“Good Economics for Hard Times” by Abhijit V. Bannerjee & Esther Duflo: rambling too widely?

I had high expectations of what promised to be an accessible book on post-financial crisis economics by a couple of Nobel Prize winning academics.

Themed by a range of interesting topics like migration, trade, growth rates, climatic change, or artificial intelligence, although it is often hard to work out from the chapter headings what they are likely to be about, I was soon disappointed by what seems an overly superficial, disjointed, anecdotal approach, by turn tending to labour over stating the obvious, or failing to develop important ideas sufficiently. I understand an attempt to avoid putting general readers off with too many diagrams and tables, but used in moderation these can be more effective than wordy paragraphs.

Ideas too often seem presented in a rather one-sided way. For instance, the benefits of migration are cited, but not the complex problems it can create. I was surprised that the situation in Europe was not used as a major example of this.

At times, the tone appears a little patronising. The “better answers” in the title prove in short supply and in the main quite woolly.

A shorter, more carefully considered book expanding on any one chapter would have been more useful. But perhaps this book is not meant for mature readers already armed with a basic knowledge of economics who have also developed a good understanding of social and political issues. Ancillary to a rather dry basic economics course for students, this might be useful in stimulating questioning debate.

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