Enlightened Economist Prize 2022 – the winner

It’s always much harder to select a winner than to decide on the 10 (occasionally 12) books on the longlist, and somehow harder than usual this year. For I’ve decided there are two that have the combination of interest, distinctiveness and excellent writing I’m looking for. So, with the usual caveat that this is an entirely personal decision based on what I happen to have read, my own interests, (and no doubt my mood at the time), I’m offering a free lunch to both Brad DeLong for Slouching Towards Utopia and James Bessen for The New Goliaths. Congratulations to both!


The 2022 Enlightened Economist Prize – longlist

Looking back over my reading during the past 12 months, there is a strong longlist for this year’s Prize. As a reminder, this is a completely arbitrary decision based on the books I’ve read (regardless of their publication date), and – apart from the glory – the only actual prize is an offer to the author of a free lunch next time they and I are in the same location. There’s a bias toward digital economy titles, economic history, and a couple of great business books. Here’s the list:

Free Market: The History of an Idea by Jacob Soll (my review)

The New Goliaths by James Bessen (my review)

Cloud Empires by Vili Lehrdonvirta (my review)

Jan Tinbergen by Erwin Dekker (my review)

Slouching Towards Utopia by Brad DeLong (my review)

The Journey of Humanity by Oded Galor (my review)

The Vaccine by Joe Miller (my review)

Money Men by Dan McCrum (no review – it reads like a thriller, excellent read)

Restarting the Future by Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake (my review)

The Money Minders by Jagjit Chadha (embarrassed to say I didn’t write up a review as I read an early draft to provide a blurb. All you need to know to demystify central banking, in crystal prose).



The 2020 Enlightened Economist Prize – (very) longlist

It’s the time of year when I look back over 12 months of reading and nominate a ‘winner’. The rules are: this is entirely arbitrary. It depends what I liked best (for ideas, quality of writing, provocativeness, accessibility etc) from what I happen to have read (publication date irrelevant). There is a prize: I offer to take the author(s) to lunch if we happen to be in the same city.

This year’s list is quite long. There is an actual longlist of 11 books (in the order I read them), then some supplementaries.

The longlist:

  1. Deaths of Despair – Anne Case and Angust Deaton. My review here.
  2. The Sum of the People – Andrew Whitby. My review here.
  3. Frank Ramsey – Cheryl Misak. My review here.
  4. The Economics of Belonging – Martin Sandbu. My review here.
  5. Arts and Minds – Anton Howes. My review here.
  6. Angrynomics – Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan. My review here.
  7. If/Then – Jill Lepore. My review here.
  8. Boom and Bust – William Quinn and John Turner. My review here.
  9. The Code – Margaret O’Mara. My review here.
  10. Rentier Capitalism – Brett Christophers. My review here.
  11. The Mismeasure of Progress – Stephen Macekura. My review here.

Not much overlap with Tyler Cowen’s list. Mine reflects my leaning towards statistics and tech.

Supplementary lists.

Two books everyone should read before being allowed to hold or express any opinions about numbers in public life – compulsory purchases:

Three terrific books about democracy and its decline:

There are many good recent books about AI, but only one that can make you fall off your chair weeping with laughter. Great Holiday Season present to yourself:

There were a number of bubbling under titles, and a whole bunch of good books I read about logical positivism, the Vienna Circle, and the 1920s. But it was time to draw a line. I’ll select an overall winner in a week or so.



Enlightened Economist Prize 2017 – longlist

I’m late this year with drawing up my longlist. The rules are that the contenders are the books I happen to have read this past 12 months (they don’t have to have been published in 2017), and the choice of the ultimate winner is mine alone. Criteria include: interest and importance, enjoyability/readability/accessibility, and being related to economics (ruling out my history and pop science reading). Links are to reviews on this blog.

With that, and in no particular order, the 2017 longlist is:

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

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Hall of Mirrors by Barry Eichengreen

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The Financial Diaries by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider

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The Wisdom of Finance by Mihir Desai

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Beating the Odds by Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga

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The Pricing of Progress by Eli Cook

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Adaptive Markets by Andrew Lo

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Economics for the Common Good by Jean Tirole

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Straight Talk on Trade by Dani Rodrik

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The Attention Merchants by Timothy Wu

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I’ll decide on the winner before Christmas. The Prize is the offer of a fine lunch or dinner should the prizewinner and I find ourselves in the same place. Oh, and the glory.

By the way, my nominations for the best non-econ books I read this year are:

Second Hand Time and The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

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The Deluge by Adam Tooze

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East West Street by Philippe Sands

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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.