Economics AS students have now finished their exams and the pro-active among them will be starting to look ahead to next year and their applications to university. At this time of the year I am often asked for recommendations for wider reading.
Whenever I am asked this I think there are two main aspects of Economics that make it a fascinating subject to teach but also which students should be aware of when considering it as a choice of degree subject. The first is that it is a varied and controversial subject with a number of continuing disagreements (for instance over the nature of capitalism). The second is that the subject overlaps with a number of other subjects including Politics, Philosophy, History, Psychology, Finance, Mathematics, and Statistics, to name just a few.
So here are 5 choices for the ambitious student which attempt to reflect these ideas.
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx. Seemingly obscure, or out-of-date this is still one of the best and most insightful critiques of capitalism ever written. The language is occasionally off-putting to students but written with a rare combination of passion and clarity.
The Affluent Society, JK Galbraith. For most of human history the problem confronting human beings has been one of scarcity. But for some countries, the new challenges are the problems associated with affluence and abundance. Galbraith – always one of the best economic writers – highlights the problems of waste and misallocation of resources present in our own societies.
Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman. The Anti-Marx! Friedman defends capitalism against its attackers and argues that it’s the basis for all important freedoms. Not only that but it should be extended while government involvement should be reduced.
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes. A historical overview of the success of capitalism in generating wealth and development. Fascinating historical insights informing a pro-market outlook.
Mathematics for Economics and Finance, M. Anthony and N. Biggs. The use of mathematics in economics is frequently unnecessary and off-putting but it’s an unavoidable part of the subject. Anthony and Biggs make it very accessible, while always explaining the purpose of the models used (as well as their limitations).