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Dollars and Change

Dollars and Change: Economics in Context

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Dollars and Change
    Book Description:

    In this clear and engaging book, economist Louis Putterman places the economy and the study of economics in a broad historical and social perspective. He explores the history of the discipline, the history of the modern economy, different perspectives on the market economy, and the relations between economic matters and questions of human nature, social aspiration, and justice. Putterman connects the field of economics with other important spheres of life, building bridges of understanding that are too often absent in the study of economics.This book explains economic ideas in nontechnical language and is accessible to readers with little background in economics. Recognizing that abstract models and theories can leave readers puzzling over the meaning and significance of economics, Putterman addresses such questions as: Why is the economy organized the way it is? Can economic efficiency and economic justice coexist? Will those who live in the world's poor countries be able to join the well-off? Is the economy optimally arranged for maintaining the life-sustaining capacity of our planet? The author encourages readers to think more deeply and widely about economic issues and offers notes and recommendations for further reading at the end of each chapter.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14790-2
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-52)

    In today’s industrialized world, people earn their livings by working at specialized jobs—assembling automobile parts or working in a medical lab, say—that pay them money, which they then exchange for the products of thousands of other producers, some working half a world away. A typical individual spends twelve or more years being educated for a life as worker and citizen, then works for three or four decades before what is sometimes a lengthy retirement.

    Things were very different during most of human existence. For hundreds of thousands of years, people survived by hunting and gathering animal and vegetable...

    (pp. 53-94)

    Economics, like other social sciences, did not emerge as a distinct discipline until the nineteenth century. Philosophers like Aristotle and medieval scholastic writers such as Thomas Aquinas gave some attention to the subject matter now studied by economists, and by the late eighteenth century some writers were devoting increasing portions of their energies to it. But Adam Smith’s only professorial posts, held between 1746 and 1762, were chairs in logic and moral philosophy, and the free-trader par excellence ended his life as a customs commissioner in Edinburgh, Scotland. Even in the nineteenth century there were few full-time teachers of economics...

    (pp. 95-136)

    In a world in which private property and market exchange are the dominant institutions of economic life, most economics teaching takes a mixed market economy as its setting, assuming the institutions of such an economy to be given and natural. We have seen, however, that economies with relatively unfettered private ownership of capital and land, in which most people earn the greater part of their livelihoods by exchanging their labor services for wages, have been prominent for only a few of the many thousands of generations of human history. Nor have such economic institutions been the only ones observed even...

    (pp. 137-182)

    In Chapter 1, we saw that the evolution of the industrial market economies as we find them today in the United States and Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and a few other nations was a process that began in earnest in the eighteenth century, that took place at different paces in different countries, and that has still not been completed in much of the world. Today, then, as throughout history, the bulk of the world’s people still live under conditions far different from those that now characterize the industrialized nations. Many live in shelters lacking the running water, electricity, and labor-saving...

    (pp. 183-224)

    How an economy is organized and the related policies adopted by governments can have far-reaching effects, not only on the overall level of productivity and prosperity of a nation, but also on how such prosperity as there is will be distributed among its people. How wealth, income, and economic well-being more generally are distributed, and the degree to which these patterns of distribution satisfy basic conceptions of fairness or justice, will be the topics of this chapter. Do market processes, left to themselves, deliver fair outcomes? Can economic policy pursue prosperity, efficiency, and equity at the same time, or are...

    (pp. 225-270)

    Every now and then, the purchases we’ve been putting off mount up, and the right weekend arrives for the members of my family to get into our car and drive to our favorite shopping mall. After driving for about twenty minutes, we exit a four-lane highway and head for an expanse of department and specialty stores surrounded on four sides by vast stretches of parking lots. Anchoring the mall are three large department stores that sell men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, watches, electronic products, furniture, perfumes, shoes, and much more. Connecting these larger stores is a huge enclosure lined with...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 271-284)