This might look like yet another conventional state-of-the-world economics book, but it is anything but. It is an invigorating ride through 21st-century economics and a treasure trove of facts and findings.
Good Economics for Hard Times is the latest attempt by economists to defend their profession. It is, happily, an excellent antidote to the most dangerous forms of economics bashing: the efforts of opportunistic politicians to weaponise discontent with mainstream politics and to press it into the service of a xenophobic ideology that denies facts and serves the interests of a nativist, global oligarchy... On every page, they seek to shed much-needed light upon the distortions that bad economics bring to public debates while methodically deconstructing their false assumptions. In their words, the book’s noble, urgent task is “to emphasise that there are no iron laws of economics keeping us from building a more humane world”.
Good Economics is an effective response to Banerjee and Duflo’s more thoughtful critics, some of whom argued that devotion to randomised trials had led to a narrowing of economics, in which complex questions that could not be scientifically tested should simply be set aside. The authors make a convincing case that empirical economics contains answers to many vexing problems, from populism to identity politics, especially when economists are willing to range outside their discipline’s confines. As they put it in their conclusion: “Economics is too important to be left to the economists.”