Arnold Kling  

Book Tag

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Is Social Security Insurance?... Economic Growth Gauntlet...

Nobody has tagged me (this reminds me of high school dances, somehow), but I'll have a go at it anyway:

First, restricting to economic topics.

Number of books I own: I would guess around two hundred.

Last book I bought: Freakonomics. I was disappointed. Maybe I would have reacted better if I hadn't seen all the hype first.

Last book I read: The Economy of Cities, by Jane Jacobs. Thought it was terrific.

Five books that influenced me the most:

Microcosm, by George Gilder. Not really an economics book, but he pointed out that the material basis for the information age is sand. Which implies, as he also pointed out, that materialism is not what the economy is about these days. Very influential in moving me away from traditional economics and toward what people call Austrianism, because I started to think about wealth as determined by ideas and entrepreneurship rather than by capital accumulation.

The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzweil. Yes, I know he's not an economist. It still is one of the best perspectives on economic growth ever written, in my opinion. It opened my eyes to the implications of rapid compound growth.

Manias, Panics, and Crashes, by Charles Kindleberger. Introduced me to the concept of progress and displacement as historical forces.

The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, by Robert Fogel. Points out that education, health care, and leisure are the growth industries of the future.

The Vision of the Anointed, by Thomas Sowell. Influenced my thinking on Type C vs. Type M thinking.

Note that none of the traditional Austrian or conservative canon (with the possible exception of Sowell, who barely made the cut--I almost put Brad DeLong's Macroeconomics ahead of it) counts as influential for me. In fact, I'm very poorly read in that area.

I arrived at my "Austrianism" from a different direction, I think--with my non-academic experience playing a big role. Profit maximization looks so clean on paper in economics classes, but I found it much more complex both in a big corporation and in an entrepreneurial venture.

Now, I believe I'm supposed to tag five people. If I were to tag Megan/Andrew, Don/Russ, and Tyler/Alex, does that overfill my quota? Probably, but I still want to add Lynne and Zimran. And my co-blogger.

Let's see who actually reads this thingy.

Now, for the fun part--noneconomics books.

Number of books I own: In the hundreds, but my net stock rises slowly, because I give away many books that I do not think I will re-read.

Last book I bought: Silent America, by William Whittle. Red-state style patriotism. I feel somewhat ill at ease with the emotionalism, and yet I share some of it.

Last book I read: Tara Road by Maeve Binchy. Chick lit, which I feel guilty about liking. She ends up apparently saying that women are happiest when they are "fancied" by more than one man. Probably right, but she tends to glide over issues of sex and jealousy.

Five books that influenced me the most (my main criteria are that I read the books when young, have re-read them since, and would not mind re-reading again):

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. I notice that Sari Stein also put this on her list, which I linked to at the beginning of this post. I'm surprised that a woman could be comfortable with this book, given the way that women are portrayed in it. But it is a very intense description of power, both personal and institutional.

The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. True mastery of the language, and a vivid historical viewpoint.

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. A great novel of the development of the American west. I quoted one of its passages in Under the Radar, my book on entreneurship. Sometimes, too, you remember a novel by who gave it to you.

The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam. A vast, severe criticism of how the U.S. became involved in Vietnam. I love the flow of the book, and I like its take-down of the "establishment."

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. Considered a children's book, but with quite a bit of social class commentary embedded. The language and story-flow are delightful. I also managed to refer to this book in Under the Radar.


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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Chris writes:

Arnold,
I see that your economics book choices reflect an optimistic frame of mind, as seen in the books by Fogel and Kurtzweil. That brings to mind something I've meant to ask you about. The NY Times Magazine last week had an issue on the theme of money. I was intrigued by the article on "gold bugs," people who accumulate gold because they are worried about the collapse of the dollar and the economy. How realistic do you think this pessimistic point of view is?

segacs writes:

Sorry I didn't tag you. They only let me pick 5, ya know :) Anyway, thanks for the link.

And by the way, the portrayal of women in "Cuckoo's Nest" is more symbolic than literal. I've always interpreted it that way and it doesn't offend me in the least.

Erik Reuter writes:

That crack about sand being the basis for the information age is rather naive.

Do you know how many billions of dollars of equipment are required for a modern silicon chip fab?

If it was just a matter of sand, Intel wouldn't be able to maintain such high market share, since any beach bum could compete.

awptimus writes:

Thomas Sowell is the person who most influenced me in life. I own (and have read) just about every book he has ever written, including the out of print ones. I started reading Sowell when I was 16, because he put so many of the things I had been thinking about up until then into print, exactly how I would have written them if I were any good. In fact, he's the reason I finally chose to become an Economics major.

Vision of the Annointed is perhaps his greatest work, however.

NCA writes:

Ugh -- I never would have guessed that Arnold would beat Bryan to turning this blog into a livejournal

Sloth writes:

I too was a little let down by Freakonomics. Not that it wasn't a fun read, but like seeing all the good parts of a film while viewing the trailer, I had already read half the book by reading the Slate articles.

Dave Tufte writes:

It's nice to see Angle of Repose on the list. That's probably the most disturbingly bittersweet novel I've ever read.

P.S. I haven't been tagged either ... would it make you feel better if I say I would've if I could've?

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