14.8.08

POLITICAL ECONOMY STILL MATTERS. Hunter Lewis's Are the Rich Necessary? Great Economic Arguments and How They Reflect Our Personal Values offers a partial case. This Book Review No. 33 is less-than-impressed as the treatment is uneven and the organization is backwards. Toward the end, the author offers a cursory survey of what he terms "competing economic value systems" he classifies as "equalitarianism, fraternalism, reciprocalism, philanthropism." The classification draws contrasts too strong, as any system of economic organization includes elements of all four. The four concepts themselves have fuzzy boundaries and they cannot be treated as disjoint. They might have worked more effectively toward the beginning, as a way of structuring the contested areas, which are poverty, inequality, the profit motive, and government (with both fiscal and monetary dimensions). The point-counterpoint approach is instructive as a first approximation, although some arguments receive more careful structuring than others, something that might not be immediately obvious to an inexperienced reader. It's thus not useful as an introductory reader, although some of the material will be useful to experienced lecturers or to advanced students.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge).

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