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Good Economics for Hard Times

Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems

By Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
19-minute read
Audio available
Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Good Economics for Hard Times (2019) unflinchingly examines some of the most seemingly intractable problems we’re confronting today. Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo argue that economics can provide new perspectives on how to solve climate change without hurting the poor, and also tackle social problems caused by rising inequality, global trade, and fear of immigration. 

  • People who want to regain their faith in the usefulness of economics
  • Environmentalists who want a new perspective on how to save the planet
  • Workers who are worried about how immigration and trade will affect their jobs

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics in recognition of their contributions to the field of development economics. Their previous book Poor Economics was a pioneering investigation of what it means to be poor, and how to provide the most effective aid to struggling communities. They are both professors at MIT, and have received numerous academic honors and prizes. 

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Good Economics for Hard Times

Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems

By Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Synopsis

Good Economics for Hard Times (2019) unflinchingly examines some of the most seemingly intractable problems we’re confronting today. Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo argue that economics can provide new perspectives on how to solve climate change without hurting the poor, and also tackle social problems caused by rising inequality, global trade, and fear of immigration. 

Key idea 1 of 12

Economists can help us solve the world’s gravest problems – but they first have to gain our trust.

In a public poll about how much people trust the opinions of different professionals, nurses ranked the highest and politicians, perhaps unsurprisingly, the lowest. What might be surprising is that economists were ranked only slightly above politicians. Their opinions were seen as being very unreliable.

But why? Perhaps because the vocal economists we see on the news are not the most trustworthy. Often, they are actually employed by a company and have a very pointed agenda toward protecting market interests.

Alternatively, they may be academic economists with extreme views. Whether on the right or the left, economists with an ideological axe to grind don’t always give the most nuanced, trustworthy analysis. Often, even good economists don’t take the time to explain the evidence and reasoning in a way that others can understand. To make matters worse, the opinions of academic economists can seem counterintuitive or illogical because their views don’t match up with what we’re told by politicians.

The fact that people don’t trust economists is problematic. Why? Because they can give us very important information about how to solve some of the world’s most critical problems. So, how can economists start to earn our trust and talk about issues in a way we understand?

For a start, they have to be willing to share their thought processes as well as their conclusions. If we have access to the data they use as evidence and are privy to how they think about that evidence, we’re more likely to believe them.

Even more importantly, they have to be willing to admit that they’re fallible. Today's political and economic debate has become like a shouting match, with each side dearly attached to their own point of view. Economists have to be willing to look at the evidence with an open mind, and where necessary, revise their opinions and admit when they get it wrong.

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