Economics

“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

July 12, 2010
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“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

Still causing quite a stir almost a month after Glenn Beck’s endorsement pushed it to the top of Amazon’s sales rankings, F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was the subject of an essay by Jennifer Schuessler in the July 11st edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. In her essay Schuessler explores the book’s “long history of timely assists from the popular media,” and, interestingly, asks how relevant the book really is to Glenn Beck’s America. Read it online at the NYT. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Serf City, U. S. A

June 22, 2010
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Serf City, U. S. A

We’ve entered week two of the summer of Hayek, and though The Road to Serfdom has descended a few spots on the Amazon sales charts (we’re still outselling Stephenie Meyer’s vampires and the Twitter-to-book musings of a grumpy father), interest in the most unexpected beach read of 2010 continues apace. Last week, Newsweek weighed in on the phenomenon, noting Glenn Beck’s role in the sales spike: “To state that Beck holds an extraordinary amount of sway with his millions of viewers is, by now, roughly equivalent to suggesting that BP slightly underestimated how much oil spilled into the gulf.” Then chief business commentator John Gapper of the Financial Times wrote about the surprise best seller on his blog, pointing out that Beck has “become publishers’ new best friend.” Locally, the Chicago Tribune observed on its Printers Row book blog that, before Beck, Hayek had another supporter to thank for his perennial popularity: Milton Friedman. And finally, late last week, the gray lady chimed in. Writing in Inside the List column in the New York Times Book Review, Jennifer Schuessler explains that Hayek was doing well even before Beck took up his cause: “A perennial seller for the University of Chicago . . .

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The Road to Extinction

June 17, 2010
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The Road to Extinction

A proposal from the government of Tanzania to lay a road through the Serengeti National Park—and through the lands used during the annual wildebeest migration—could, in the words of Olivia Judson, “destroy the Serengeti as we know it.” Writing for the Opinionator blog of the New York Times yesterday, Judson laid out the case that the proposed thoroughfare would be devastating to wildlife, and the reverberations of the project could affect everything from plant life to tourism. In her notes, Judson directs curious readers to the work of A. R. E. Sinclair, an expert on the region and the author of three books published by the University of Chicago Press. The most recent, Serengeti III: Human Impacts on Ecosystem Dynamics presents a timely and provocative look at the conservation status of one of earth’s most renowned ecosystems. (The previous two volumes—Serengeti: Dynamics of an Ecosystem and Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management, and Conservation of an Ecosystem are part of Sinclair’s long-term integrated research project to documents changes to this unique ecosystem every ten years.) Bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines—ecologists, paleontologists, economists, social scientists, mathematicians, and disease specialists—Serengeti III focuses on the interactions between the natural system and . . .

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An unlikely bestseller

June 14, 2010
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An unlikely bestseller

For six days and counting, an unlikely book has sat atop the Amazon bestseller list, beating out Swedish crime thrillers and novels featuring sparkly vampires. Who could top Stieg Larsson and Stephenie Meyer? None other than F. A. Hayek, Austrian economist and free-market enthusiast. And for a guy that’s been dead nearly two decades (and for a book that’s celebrating its 66th birthday this year), it’s a pretty remarkable feat. Thanks for Hayek’s resurgence goes to Glenn Beck, the conservative Fox News personality who devoted his June 8 show to Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom. Overnight, the sales ranking on Amazon crept ever upward until it reached the top spot early on Wednesday, where it’s stayed ever since. Many blogs have commented on the surprise best seller. Last week Publisher’s Weekly ran a story about the book’s success, and The Chronicle of Higher Education followed up with an interview with the volume’s editor, Bruce Caldwell. Over the weekend, USA Today and the Guardian both mentioned The Road to Serfdom in profiles of Beck. Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out the book’s product page, and read an excerpt detailing the book’s publication history. Also revisit . . .

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Living Keynes and reading Hayek

June 9, 2010
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Living Keynes and reading Hayek

Back in 1965, it was Milton Friedman’s phrase: “We are all Keynesians now.” He uttered it in the same spirit as Richard Nixon repeated it in 1971: Like it or not, we are in a time when economic and political circumstances dictate that the government take a larger role in trying to steer the economy. In the last half of 2008, the phrase regained currency while the economy hemorrhaged it. We may collectively be living Keynes, but that doesn’t mean we individually believe it. On this blog, we have previously noted the continuing intellectual warfare between Keynes and Hayek. That war is nowhere near closure, thanks to a prominent Hayek cheerleader, Glenn Beck, who devoted a segment of last night’s show to talking about Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The manuscript that would become The Road to Serfdom came to the Press in 1943. It was evaluated by two University of Chicago academics to assess its scholarship and potential. Ironically, the economist supporting free-market capitalism, Frank Knight, concluded: “‘the book is an able piece of work, but limited in scope and somewhat one-sided in treatment. I doubt whether it would have a very wide market in this country, or would . . .

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What about women on welfare?

June 7, 2010
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What about women on welfare?

While most recent media coverage of the financial crisis focuses on the economic downturn’s impact on the middle class, in an article which ran last month in The Nation Katha Pollitt asks: “But what about the people who already were poor before the crisis? Like women on welfare?” To help her answer that question Pollitt cites Jane L. Collins and Victoria Mayer’s new book on the subject Both Hands Tied: Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom in the Low-Wage Labor Market—an eye-opening account of how the welfare reforms of the past few decades have afflicted poor, single-parent families, ultimately eroding the participants’ economic rights and affecting their ability to care for themselves and their children. In the article Pollitt argues that if welfare reforms were failing economically impoverished single-parents before, the financial crisis has greatly amplified the socially devastating effects they’ve had on America’s underclass. Read it online at The Nation website. . . .

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Hayek’s Moment in the Spotlight Explained

February 17, 2010
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Hayek’s Moment in the Spotlight Explained

Last seen rapping about free-markets, F. A. Hayek is enjoying a popularity resurgence. Not only has his hip hop video been viewed three-quarters of a million times (and with a new recommendation from Boing Boing, hits are bound to keep rising), but he (or at least his legacy) has been appearing everywhere from John Stossel’s Fox Business Channel show to our very own bestseller lists. Not too shabby for an economist who has been dead for nearly twenty years and whose theories have been overshadowed in the era of the stimulus by his rival Keynes. We asked Bruce Caldwell, editor of Hayek’s collected works, why this is Hayek’s moment and why his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom is finding new audiences. His response was published today on the Washington Post‘s Short Stack blog. Check it out for the story behind the book, and be sure to read up on the book’s publishing history (which Caldwell essentially extends in his WaPo piece) here, as well as our library of all of Hayek’s titles. . . .

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Boggs bills—where money ends and art begins

February 12, 2010
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Boggs bills—where money ends and art begins

As a recent post on Amazon’s book blog Omnivoracious points out, the volatile economic climate we’ve been living through the past few years makes it easy to question the real value of the dollar. When a financial crisis can put more Americans out of their homes than any of the major natural disasters that have hit the U.S. in the last decade, the nature of currency as an artificial construct is particularly obvious—and particularly ugly. But as it turns out, one contemporary artist, J.S.G. Boggs, has been using his craft to make a similar point in a somewhat more aesthetically pleasing, though highly controversial, way. As Omnivoracious blogger Tom Nissen writes: J.S.G. Boggs is an artist, and in some minds, particularly those of the Bank of England and the U.S. Secret Service, a criminal. His crime is the reproduction of national currency. He draws money. But he doesn’t just draw dollar bills and put them up in frames on gallery walls as a conceptual joke. He actually goes out and uses his drawings as money. When presented with a bill at a restaurant, say, he’ll offer instead to pay with a Boggs bill… They are usually only drawn on one . . .

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Fear the Boom and Bust

February 12, 2010
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The economist and philosopher F. A. Hayek, best known for his staunch defense of free-market capitalism, may have passed away nearly two decades ago, but he’s recently been resurrected in a viral video in which he rap-debates John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of government invention in the economy. The disagreements between the two great thinkers have been memorialized before, as in our volume Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence, but perhaps never so cleverly. (Just try getting the hooky chorus of “We’ve been going back and forth for a century, I want to steer markets, I want them set free” out of your head.) But the economics-lesson-cloaked-as-catchy-rap-ditty is only the latest in a long tradition of popularizing Hayek’s (often unpopular) theories. Bruce Caldwell, editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, notes in his introduction to The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents—The Definitive Edition that Hayek was concerned about the book’s popularity and worried about misinterpretation. Indeed, many people were introduced to the book not through the primary object but through Reader’s Digest‘s 20-page condensed version, which appeared in the April 1945 issue of the magazine, or the cartoon treatment that had been published in the . . .

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Allen Meltzer on the role of the Federal Reserve

January 7, 2010
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Allen Meltzer on the role of the Federal Reserve

Allan Meltzer author of the definitive History of the Federal Reserve recently made an appearance on C-SPAN to discuss Federal Reserve policy before and after the financial crisis and the role that current chairman Benjamin Bernanke has played. While Bernanke has recently made it quite public that he believes that lax regulation of the financial industry rather than lax management at the Fed is to blame for the recession, Meltzer has some different ideas. Check out the streaming video below: Check out the University of Chicago website for more about Meltzer’s A History of the Federal Reserve. . . .

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