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Economic History

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What Can Economists Know?

The world of economics is a complicated and messy place. Yet modern economic analysis rests on an attempt to represent the world by means of simple mathematical models. To what extent is this possible? How can such a program cope with the fact that economic outcomes are often driven by factors that are notoriously difficult to quantify? Can such mathematical modeling lead us to theories that work?

Selected Writings

"Crossing Boundaries is not only characteristic of the physical moves I have undertaken (or had to undertake) in the course of my life: it is also distinctive of the interdisciplinary travels I have engaged in ever since I started to write."
—Albert O. Hirschman, from Crossing Boundaries

Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia

Recent commentators on Russia's economic reforms have almost uniformly declared them a disappointing and avoidable—failure. In this book, two American scholars take a new and more balanced look at the country's attempts to build capitalism on the ruins of Soviet central planning. They show how and why the Russian reforms achieved remarkable breakthroughs in some areas but came undone in others.

The Fundamentals of Early Manias

The jargon of economics and finance contains numerous colorful terms for market-asset prices at odds with any reasonable economic explanation. Examples include "bubble," "tulipmania," "chain letter," "Ponzi scheme," "panic," "crash," "herding," and "irrational exuberance." Although such a term suggests that an event is inexplicably crowd-driven, what it really means, claims Peter Garber, is that we have grasped a near-empty explanation rather than expend the effort to understand the event.

Old Ideas and New Tools

The "oligopoly problem"--the question of how prices are formed when the market contains only a few competitors--is one of the more persistent problems in the history of economic thought. In this book Xavier Vives applies a modern game-theoretic approach to develop a theory of oligopoly pricing.Vives begins by relating classic contributions to the field--including those of Cournot, Bertrand, Edgeworth, Chamberlin, and Robinson--to modern game theory.

The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy

Globalization is not a new phenomenon, nor is it irreversible. In Gobalization and History, Kevin O'Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson present a coherent picture of trade, migration, and international capital flows in the Atlantic economy in the century prior to 1914--the first great globalization boom, which anticipated the experience of the last fifty years.The authors estimate the extent of globalization and its impact on the participating countries, and discuss the political reactions that it provoked.

Financial systems are crucial to the allocation of resources in a modern economy. They channel household savings to the corporate sector and allocate investment funds among firms; they allow intertemporal smoothing of consumption by households and expenditures by firms; and they enable households and firms to share risks. These functions are common to the financial systems of most developed economies. Yet the form of these financial systems varies widely.

The Power of Modularity

We live in a dynamic economic and commerical world, surrounded by objects of remarkable complexity and power. In many industries, changes in products and technologies have brought with them new kinds of firms and forms of organization. We are discovering news ways of structuring work, of bringing buyers and sellers together, and of creating and using market information. Although our fast-moving economy often seems to be outside of our influence or control, human beings create the things that create the market forces.

The papers in this volume reflect David Bradford's dual experience as a theoretical economist and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury for Tax Policy and Director of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis. While at the Treasury, Bradford was involved in producing the 1977 report entitled Blueprints for Basic Tax Reform. Blueprints describes two models for fundamental income tax reform. One is based on the Haig-Simons income concept, which still dominates American income tax thinking.

The Korean Way of Learning and Catching Up

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