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Licence to be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  147 ratings  ·  26 reviews

'It is going to change the way in which we understand many modern debates about economics, politics, and society' Ha Joon Chang, author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

Over the past fifty years, the way we value what is 'good' and 'right' has changed dramatically. Behaviour that to our grandparents' generation might have seemed stupid, harmful or simply wi

Kindle Edition, 311 pages
Published June 6th 2019 by Penguin
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Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Big time academic economics is a strange area at times and is certainly an acquired taste. Theory has been highly abstract and mathematical for quite a while and the empirical tribulations of trying to show evidence in the world for some theoretical claim are daunting. Readers of popular books and policy summaries may easily fail to notice that this is also an elaborate occupation here, with its own detailed rules and status orderings. Academic jobs that pay well are highly competitive and much ...more
Bianca A.
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, speed-read
Published in 2019 and written by a professor of economics and land economy at Cambridge. Licence to be Bad is Aldred's second book, the first one being published in 2009 (nearly a decade ago). Although the title is quite negative or pessimistic and the cover a bit dull, I found the book educative.
This book is a collection of discussions on contemporary economic challenges. I found it to be an interesting take on economics overall, but rather challenging to read. I don't recommend this book for n
Anagha M.
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A more appropriate sub-heading would be "How Neoliberal Economics Corrupted Us". The choice made is understandable, given that broader titles attract more eyes, so not so much a criticism as an observation. And given that most of contemporary economics is held together by the principles of neoliberal ideas anyway, the 21st century reader won't be left wanting for much.

Aldred spends the vast majority exploring the source of such economics, by scrutinizing 20th century, Chicago School economics th
Simon Tidd
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The author takes a critical look at some of the major trends and schools of thought in contemporary economics.

He first provides an overview of the significant figures involved in each, be they Nobel prize winners, authors etc. Then he discusses the thinking, it's interpretation, and its effect on modern economics and society.

Often, the interpretation is not as originally intended by the major proponents of the initial research. His conclusion and general thread is tha
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Read for having more clarity about contemporary economics and its flawed implications. This book will allow readers to understand the pitfall of modern ecoonmics in discourse and everyday life when we are blinded by shortsighted perspectives. We often fail to reckon the limitation of economic theories; and even make bad deicison by being too reliant on faulty economic premises. I think this book has provided a very strong criticism of neoliberal ideas.

Really loved how different cogniti
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
v enjoyable read that gives good insights on what and how to re-evaluate many flawed assumptions of human behaviors rooted in neoliberalism
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you read Swedish I have written a longer review in Smedjan which will be published shortly. In summary, Aldred basically makes the same old tired criticisms against "neoliberalism" and disguises it as criticism of economics. I had many an angry rant while reading it and I was not very impressed by his critique. ...more
Daneel Lynn
Jun 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition


Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good summary of how economic ideas since the post-war consensus have changed our moral intuitions in ways that we might not have wanted or anticipated.

I had the following thoughts (though coming from someone whose profession uses economic ideas in a context where the author might argue they don't belong..)
Good points:
- Excellent introduction to some of the key players in economics and where these ideas have originated, including their original motivations and the motivations of those who took
Tĩnh Hàn
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Đây là một quyển sách mình thấy được gợi ý bởi chị Jenny Tue Anh Nguyen – một người phụ nữ vô cùng giỏi đang làm việc tại Oxford. Với lại nó cũng được review bởi idol Ha-Joong Chang, tác giả quyển Economics thần thánh. Do đó, trong một lần tình cờ mình thấy nó ở một nhà sách ở Ý (đương nhiên là bằng tiếng Ý), mình đã đứng đọc nó suốt 2 tiếng. Tuy nhiên thì do vốn tiếng Ý ngâu si của mình nên phải cực kì chân thành cảm ơn sự cao thượng của bạn *Minh Nguyen* vì đã tài trợ mình ebook tiếng Anh cho ...more
Donn Lee
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave up on this book a couple of times. Shelved under DNF ("did not finish"). But my mind would keep going back to it, thinking about the things it brought up, and I couldn't help but want to read more. So I'd fish it back from my DNF bin and push on. I was rewarded with a better understanding of what the author was getting at, and a new way of looking at the world.

So, let me first talk a little about the reason why I thought this belonged to the DNF bin. I felt that the author wasn't particul
Sep 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Book was just hard for me to follow. There was no roadmap to follow and it was not clear where the author was trying to take me nor what he was trying to convey. I may have been able to understand individual examples but I continually failed to place them into the larger context. In addition to that, there seems to be an overly large (in my opinion) emphasis on the role that individual economic theorists have played in the development of the economy as it stands today.

I was not able to understa
Russell Choy
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness: the ability to tell stories. Sometimes the line between the argument and the story is quite blurred so I couldn’t really get the point behind some of them. Also, like a lot of economics works, this book could’ve benefitted from more definitions (especially because it seems like it’s targeted at non-economists) of the terms, e.g. crowding out. The most brilliant part of the book has got to be the second last chapter where he so brillia ...more
Overly simplistic explanation of economic theories that assumes all economists are the same, despite the differences among economists that he himself outlines in the book. He sets up a straw man designed to be torn down. Economics is complex because it is about people and the tools of economics are designed to allow for scenario building and thinking through scenarios. Hence the joke that economists always say ‘on the one hand and on the other hand’.
In recent decades, a whole set of economic ideas, often supporting the free market, have come to be hugely influential on how we make policies, and even on how we think. Ideas like game theory, public choice theory, and free-rider thinking have all combined to make a crudely selfish view of the world seem like the norm. It’s time we paid much less attention to those economists who try to dress their damaging opinions up as facts.
Chintushig Tumenbayar
Эдийн засаг нь өөрөө шижлэх ухаан биш болохыг эхнээсээ баталж эхлэх энэ номонд эдийн засгийн ойлголтууд хэрхэн өөрчлөгдөж, хувьсаж ирснийг харуулхын сацуу олон нийтийн нөлөөнд яаж автдаг, хэрхэн орвонгоороо эргэж болдогийг харуулсан нь зарим талаар хэт эдийн засгийн араас явж байгаа манайх шиг оронд хөгжлийг бас давхар өөр өнцгөөс нь хавсаргаж явах ёстойг сануулах шиг. Хувь хүний өнцгөөс ч гэсэн аливаа асуудлыг илүү олон талаас нь харах сэдэл өглөө.
Tom Drissi
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hugely enjoyable and important book. As an Economist, it’s probably my favourite piece for much needed “self-reflection” by the profession. Would deem it recommended reading for every Economics graduate that is set to continue working in the field. Puts important empirical and (vitally) political context to what we are taught at university - and often taught as though some neutral science/as separate from politics and moral value judgements.
Andy Ohm
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve never read a book or even studied economics before yet I found this a fascinating read. A very scrutinising look at the history and modern style of economics. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Although I did not agree completely with all of the points expressed, very good points were given and it definitely made me think.

I would definitely suggest it. 4/5
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This is an interesting and educating read, but pretty hard to grasp if you are not already familiar with the mentioned theories. This book is so packed with information that it's hard to read at one go, so you will have to put this down and digest what you have read. The ending seems somewhat abrupt, and Aldred doesn't bring up any research to back up his claims so it falls a bit flat (especially after such a great beginning). ...more
Zhivko Kabaivanov
Licence to be Bad (2019) explains how in the past 50 years a small handful of economists has drastically changed the way we think about the subject.

Ideas including game theory, public choice theory, and free-riding have worked their way into our minds and our discourse, apparently permitting us to behave badly.

Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A whole set of economics have come to influence the way we make policies, and even on how we think. Ideas like game theory, public choice theory, and free-rider thinking have all combined to create a crudely selfish view of the world seem like the norm. This book promotes that it is time we paid much less attention to those economists who try to dress their negative opinions up as facts.
Bert Bertson
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Thoroughly roasts economics. It highlights the problems and history of a lot of the modern developments in modern orthodox economics while also offering solutions to said problems.
I really enjoyed this one.
Jan 07, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book has some good points , However I completely disagree with the view that free market economics leads to inequality, it is a invaluable arguments results illustrates that Free Economics does increase equality than inequality.
Robin Hood
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Economics is the perfect case of obsession with quantification gone wrong. The effort to formalize the socio-economic complexity of world into physics like simple laws had led many a disciplines astray but more so with economics ( mainstream).

The most sinister aspect is the rationale the economists give when their ideas are challenged even though the snake oil they peddle has life and death consequences especially for people on the other side of the planet.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: study, favorites
All economics, business and public policy students should read this. This book really challenged a lot of the ingrained classical economic theories/assumptions that I have been exposed to, and Jonathan Aldred does so by shedding light on their implications onto our realities by using real life events and making readers question these repercussions (e.g. game theories and its dangerous effects on military security/strategies, Coase theories and its impacts onto law-and-economics arguments, “wealt ...more
Olsi Birbo
rated it really liked it
Jun 26, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Jan 17, 2021
Ronak Shah
rated it really liked it
Jun 28, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Feb 17, 2020
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