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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  399 ratings  ·  82 reviews
A Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller
In this "lively and entertaining" (Liaquat Ahamed, The New Yorker) history of ideas, New York Times editorial writer Binyamin Appelbaum tells the story of the people who sparked four decades of economic revolution.

Before the 1960s, American politicians had never paid much attention to economists. But as the post-World War II boom
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Joseph Spuckler
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Economist's Hour: The Rise of a Discipline, the Failures of Globalization, and the Road to Nationalism by Binyamin Appelbaum is the study of post World War II economics centered on the United States. Appelbaum is the lead writer on business and economics for the Editorial Board of The New York Times. He joined the board in March 2019. He was previously a Washington correspondent for the Times, covering the Federal Reserve and other aspects of economic policy.

For most of the history of the
Jessica Jin
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, economics
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
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 ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Never were economists so applauded for neoliberal economics. Economists never had the ear of politicians until questioners of Keynesian economics, the neoclassical and Austrian school, in the 1970s and afterword. Their ideas were used as a pretext for the neoliberal order where money and power were to be siphoned off to the top and concentrated making for the staggering inequalities and stress for the majority that has grown ever since implemented. For a while, things ran smoothly if one was ...more
Loring Wirbel
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
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Graeme Newell
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.

Matthew Yglesias
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
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
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Paul Gibson
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Drew Maggelet
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ryan Macnair
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Don Heiman
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 ...more
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]
Robert Kotzen
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nice exposition of economic thought post Keynes and the increased role economists have played in government since WWII. It is balanced but probably won't be popular with the free market crowd since it advocates for intervention and regulation in some contexts.
This Economist’s hour is a well-researched summary of economic thought and influences on governments and politics over the last 70 years. Binyamin Applebaum, a New York Times columnist is not an economist yet writes clearly about the subject. His recounting of the influences of Keynesian economics with government actions versus free market economics primarily through Milton Friedman and Aaron Director is presented in a reasonably balanced way. It is only at the end of the book where he reveals ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Readable Look at How Economists Shaped the World

When the economy was booming after WWII, economists were found primarily in academia, but as the economy slowed and solutions were sought, the economists came out of hiding. Starting with Milton Friedman, economists entered the political arena, and their ideas began to shape the economy not just of the United States, but of the world.

The author tells the story of how these economists came to the forefront of political thought with their belief
Warren Cartwright
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
Jim Parker
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It might have been Marshall McLuhan who said we can be sure that fish know nothing about water because they experience no other environment.

That’s a good way of describing the message in this book by New York Times economics journalist Binyamin Applebaum about the overwhelming dominance of free market ideology over the last 50 years.

I feel like one of McLuhan’s clueless fish, this period essentially coinciding with my own adult life.

Going back to the 1940s, Applebaum traces the growing clout of
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, providing an outline of the shift of the role economic theory played in developing public policy. The author, a journalist with the New York Times, provides a detailed and well written story of the major shift in the US government’s approach to policy decision making in economics, finance, and a host of other areas. The argument is well made that in the 40 years between JFK and Bush II the role economists had in shaping policy decisions was slowly but greatly expanded. Prior to this ...more
Chris Jaffe
There was a lot of good material in here, but it felt like the whole was less than the sum of its parts. Appelbaum argues that the rise of Milton Friedman's brand of economics has had serious negative ramifications for society. You can't argue the bottom line of the Friedman approach - because it does help the bottom line. But the problem is it solely focuses on that, and assumes that all other factors are either irrelevant or will take their cue from the rising economics bottom line. Appelbaum ...more
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