Friday, 6 March 2009

Read Excerpts And Wait For Their Next One

(A review of the book ‘Economics 2.0’ by Norbert Häring and Olaf Storbeck)

I set out reading this book (I was asked to do so by the publisher) with great expectations. The blurb and the reviews that the publisher provided suggested that although this will probably be no economics revelation, a lot of fun was guaranteed. Well, the first part was definitely true. But fun?

This book is economics 2.0 in its title only. The book has a very limited offering regarding the frontiers of economics. It assumes that game theory and experimental economics are the main drives. Where is the great merger of the three schools of macroeconomics? Where is the rise of mathematical finance? Where is the completely new economics of transition? And most of all, where is the emerging global economics?

As for new, dare we say, economics 2.0 methods: where is high computing in finance? The role of simulations in macro? Or, the use of networks? 

Furthermore, the text flows as well as a compilation of 150 abstracts would. The fact that the papers behind the abstracts are really interesting makes it even more annoying. You would actually want to read this book, but it is just so unfriendly. For instance, it is peppered with names (and often titles) of economists. A randomly selected 15-page sample included 61 mentions of economists’ names. Very tiresome.  

The book sees the discipline of economics through German lenses. In particular the ‘frontier’ is noticed in areas where German economists are strong. (This is probably no surprise as the two authors are well established names in German financial journalism.) This makes me want to be nice to them: it is great when there is a local economics culture which is actually good at something. Unfortunately, there seems to be no self awareness about this feature of the book. The discussion of the problems to be solved, and the solutions, are all from the perspective of that particular Frankfurt-Zurich-Bonn-Munich based economist subculture. The fact that they quote the work of non-Germans, in other academic centres of the world, comes across as mere decoration. 

And in any case, unlike the behavioural economics bit, which is fairly up to date, most of the macro could have been written fifteen years ago. The chapter on globalisation is especially annoying,suggesting that “Vasco da Gama was probably the first global player”, and offering such insights as “No doubt, globalisation has changed the world we live in at breakneck speed.” Grrrrrr.  

In conclusion, this book is a lost opportunity. The subject is great, the work the authors have put in is substantial, and it is clear from the occasional shine-throughs, that they have a really good sense of humour. They could have written a brilliant book, the one that was promised. Sadly, they didn’t. My suggestion is that you leave this book aside, and wait for their next one.

1 comment:

  1. I can't decide whether this was a positive review or not. Maybe "very negative with a very positive outlook" would be the category. One thing is for sure, I will not dare to send you my book for review...