Public policy reading

Frederico Mollet on Twitter set me a good challenge: some general reading for someone about to start a masters in public policy. Here is a list of suggestions, ten books*, accessibly written, with a bias towards economics and the rationale for economic policy. As ever, more ideas will be welcome.  I’m particularly keen to hear recommendations of this kind of book by female authors – this is a shockingly male list.

The first three are my all-time favourites and I think everybody ought to read them.

Seeing Like A State James Scott

Reinventing the Bazaar John McMillan

Micromotives and Macrobehaviour Thomas Schelling

Who Gets What and Why Alvin Roth

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets Michael Sandel

Economics Rules Dani Rodrik

Madmen, Intellectuals and Economic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change Edward Lopez and Wayne Leighton

Poor Economics Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

The Idea of Justice Amartya Sen

Other People’s Money John Kay

Economic fables Ariel Rubinstein

The Blunders of Our Governments Anthony King and Ivor Crewe (UK examples only, pretty funny)

PS * approximately 10 as I kept having ideas



10 thoughts on “Public policy reading

  1. Raul Pacheco-Vega has a policy of having 50% of female authors on his syllabi, which include public policy. You might want to reach out to him on Twitter (username @raulpacheco)

  2. Diane – we include things like Nancy Cartwright’s book on Evidence Based Policy Making as it is so current and contested, I’d recommend the Entrepreneurial State from Mariana Mazzucato as one of our jobs is to challenge received wisdom on the role of the state, and possibly a chapter or two of Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox. Worth including Ha-Joon’s 23 Things? Or JK Galbraith’s The Good Society? The list could go on and on …



    • Good ideas all. My whole course is about testing the received wisdom, I hope! I don’t know the Deborah Stone book so will read that. Not crazy about 23 Things, format drove me nuts.

      • Fair enough on 23 – I’ve been given but not yet gotten to Schlefer’s The Assumptions Economists Make and in terms of challenging received wisdom how is Aldred’s The Skeptical Economist?

  3. I might have already suggested this here, but I think Joshua Greene, in “moral tribes”, deals with morality better than Sandel or Sen.

  4. Perhaps Embracing Complexity, Boutlon, Allen and Bowman – or one of the other books applying complexity theory to such areas.

    Maybe something with the psych / behavioural aspects, too – Nudge, Inside the Nudge Unit, etc.

  5. It’s dated, the the essay “Are Women Human” by Dorothy Sayers is worth including. It’s questions are worth the time.

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