Lost Prophets: An Insider's History of the Modern Economists

By Levinson, Martin H | et Cetera, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Lost Prophets: An Insider's History of the Modern Economists


Levinson, Martin H, et Cetera


Alfred L. Malabre, Jr. Lost Prophets: An Insider's History of the Modern Economists. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1995.

In this book Alfred L. Malabre, Jr., who was the economics editor of the Wall Street Journal for twenty-five years, explores the important economic theories since the Depression. Keynesians (e.g., Paul Samuelson) believe the market occasionally falls, producing high unemployment and a need for fiscal stimulus. Monetarists (e.g., Milton Friedman) think monetary policy is more powerful than fiscal policy, but it works with long and unpredictable lags. Supply-siders (e.g., Arthur Laffer) advocate cutting marginal tax rates to give individuals incentive to work, save, and invest. Those who believe in the "Real Business Cycle" claim external shocks mainly determine the economy's course. And so forth and so on.

Malabre, using examples from the past sixty years, shows that all these theories (and several others) have uses but their ability to make real world prediction seems limited. That's because the business cycle (the tendency of the economy to expand, go into a recession, and expand once again) seems subject to forces which resist scientific analysis. Or as one non-economist reader of the Wall Street Journal stated, "Maybe the reason the business cycle endures is the economy is solidly based on human nature. …

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