Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

I am reposting Seth Simmons 2013 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale (probably only today) for $1.99. There is also an earlier 2009 review by Adam Shields
Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street This is a difficult book to classify, and thus to review. It’s not a book of economics, but rather about economics, particularly the modern focus on mathematics to the exclusion of ethics. It’s pretty abstract and philosophical. I almost gave up a number of times in the first 150 pages, as I slogged through Sedlacek picking out and commenting on the economic bread crumbs found in the most ancient of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, followed by Greek thought, Stoicism, historic Christianity, and the Enlightenment thought of Hume, Descartes, and Adam Smith.

One of most interesting chapters was on Adam Smith: for example, the views he is famous for advocating (the “invisible hand,” among other things) are not actually his own, and his economic ethics are more complex than commonly understood. The other fascinating section was his short discussion on how the contemporary Keynesian approach to the business cycle is anything by Keynesian–what he dubs “Bastardized Keynesianism”–i.e. that deficits are okay in time of decline as long as they are paid back out of surpluses. Obviously, that second half of the equation has been totally ignored by modern national economies, as we in the West continue to spend ourselves into oblivion.

Sedlacek calls out modern economists for their arrogance in attempting to explain virtually everything using exclusively mathematical economic models, arguing that have become just as dogmatic and unscientific as many religious people (supposedly) are. He calls for more ethics and more epistemological humility in his field, and what a welcome call it is. This book is a slow burn, and not too terribly exciting, but ultimately intellectually stimulating and satisfying.

Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition

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