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The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  942 ratings  ·  161 reviews
The Economists' Hour is the biography of a revolution: The story of how economists who believed in the power and the glory of free markets transformed the business of government, the conduct of business and, as a result, the patterns of everyday life. In the four decades between 1969 and 2008, these economists played a leading role in reshaping taxation and public spending ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Jessica Jin
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I slept through or skipped 80% of my AP Economics classes. I also did the bare minimum in my undergrad Econ class, yawning and skimming Gilpin's "The Challenge of Global Capitalism" and regurgitating only what was necessary to pass exams. One time at 22, I somehow swindled my way into getting a cool boutique derivatives trading firm in Chicago to fly me out for an interview. I swept through the mental math and social interview portions of the gauntlet but definitely got my ass eliminated when I ...more
4.5 "insightful, vigorous, enlightening" stars !!!

Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Little, Brown and Company for an e-copy in exchange for my honest review. This book was published September 2019.
An even warmer thank you to my sweet partner who spent hours explaining the basics of economics to me over and over and over again so that I could understand more clearly what lay within this book.

I do not have the kind of mind or intellect to give this book a fair shake. I do not have any back
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, history
This isn’t your standard book on economics – this reads like a novel and you don’t particularly need to know all that much about economics to enjoy it. The battles between economists are personified here, you come away knowing more about the economists than I've learnt from reading dozens of other books, and what they are fighting over is presented clearly without being dumbed down to the point of parody. This really is a good read.

One of the things I particularly liked about this book was that
D.  St. Germain
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Binyamin Appelbaum’s new book opens with a tone-setting quote from John Kenneth Gailbraith: “what is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent,” and from there moves to tracing the recent history of some of the most pernicious and influential economic ideas that have created the world we now inhabit, a world where a turn towards unfettered free markets has not delivered promised prosperity but instead resulted in slowing growth for each decade that f ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent history of economics--warts and all. It shows how economics and especially certain "confident" economists like Friedman came to create policy. The draft story was fascinating and I think the book is particularly strong when it talks about that era (late 60s and 70s) and the turning tide against the Great Society. The book is missing some important stories--there's not much about greenspan or the law and econ movement heros like Posner or the behavioral econ people like Suns ...more
Loring Wirbel
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Let's admit up front that this book is full of interesting and little-known anecdotes about economists ranging from Milton Friedman to the Austrian school. It's far from a boring read. The reason The Economist's Hour merits only a so-so ranking is because both the author and the marketing team imply something much greater, sort of a Thomas Pikkety look at the rise of monetarism and market-based economics. In this goal, the author only takes the reader halfway there, if that.

Appelbaum begins the
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Economists' Hour is a focussed book. It spends almost its entire length discussing how various practicing high profile economists' ideas created the present "free market" world. The author strongly believes, without much discussion in the book, that the current US society could not be worse. And all the blame is heaped on the system devised by the free-market academicians led by Milton Friedman.

It is unclear what precisely the author wants, but the short descriptions at the end seem to sugge
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s not that everything was perfect before American politicians began paying attention to economists, but things sure were different. Between 1969 and 2008, author Binyamin Appelbaum argues that economists rose from the deepest depths of academia to rest in positions like secretary of the treasury and chairs of the Federal Reserve and, more broadly, as policymakers. From deregulation to antitrust to conscription, economists have spent fifty years with their fingerprints on everything. So how di ...more
Graeme Newell
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book tells the history of one of the most powerful yet underestimated forces to shape a society and its people - economics. For most of the 20th century the world didn’t really understand the forces that shaped our economic destiny. We blundered through opulence, recessions and depressions on a routine schedule, all the while oblivious to causality. Ignorant politicians, greedy oligarchs and crusading labor unions were the most influential players and their often unscrupulous tactics perpet ...more
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh the economists are coming, bearing policy suggestions. Run for your life!

In this history of the ascend of the economists, Appelbaum detailed the rise of economics from a social study discipline to the scientific discipline apparently based on scientific principles and data. This led to the rise of the economists, inserting economic analyses into every single thing we do. This complete belief in the free markets had led to globalisation, opening up of capital flows, deregulation, tax reduction
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book by an economic journalist for the NYTimes written for a broad audience that provides a history and critique of the public economics part of the profession following WW2 and especially after 1970 following the economics slowdowns of the 1970s and 1980s and the rise of the strongly market oriented approach to the field as espoused by the University of Chicago. The book has a broad scope covering up through the financial crisis following 2008 and even the 2016 election of Trump.

The h
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is unusual- it's a balanced polemic. It covers evenhandedly the rise of economics (and specifically free-market rational choice economics) as an influencer of public policy both in the USA and internationally. In fact, for the first half of the book I thought this was just going to be a history of free market economics and the ways it was better than the previous system which featured more government control and direction. And I think this beginning strengthens the criticism at the end ...more
Matthew Yglesias
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The “critiques of neoliberalism” genre is very heavily populated this days, but to my taste Binya Applebaum’s is my favorite of the genre. He eschews annoying left-wing academic jargon in favor of a readable narrative frame and I think gets at the core of the issue.

I know a fair number of economists think the framing conceit somewhat flattens the range of work coming out of their profession, which is fair enough, but I think fundamentally Applebaum is persuasive on his key thesis — the rise of
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Economists' Hour by Binyamin Appelbaum is a superb journalistic account of how "free" market-oriented economists gained pervasive influence in the US (and elsewhere) and helped stall increasing prosperity for the middle class and shovel gold into the pockets of the upper/upper class. This transpired during the 60s,70s, and 80s and continues to this day.

Appelbaum has all the names, dates, and data in hand to make his case. I'll try to make his case in more general terms.

The highly influential
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would never intentionally read a book written about economic theory, but I received this as a Netgalley e-review copy.

Reading this is an eye-opener, demonstrating how economists' theories can have a huge influence on government policy and how this can affect our daily lives in unexpected ways. This may not sound sexy but it sure is eye-opening.
Tonstant Weader
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Economists' Hour is a history of how economists have gained primacy in policy-making in all three branches of government. From big business paying judges $1000 to go on a one-week Florida junket where they were taught regulations are bad and anti-trust laws are bad to the takeover of administrative positions, economic ideology has replaced political ideology. Of course, economists insist they are dealing in facts which is laughable when we learn such lovely things such as Milton Friedman ann ...more
Justin Tapp
The Economists' Hour by Binyamin Appelbaum

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for potentially writing a review. My opinions are my own.

The "Economists' Hour" refers to the period from the late 1960s to late 2000s when the ideas of free-market economists like Milton Friedman influenced economic policy around the world to greater openness and less government regulation with mixed results. Positive examples include deregulation of the airli
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think appelbaum makes some interesting points and his main one is that wealth and income inequality is what the economics of the past fifty years has created, which is bad for the general welfare of all americans. this I wholeheartedly agree with because as evidenced by los angeles elitist private school h*rvard-w*stlake, making a small handful of people uber rich does not at all improve society. this book does not try to hide that it is biased, which is fine, but as I learned in ap united sta ...more
Julien Pigot
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Outstanding recount of how the profession of "Economist" went from being a nerdy back-office position to become the creators of policy that affect millions.
The first 2/3 of the book are outstandingly rich but the book plateaus there and the remainder is kind of lacklustre as the direction the book takes in the period since the 1990's is as you would expect it to be taken, but the depth presented is nowhere near as rich as the pre-1990's session... even exposing a somewhat ideological rather than
Warren Cartwright
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book. I knew some of the story, but filling in the details was sometimes shocking. The first chapter about how Milton Friedman attempted to end the draft was too long ad didn't seem particularly relevant and there were some sections where I felt that I had already read, but other than that, the research was exquisite. I've already downloaded several books from the notes where I wanted more detail about some subjects, Everyone who has a bank account or a job should read ...more
Supply-side economics, Reaganomics, voodoo economics, trickle-down economics, call it what you will, but the neoclassical theories of Milton Friedman and his acolytes have oriented economic policy making in America, Britain, and much of the rest of the world for the last few decades. In this detailed, yet approachable, work of economic history, Mr. Appelbaum traces its roots, its disciples, its benefits and its costs.

On the periphery of economic thinking in the immediate post-WWII American boom,
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
As one who has no understanding of economic principles, especially on the national level, I really appreciated this book. I began to understand the influence economists have had on US economic policies. I appreciated the history of how economists began to influence governmental decisions. I also appreciate more the tough decisions government officials need to make to keep the economy running as they desire. Do you print money to stimulate job growth or not? Do you cut taxes to stimulate the econ ...more
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: econ
One of my new favorite books! This book introduces the major ideas and people in the history of economic policy in America. So many great examples of how technocracy merged w/ policymaking over the years. Personally, it was fascinating to contrast the history with tech-driven policy today and the views of government / markets that many people around me seem to hold.

It's centered around the characters that drove the movement, which makes it especially fun / interesting to read — Appelbaum's obser
Paul Gibson
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A disheartening book. The United States no longer has any autonomy with regard to control of its own currency. And we need not value gold, the laws of Congress nor Supreme Court rulings. Rejoicing in this, Alan Greenspan tells us in 2007, “We are fortunate that, thanks to globalization, policy decisions in the United States have been largely replaced by global market forces. . . it hardly makes any difference who will be the next president. The world is governed by market forces.” Unfortunately ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book definitely took a few of my few spare brain cells to understand (give me something about biology or chemistry any day over economics). I'm positive a lot of it went over my head, but not to the fault of the author. The language was accessible, but I just don't have the background to jump right into a book like this without taking notes (which of course I didn't because I'm lazy, and it's economics). BUT I still think it's a good primer for understanding our current economic problems hi ...more
Drew Maggelet
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book detailing the fascinating history behind the current economic consensus. Very well written, and very approachable. Highly recommended for those interested in fiscal and monetary policy, the Chicago school, and finance.
Chandler Sanchez
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Why isn’t every American forced to learn some of these concepts instead of geometry or calc? 💁🏻
Ryan Macnair
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I went into this book thinking that it would read like most books on economics: intellectually stimulating, but really bland. I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually extremely well written and a fascinating read. It details how mainly conservative economists convinced politicians to utilize their ideas in everything from the ending the draft to deregulation of financial markets. Some ended well, some ended not so well. There are many big personalities discussed and many stories shared th ...more
Don Heiman
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The Economist Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society” by Binyamin Appelbaum was published in 2019 by Little Brown. This is a great book for economic junkies who have morbid interests in esoteric theories about beer monopolies and Borkian corporate antitrust paradoxes of the 1980’s. For those who are sideline economists, Binyamin explains in easy to understand terms Friedman, Keynesian, and Laffer curve economic theories and how these theories affect are daily lives. I r ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Economists' Hour is painstakingly researched, comprehensive, and a well-written overview of the last 50ish years of economic thought and influence on U.S. policies. You'll enjoy this book if you are interested in public policy and/or how free-market thought led us to where we are today. Fair warning, if you are at least moderately liberal like me then you will get angry, but it is definitely a worthwhile read. [Note: I got an ARC via] ...more
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