The Enlightened Economist Prize 2017 – the winner!

It has been a tough choice, as ever, to pick one winner out of the 14 titles on my longlist. It was a good year and all 14 are terrific books. After days of mulling it over, three contenders became clear. One was Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth, because even though I disagree with parts of his analysis of today’s economy, it is a brilliant, magisterial work of economic history. All economists should read it. But Prof Gordon has won plenty of accolades for the book already and doesn’t need mine. I really enjoyed also Sam Bowles’s The Moral Economy, on the strengths but importantly the limits of economic analysis based on incentives as opposed to ‘moral sentiments’.


However, the Enlightened Economist Prize winner for 2016 is a book that was enjoyable to read, informed me about all kinds of things I hadn’t known, and is full of insights about the relationship between money and politics, and the nature of property and value. It’s a great example of history helping one think more clearly about the present and maybe the near future. It is Rebecca Spang’s Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution.

Rebecca, if you read this, it means I owe you a nice lunch or dinner if we’re ever in the same place.








Winner of the Enlightened Economist Prize 2015

It has been a tough year to decide which of the titles on the longlist would win. The rules are that I make up the criteria and decide for myself – it’s a combination of readability,  telling me things I didn’t already know, and likely shelf longevity. And I have to have read the book in the past 12 months; publication date is not relevant.

The shortlist included [amazon_link id=”0262525968″ target=”_blank” ]Cybernetic Revolutionaries[/amazon_link] by Eden Medina, [amazon_link id=”0241003555″ target=”_blank” ]Why Information Grows[/amazon_link] by Cesar Hidalgo and [amazon_link id=”1781254435″ target=”_blank” ]Other People’s Money[/amazon_link] by John Kay.

[amazon_image id=”0262525968″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0465048994″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1781254435″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?[/amazon_image]

But the winner is: [amazon_link id=”0691152845″ target=”_blank” ]Mastering Metrics[/amazon_link] by Joshua Angrist and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. It might seem surprising that I chose an econometrics text, but seriously if you have any interest at all in understanding how to treat evidence carefully and reason about causation, this is a very accessible explanation. It is also straightforward to read and understand – the technical bits are in an appendix to each chapter and easily skipped. I certainly think every economist and student of economics ought to read this book.

[amazon_image id=”B00SLVGQD0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect: Written by Joshua D. Angrist, 2015 Edition, Publisher: Princeton University Press [Paperback][/amazon_image]

The Enlightened Economist Prize 2015 – the long list

A bit late this year, here is my shortlist for my personal prize for the best book I’ve read since last year’s shortlist. The rules are that date of publication doesn’t matter, only my date of reading the book, and that the winner in a week or so will be entirely my arbitrary choice – the one I enjoyed the most. The prize, apart from glory, is my offer to take the winner out for dinner .

So here they are in no particular order:

[amazon_link id=”0393246418″ target=”_blank” ]Economics Rules[/amazon_link] by Dani Rodrik (How to do economics well – review here )

[amazon_link id=”0241003555″ target=”_blank” ]Why Information Grows[/amazon_link] Cesar Hidalgo (Information based economies  – review)

[amazon_link id=”000752076X” target=”_blank” ]Who Gets What and Why[/amazon_link] Alvin Roth (Market design – review)

[amazon_link id=”0300195664″ target=”_blank” ]Learning by Doing[/amazon_link] James Bessen – (Technology and work – will review very soon)

[amazon_link id=”1781688451″ target=”_blank” ]The Happiness industry[/amazon_link] William Davies – (Scepticism about behavioural economics and utilitarianism – review)

[amazon_link id=”0571308015″ target=”_blank” ]Nothing is True and Everything is Possible[/amazon_link] Peter Pomerantsev (The scary truth about modern Russia – review)

[amazon_link id=”1846146410″ target=”_blank” ]The Reckoning[/amazon_link] Jacob Soll (The history and influence of accountancy – review)

[amazon_link id=”0465059996″ target=”_blank” ]Rise of the Robots[/amazon_link] Martin Ford – (Technology and jobs, a pessimistic view – review)

[amazon_link id=”B00UJD8AS2″ target=”_blank” ]Other People’s Money[/amazon_link] John Kay (Pernicious modern finance – review)

[amazon_link id=”0262016494″ target=”_blank” ]Cybernetic Revolutionaries[/amazon_link] Eden Medina (Using technology to shape society in Allende’s Chile – review)

[amazon_link id=”0691152845″ target=”_blank” ]Mastering Metrics[/amazon_link] Joshua Angrist and Steffen Pischke (Econometrics of the best kind, made fun – review)

[amazon_link id=”B00WQRFC30″ target=”_blank” ]Inequality[/amazon_link] Anthony Atkinson (What to do about it (and why), a practical agenda – review)

[amazon_link id=”0691160392″ target=”_blank” ]Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels[/amazon_link] Ian Morris (Long run economic history – review)

[amazon_link id=”1783350644″ target=”_blank” ]Swimming with the Sharks[/amazon_link] – Joris Luydendijk (The sociology of pernicious modern finance – review)


The Enlightened Economist Prize, 2014

A month ago I announced the shortlist for the Enlightened Economist Prize this year – as a reminder, the rules are that any book I happened to read during the previous 12 months is eligible, and the choice is entirely mine. The prize is the offer of dinner to the winner.

It has been a tough choice this year as I enjoyed all the books and there was no obvious standout. So it has taken much deliberation for me to decide to award the prize this year to [amazon_link id=”0691152098″ target=”_blank” ]Complexity and the Art of Public Policy[/amazon_link] by David Colander and Roland Kupers. It wasn’t the easiest read on the shortlist, but is a thought-provoking book from which I learned a lot. Here is my review of the book. Congratulations to the authors, and if they should be visiting London, dinner is on me!

[amazon_image id=”0691152098″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: Solving Society’s Problems from the Bottom Up[/amazon_image]


The Enlightened Economist book prize shortlist, 2014

The year has flown past, and it’s time to announce the list of contenders for the Enlightened Economist Prize this year. Last year’s winner was Jeremy Adelman’s biography of Albert Hirschman, The Worldly Philosopher. A reminder of the rules: this is my personal choice among the books I happened to read in the past 12 months, no matter when they were published. The prize is that I offer to take the winner out to dinner should we find ourselves in the same city.

With that, here is this year’s shortlist.

[amazon_link id=”0262019388″ target=”_blank” ]Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing[/amazon_link] Vaclav Smil (review)

[amazon_link id=”1846682436″ target=”_blank” ]How Asia Works[/amazon_link] Joe Studwell (review) [amazon_image id=”1846682436″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0691148686″ target=”_blank” ]The Confidence Trap[/amazon_link] David Runciman

[amazon_link id=”1780744056″ target=”_blank” ]The Blunders of Our Governments[/amazon_link] Anthony King & Ivor Crewe [amazon_image id=”1780744056″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Blunders of Our Governments[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0393239357″ target=”_blank” ]The Second Machine Age[/amazon_link] Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (review)

[amazon_link id=”0571251293″ target=”_blank” ]The Unwinding[/amazon_link] George Packer (review) [amazon_image id=”0571251293″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Unwinding: Thirty Years of American Decline[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0691162549″ target=”_blank” ]The Son Also Rises[/amazon_link] Gregory Clark (review)

[amazon_link id=”067443000X” target=”_blank” ]Capital in the 21st Century[/amazon_link] Thomas Piketty (review)

[amazon_link id=”1594203288″ target=”_blank” ]The Idea Factory [/amazon_link]Jon Gertner (review) [amazon_image id=”1594203288″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0691152098″ target=”_blank” ]Complexity and the Art of Public Policy[/amazon_link] David Colander and Roland Kupers (review)

[amazon_link id=”1846272998″ target=”_blank” ]Deep Sea, Foreign Going[/amazon_link] Rose George (review) [amazon_image id=”1846272998″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0691156646″ target=”_blank” ]Finding Equilibrium[/amazon_link] Till Duppe and Roy Weintraub (review) [amazon_image id=”0691156646″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Finding Equilibrium: Arrow, Debreu, McKenzie and the Problem of Scientific Credit[/amazon_image]

The winner will be announced in a couple of weeks.