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Economics Without Illusions

Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism

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Paperback published by Crown Business (Crown Publishing Group)

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About This Book
"Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man."  -- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (1946)

Every day economic claims are used by the media or in conversation to support social and political positions. Those on the left tend to distrust economists, seeing them as friends of the right. There is something to this, since professional economists are almost all keen supporters of the free market. Yet while factions on the right naturally embrace economists, they also tend to overestimate the effect of their support on free-market policies. The result is widespread confusion. In fact, virtually all commonly held beliefs about economics--whether espoused by political activists, politicians, journalists or taxpayers--are just plain wrong.

Professor Joseph Heath wants to raise our economic literacy and empower us with new ideas. In Economics Without Illusions, he draws on everyday examples to skewer the six favourite economic fallacies of the right, followed by impaling the six favourite fallacies of the left. Heath leaves no sacred cows untipped as he breaks down complex arguments and shows how the world really works. The popularity of such books as Freakonomics and Predictably Irrational demonstrates that people want a better understanding of the financial forces that affect them.  Highly readable, cogently argued and certain to raise ire along all points of the socio-political spectrum, Economics Without Illusions offers readers the economic literacy they need to genuinely understand and critique the pros and cons of capitalism.
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"Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man."  -- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (1946)

Every day economic claims are used by the media or in conversation to support social and political positions. Those on the left tend to distrust economists, seeing them as friends of the right. There is something to this, since professional economists are almost all keen supporters of the free market. Yet while factions on the right naturally embrace economists, they also tend to overestimate the effect of their support on free-market policies. The result is widespread confusion. In fact, virtually all commonly held beliefs about economics--whether espoused by political activists, politicians, journalists or taxpayers--are just plain wrong.

Professor Joseph Heath wants to raise our economic literacy and empower us with new ideas. In Economics Without Illusions, he draws on everyday examples to skewer the six favourite economic fallacies of the right, followed by impaling the six favourite fallacies of the left. Heath leaves no sacred cows untipped as he breaks down complex arguments and shows how the world really works. The popularity of such books as Freakonomics and Predictably Irrational demonstrates that people want a better understanding of the financial forces that affect them.  Highly readable, cogently argued and certain to raise ire along all points of the socio-political spectrum, Economics Without Illusions offers readers the economic literacy they need to genuinely understand and critique the pros and cons of capitalism.
Product Details
Paperback (352 pages)
Published: March 30, 2010
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Imprint: Crown Business
ISBN: 9780307590572
Other books byJoseph Heath
  • Enlightenment 2.0

    Enlightenment 2.0
    Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily news items and even the multitude of visual sources of information all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard. In Enlightenment 2.0, bestselling author Joseph Heath outlines a program for a second Enlightenment. The answer, he argues, lies in a new “slow politics.” It takes as its point of departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought. It is impossible to restore sanity merely by being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have crowded it out.

    Communicative Action and Rational Choice

    Communicative Action and Rational Choice
    In this book Joseph Heath brings Jürgen Habermas's theory of communicative action into dialogue with the most sophisticated articulation of the instrumental conception of practical rationality-modern rational choice theory. Heath begins with an overview of Habermas's action theory and his critique of decision and game theory. He then offers an alternative to Habermas's use of speech act theory to explain social order and outlines a multidimensional theory of rational action that includes norm-governed action as a specific type.In the second part of the book Heath discusses the more philosophical dimension of Habermas's conception of practical rationality. He criticizes Habermas's attempt to introduce a universalization principle governing moral discourse, as well as his criteria for distinguishing between moral and ethical problems. Heath offers an alternative account of the level of convergence exhibited by moral argumentation, drawing on game-theoretic models to specify the burden of proof that the theory of communicative action and discourse must assume.

    Following the Rules

    Following the Rules
    Practical Reasoning and Deontic Constraint
    For centuries, philosophers have been puzzled by the fact that people often respect moral obligations as a matter of principle, setting aside considerations of self-interest. In more recent years, social scientists have been puzzled by the more general phenomenon of rule-following, the fact that people often abide by social norms even when doing so produces undesirable consequences. Experimental game theorists have demonstrated conclusively that the old-fashioned picture of "economic man," constantly reoptimizing in order to maximize utility in all circumstances, cannot provide adequate foundations for a general theory of rational action. The dominant response, however, has been a slide toward irrationalism. If people are ignoring the consequences of their actions, it is claimed, it must be because they are making some sort of a mistake. InFollowing the Rules, Joseph Heath attempts to reverse this trend, by showing how rule-following can be understood as an essential element of rational action. The first step involves showing how rational choice theory can be modified to incorporate deontic constraint as a feature of rational deliberation. The second involves disarming the suspicion that there is something mysterious or irrational about the psychological states underlying rule-following. According to Heath, human rationality is a by-product of the so-called "language upgrade" that we receive as a consequence of the development of specific social practices. As a result, certain constitutive features of our social environment-such as the rule-governed structure of social life-migrate inwards, and become constitutive features of our psychological faculties. This in turn explains why there is an indissoluble bond between practical rationality and deontic constraint. In the end, what Heath offers is a naturalistic, evolutionary argument in favor of the traditional Kantian view that there is an internal connection between being a rational agent and feeling the force of one's moral obligations.

    Efficient Society

    Efficient Society
    In this fascinating account of what makes Canada such a successful society, Joseph Heath celebrates the much-maligned value of efficiency and asks some searching questions about the forces that threaten to undermine our quality of life. Canada is an efficient society, much more efficient than our neighbour to the south, where personal liberty takes precedence over collective well-being. This is one of the reasons, Heath argues, that the United Nations Annual Human Development Report consistently ranks Canada as the best place in the world to live. But this efficiency is under siege. Can we resist the allure of short-sighted tax cuts? Can we maintain our quality of life in the face of relentless pressure to increase our productivity - both at work and at home? This is a profound and important look at how government and business conspire to improve our lives - and at the dramatic changes that will decide our social and economic future.

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