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

by Eden Medina,
by Cesar Hidalgo and
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:

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:

by Dani Rodrik (How to do economics well – review here )

Cesar Hidalgo (Information based economies  – review)

Alvin Roth (Market design – review)

James Bessen – (Technology and work – will review very soon)

William Davies – (Scepticism about behavioural economics and utilitarianism – review)

Peter Pomerantsev (The scary truth about modern Russia – review)

Jacob Soll (The history and influence of accountancy – review)

Martin Ford – (Technology and jobs, a pessimistic view – review)

John Kay (Pernicious modern finance – review)

Eden Medina (Using technology to shape society in Allende’s Chile – review)

Joshua Angrist and Steffen Pischke (Econometrics of the best kind, made fun – review)

Anthony Atkinson (What to do about it (and why), a practical agenda – review)

Ian Morris (Long run economic history – review)

– 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 

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.

 Vaclav Smil (review)

 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]

 David Runciman

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

 Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (review)

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

 Gregory Clark (review)

 Thomas Piketty (review)

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]

 David Colander and Roland Kupers (review)

 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]

 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.


The Enlightened Economist Prize – 2013 Winner

A couple of weeks ago I posted the shortlist for the Enlightened Economist prize this year. The time has come to announce the winner – with the reminder that the rules are wholly idiosyncratic: the candidates are books I happen to have read this year, regardless of publication date; the choice is entirely down to me; and the prize (apart from the honour) is that I will take the author for a fine dinner should we find ourselves in the same city.

It has been a tough choice. In fact, so close that I want to announce two runners-up as well. They are 

by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig and 
by Dieter Helm.

 makes a simple, powerful argument: that banks need to raise more capital. It is entirely persuasive that the extent of their leverage makes the financial system fragile, and it clearly and patiently demolishes all the counter-arguments made by the banks and their lobbyists. Why should banks, so central to the economy and in the business of risk, be allowed to get away with so much less capital versus debt than any other kind of business? Here is my original review.

[amazon_image id=”0691156840″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Bankers’ New Clothes: Whats Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It[/amazon_image]

 is a wonderfully clear-eyed assessment of energy policy in the light of climate change, and in its respect for facts over myths could annoy environmentalists and climate change sceptics equally. It is a model of how applied economics should engage with policy questions, with recommendations that lie in the realm of everyday politics. It is also extremely well-written – everybody should at least read the chapter on wind power. My review here.

[amazon_image id=”0300197195″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix it[/amazon_image]

However, the winner is Jeremy Adelman’s

, a biography of Albert Hirschman. Hirschman’s life story is extraordinary, and his early years make for a gripping tale. What I particularly enjoyed, though, was the portrait of an economist whose economics had a context in the realities of the countries Hirschman studied, their history and politics and culture, and in his wide reading in philosophy and other subjects. As I noted in my review and an FT Alphachat podcast discussion with Tyler Cowen, Hirschman was out of touch with the direction economics took during his lifetime, but the subject is now turning away from abstraction and back (I think and hope) towards its roots as ‘worldly philosophy’.

[amazon_image id=”0691155674″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman[/amazon_image]

A worthy winner – congratulations to Professor Adelman!