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Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  586 ratings  ·  80 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
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published October 3rd 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published 2010)
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Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
(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,
Tara Brabazon
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This an absolutely superb book. It is not only relevant to understanding what has happened to the international economic system in the last three years, but provides advice and theories to help understand both change and continuity in the history of ideas.
Peter Moy
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've had this book on my bookshelf for a while but have finally bitten the bullet and read it and I am glad I did. It provides the best explanation I have come across as to why many of the so call economic ‘reforms’ here in Australia have been failures and have actually made life worse for the average Australian. Both the Electricity and Gas sectors of the Australian economy are in crisis because of these reforms and the transport sector appears to be heading in the same direction.
The author pr
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
With Irrational Exuberance, Fool's Gold and Black Swan, one of the best Great Recession books, precisely because it isn't narrowly focussed on the Noughties.

The key point is that the pipeline of ideas from academia to policy is terrible; it doesn't clear out old disconfirmed ideas, and anyway policy is often based on freshman year lies-to-children.

Quiggin does do a little anti-neoclassical hectoring on top of that, but from what I know (from an undergrad in economics) much of it's fair. I'm not
Kramer Thompson
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Is this book good? Is it bad? I don't know. All I know is that it is a supreme bait. By that I mean, I was lured by the title, cover, and focus of the book into thinking that this would be an accessible practical introduction to economics for someone who has little prior knowledge. Unfortunately it was not this - at least not to me. Some parts of the book I found quite interesting, but most of it just went over my head.

I'm not necessarily blaming the author or the cover designers for this. But i
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book was very very informative, and holds up quite well despite the intervening years between its publication and now. It was written so that the lay person (such as myself) could understand the economic principles it discusses. At times it is still a little confusingly written for the non-economist, and the confusion couldn’t always be resolved by re-reading the passage. By and large, though, I would say it was successful in its project.

It also managed to make principles like “Dynamic Stoch
Robert S
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, economics
Although published in 2010, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us still provides a good amount of relevant information for readers about popular ideas which still walk this earth in the wake of the Great Recession.
Paul Bard
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Lefty "social democrat" book examines how both Keynesian and classical economic views are incorrect and instead reckons making the government a risk manager for both social outcomes and social equity is a good thing.

The problem is, equality of outcome means that parasitical traders get regulated but also legitimate wealth creators do too.

The message of humility is endearing but not a replacement for real wisdom.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting read that helps me to contextualize and reimagine many of my positions and understandings on economic issues. The format is useful and rather cute too, separating the different ideas into chapters and as different kinds of zombies.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
mark: highly recommend from noah
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to CJ by: dad
Interesting, and I understand significantly more about economics than before I read it, but I still don't understand very much.
Elizabeth Gabhart
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
I enjoyed this analysis of how neoliberal economic policies don't actually make economic sense. I feel sure I will reference this book again, probably as I'm teaching.
Justin Campbell
Dec 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
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
Brendan Shea
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Let me start by providing a bit of a backstory here.
Last Summer in the midst of the OMGGREECEISDOOMEDWE'REALLGOINGTODIE!111!!!!!!!11!!! hysteria I went and bought books because that's just how I react to everything.
There I was, in one of my favourite bookstores, browsing away when I happened upon the finance section. I don't choose to read economics books for pleasure the way I do other non-fiction books. When it comes to economics, I'll read whatever I need to read in the news in order to unde
Elinor Hurst
Mar 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dave Burns
Oct 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: skimmed, library, gave-up

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 p
Sep 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
WARNING: Do not read this book if you are an economics noob. There is way too much jargon in here and often his descriptions and explanations are woefully convoluted.

I do not value reviews where people just list what you will find in the book so I'll just say that it goes through a number of economics theories that the author considers to have failed but yet persist - a good example is 'trickle-down' (which the author states is a pejorative term coined by leftists, sort of like how the Big Bang
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Quiggins writes about economic ideas that held sway through much of the last 40 years that were proven wrong by the 2008 financial disaster they helped spawn. Though these ideas suffered ignoble deaths, like zombies they emerged to walk among us again, stalking many national economies and preventing them from experiencing full recoveries. The failed ideas that he discusses in detail are: the Great Moderation of the 1990s, when many economists foolishly believed that they had economies and recess ...more
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
A popular level economics book written in academic tome. The author, Australian economist John Quiggin, surveys 5 economic ideas/hypotheses, and uses the "life" stages of the movie zombie (i.e. birth, death, reanimation etc) as a template for his analysis.

Each idea is one that the author argues is dead (or rather should be dead) based on empirical evidence or its inability to explain real actual economic situations past. As Zombie Economics is popular in level this is not a textbook. You get a p
Andrew Davis
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
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
Gareth Evans
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mark Krawczykowski
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very informative. Digs into the major economic myths of Reaganism/Thatcherism/neoliberalism that have shaped policy here and many other parts of the world over the last 40 years: Trickle Down Economics, push for privatization, austerity during recessions, free markets are the answer to all that ails, and handedly disproves all of them. Points out that Keynesian economics has it's limitations and failed in the 70's, but the New Keynesians in the 80s and 90s did not come up with proper adjustments ...more
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John Quiggin (born 29 March 1956) is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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