economics. Of course, its arguments should be taken with a grain of salt (after all, this is an insider speaking of his own group), but I found them convincing nonetheless. It also explains, in brief terms, how economics as a science works, both in its methodological approaches and its sociological biases. One particularly thought-provoking insight is that economists tend to build their careers based on works that show how markets can fail, but when speaking publicly, they often err on the side of defending them too much. This happens, according to Rodrik, because economists understand markets better than the general public, and often find outsider criticism to be misguided.

For my future self: although the book is enjoyable to read, my notes on it are more concise and should be preferred.
Profile Image for Diego.
469 reviews3 followers
December 28, 2015
Dani Rodrik hace una muy necesaria critica interna a la forma en que los economistas hacemos uso de la economía y al mismo tiempo presenta una gran defensa de sus méritos como ciencia y de sus capacidades para explicar de forma limitada parte de la realidad social.

Rodrik argumenta que la economía como ciencia funciona mejor cuando acepta su enorme diversidad de modelos, los peores errores económicos tal como los sucesos impulsados por el consenso de Washington o los ocurridos en la crisis del 2008 ocurren cuando los economistas se enfocan en sólo un tipo de modelos e ignoran otros tantos que ofrecen mejores explicaciones para lo que ocurre.

La economía bien utilizada es contextual, debe buscar el mejor modelo que se adecua al contexto de lo que se busca explicar y por tanto debe prestar atención a muchas cosas, la historias, las instituciones, la psicología, etc.

Las tradiciones económicas sean keynesianas, neoclásica, marxistas, estructuralistas, institucionales, etc; todas tienen aportes de valor, no existe un sólo modelo sino una plétora de los mismos.

Economics Rules es un libro sobre metodología, sobre como hacer un buen uso de la economía y sobre como la economía difiere de otras ciencias, Rodrik toma prestado de Thomas Khun y argumenta que a diferencia de las ciencias duras donde un modelo remplaza a otra y la ciencia avanza de forma vertical remplazando paradigmas, la economía más bien avanza de forma horizontal con cada modelo explicando una pequeña parte que otros modelos no lo hacen.

El libro es escrito de forma muy amigable y usa ejemplos de modelos y teorías de todos los campos de la economía haciendo una ilustración muy entretenida tanto para el economista como para los no economistas interesados en el campo.

Rodrik de cierta forma retoma el dicho de Keynes sobre el economista como un dentista que debe poder manejar muchas herramientas para identificar correctamente como atender un problema. Es un libro muy recomendable para cualquier persona y uno que debe funcionar como una lección de humildad a todos los economistas.

Profile Image for John  Mihelic.
409 reviews21 followers
February 18, 2016
I grabbed this book because it was making a minor stir in the blog-o-sphere.

It was kind of a let down. Rodrik is a bit of a rebel when it comes to economics discourse (once wrote a book doubting fully the benefits of globalization *fainting couch). But even then the options that he looks at seem narrowly circumscribed - mostly macro from new keynesian to new classical! To his credit, Marx raises his head, if only to be dismissed.

What I really like is the framing of the book as looking at models, and how they are useful and how they are not as necessary simplifications of the real world - he even cites one of my favorite Jorge Borges stories to tell about the necessity of simplification. He also looks at the fox / hedgehog divide, in that true knowledge is knowing what model to use when looking at the explanation of a past event, and not over reliance on a strong theory that will too often lead you astray.

The big problem for me was that the model using is almost all backwards looking. If you know what happened and you can pick the right model you’re golden, but he discounts being able to know the future. Maybe I missed something, but isn’t a large part of trying to understand the past so that you can more accurately predict the future? If there is no ultimately one correct model and they do grow horizontally (a multiplicity) instead of replacing dead models as he calls it vertically, are we doomed to be having the same arguments generation after generation only with more powerful computers and fancier math?
Profile Image for Fernando  Hoces de la Guardia.
165 reviews4 followers
January 25, 2020
Many interesting points:
- remember that there are many models for a single problem
- emphasize that economics usually has little to say about distribution, and why it does it usually involves more advocacy than science.
- in general the 20 commandments at the end of the book are a great summary and reminder of the overall message of the book.

I'm giving it 2 stars because throughout the book there were several half truths/half lies that the author used as 100% truth to support his points. The ones that I can remember:
- Economics is more open to replications than other social sciences. Cites the Reinhart-Rogoff story under a very convenient light, there are several other stories that lead to the opposite claim (Acemoglu? Hoxby?).

- Spreads the general misconception that PROGRESA was expanded because of its resaults. It is easily verifiable that the expansion (within Mexico and to other countries) came before any result was identified. There programs survival relates more to the support of internationally renowned academics.

- example of other minor issues: the author cite kahneman as the first non economist that received the Nobel price. Its a small mistake (Coase and H Simons come to mind easily), but one that the author should not make.
Profile Image for Igor.
103 reviews12 followers
January 17, 2016
In Economics Rules Dani Rodrik presents one of the best defenses of economics. Although insider to the discipline, Rodrik is not orthodox free-market ideologue, as many people imagine most economists; but he isn't far-left "debunker" either.

For Rodrik, economics is a science based on multiplicity of models which apply to the reality under different circumstances. And true economist must not seek the best model, but use many of them and understand their limitations. Models need not be complex, because simplicity allows to grasp only what is the most important for analysis; and it is ok to use math, because math makes thinking behind models clear and easier to test empirically. Apart from defending economics, Rodrik tries to explain how to choose between models (it's not that easy), tells about recent developments that dramatically changed the discipline, and criticizes some of his fellow economists for biased and protective attitude towards markets.

Short and very readable, this book should be interesting both to those who work in economics and strive to become better at it and to all others who just want to know about the current state of social science.
Profile Image for Andreas.
112 reviews6 followers
February 11, 2016
I feel slightly disappointed by this book. It does contain one very powerful idea, that needs to be repeated again and again: economics is a collection of models, and there will never exist any 'one model that rules the others'. I'm also very much in favour of reforming 'econ 101'. Maybe it would even be better to stop teaching basic economics courses altogether to for example law students, in favour of a decent statistics course.
But I was hoping that Rodrik would dig deeper into development economics, as this his specialty. (Anyway, I'm following up this book with Joe Studwell's 'How Asia works', which promises to provide the content I was looking for in Rodrik's book.)
So a rating of 3 out of 5, and a recommendation for non-economists or economics critics, to whom I feel this book is primarily addressed.
27 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2019
A good insider critique of economics focusing mainly on how economists can go wrong by misapplying models to incorrect contexts. Given that Rodrik frequently writes for left-leaning heterodox outlets like Boston Review, I was frankly a bit surprised by how defensive he ultimately was of the economic establishment. While the book was mostly unobjectionable, I felt like it was superficial quite a bit, and a lot of the most interesting bits (such as how economists can be biased towards advocating for market-based solutions even when their own research contradicts them) weren't discussed with the depth they deserve.
Profile Image for dead.
9 reviews28 followers
April 26, 2016
The main argument, that economics is a set of models and that these are potentially (if not in reality) diverse and contextual, is right. Everything else in the book is a hodgepodge of contradictory statements, special pleading, poorly developed arguments, and uninformed sneers at other social sciences. Many of the critiques Rodrik levels at the discipline are right, but as a defense of economics this book fails entirely.
Profile Image for eilasoles.
178 reviews5 followers
May 30, 2018
Useful, but not particularly profound, and I think Rodrik is too glib about brushing off criticism about the discipline. Wasn't it Bourdieu who said that those who are not at the periphery find it hard to see structures of hierarchy and domination? When Rodrik says that the discipline is not hierarchical and that it's good ideas and not status or prestige that counts, I think his power and status within the discipline blinds him to otherwise-obvious truths.
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