Book Review: A Student’s Guide To Economics

A Student’s Guide To Economics, by Paul Heyne

I found this book to be greatly enjoyable to read, and I feel so charitably towards it that I will not even ding the book too harshly for having an afterword by someone whom I have no respect for as a thinker and writer, the grossly overrated Thomas DiLorenzo [1].  Even so, this is a book that deserves to be taken on its own merits, and even the afterword is worthwhile because it focuses on the late author himself and not on the regrettably poor scholar who wrote the afterword.  To make me feel even somewhat charitable about DiLorenzo, this book had to be a remarkably good one on the subject of economics [2].  If it could have mentioned Bastiat, it would have been an even better book, but at just over 50 pages, it is a good enough book for its size to overlook such omissions.  Like the other books in this series, this book is a short, almost pocket-sized introduction to a subject that is of great importance but that is viewed as being somewhat arcane for many people, even though a great many engage in economic discussion without being aware of the field.

After a short introductory note, the author discusses the beginnings of economic growth and price theory before discussing the reformulation of economic through, an introductory survey into the subject, the neglect of recessions and the rise of macroeconomics, the divergence between microeconomics and macroeconomics, and the change from the exchange process to the economizing process that took place for many theorists.  After that there is a discussion of who is in charge of the economy (a serious question), the relation of ignorance and self-interest, exit and voice, questions of wealth, justice, and freedom, the relationship between organizations and markets, before some discussions about economic growth, the strange nature of economic theory, and some concluding comments as well as a bibliographic essay that encourages the reader to pick up some later books on economics like the writing of Peter Bauer, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and others who had a great deal of influence on the author’s thinking.  After this comes the aforementioned afterword by DiLorenzo that plugs the author’s textbook and its approach to economics by focusing on the issue of exchange, something that has been too much neglected by many writers.

When we examine economics as a subject, it is very common that people will try to argue that there is a harsh divide between macroeconomics and microeconomics, especially when it comes to claiming that what is best for a country (or even a city) is different than what is best for a household.  In general, those who wish to denigrate the need for restraint and fiscal responsibility when it comes to civic organizations are quick to impugn the good sense and understanding of those who would wish to undertake macroeconomic policies that were suitable for the household, from which economics (derived from the Greek word for the household, oikos) comes.  This book, and presumably the author’s work as a whole, does a good job in exposing the falsity of a great deal of contemporary thinking that rejects the insights of microeconomics and points out that macroeconomics is unlikely to see a resurgence as a field of study until it takes the insights of macroeconomics into greater account.  The book also focuses on the question of exchange, pointing out that larger economizing motives are themselves beyond the scope of the field and are theoretical assumptions that are likely to be false.  This is an author who wishes to see economics as it is, not as we would wish it to be, and that is for the best.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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8 Responses to Book Review: A Student’s Guide To Economics

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings and commented:
    Reblogging for future reference:

  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I just now bought the Kindle version. I’ll probably read it after finishing a book on the Puritans.

    • Sounds good; this one won’t take you too long to read.

      • jamesbradfordpate says:

        Actually, I go through Kindle books slowly. I’ll probably finish that Puritans book in a couple months! 😀

      • Oh wow, that is pretty slowly. I read about two books a day (sometimes more, if I’m ambitious), although few of them are kindle reads.

      • jamesbradfordpate says:

        Yeah, I read a bunch of books at once. I do fifty pages a day of a physical book, but one page of a Kindle book, and a page of other books I am reading. It’s just with the online books, my computer is upstairs, and the family room is downstairs, so I read a physical book downstairs in the evening, while watching TV with my family.

      • I can see why you’d do more physical reading then 🙂

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