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Thinking like an economist : how efficiency replaced equality in U.S. public policy  Cover Image Book Book

Thinking like an economist : how efficiency replaced equality in U.S. public policy / Elizabeth Popp Berman.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780691167381
  • ISBN: 0691167389
  • Physical Description: vii, 329 pages : illustration ; 25 cm
  • Publisher: Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press, [2022]

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 241-317) and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
Thinking like an Economist -- The Economic Style and Its Antecedents -- How to Make Government Decisions -- How to Govern Markets -- The Economic Style and Social Policy -- The Economic Style and Market Governance -- The Economic Style and Social Regulation -- How the Economic Style Replaced the Democratic Left -- The Economic Style in the Age of Reagan -- Conclusion.
Summary, etc.:
"Economics is the queen of the social sciences, and economists are among the most prominent of experts in Washington. No other discipline has its own office in the White House, is as visible in the New York Times, or as frequently mentioned in the Congressional Record. Yet at the same time, the limits on economists' influence are quite clear. Their advice is often ignored until it is politically convenient, and as the current moment shows, politicians can cut experts out of the loop entirely. The sharp contrast between economists' overwhelming support for pricing carbon emissions and the complete lack of federal climate action provides a particularly keen demonstration of these limits. So how does economics matter to the policy process? In Thinking Like an Economist: How Economics Became the Language of U.S. Public Policy, Popp Berman argues that while economists' policy advice may sometimes have an impact, the spread of an economic style of reasoning - basic microeconomic ideas about efficiency, tradeoffs, incentives, choice and competition, spread through professional schools and institutionalized through organizational and legal change - has had more fundamental effects. Although economists had influence in a handful of policy domains by mid-century, between the 1960s and the 1980s the economic style circulated and was stabilized in a range of new locations. Much of this change was driven by two intellectual communities: a group of systems analysts who came from RAND with new answers to the question "How should government make decisions?", and a network of industrial organization economists, centered first at Harvard and later Chicago, who asked "How should government regulate markets?" These two communities helped spread economics to law and public policy schools, established economic reasoning in a range of organizations in and around government, and in some cases institutionalized legal requirements for use of the economic style. Built upon five years of research, the book makes comparisons across a number of policy domains, including primary case studies of antipoverty, antitrust, and environmental policy, as well as episodes from education, housing, labor, transportation, health, and communications policy. Drawing on historical evidence from nine archives, more than a hundred previously collected oral histories, and thousands of primary and secondary sources, it provides a new answer to the question of why U.S. politics took a lasting rightward turn during the 1970s, and new ideas about what it might take to reverse that change - not the rejection of economics, but an honest grappling with its political effects"-- Provided by publisher.
"The story of how economic reasoning came to dominate Washington between the 1960s and 1980s-and why it continues to constrain progressive ambitions todayFor decades, Democratic politicians have frustrated progressives by tinkering around the margins of policy while shying away from truly ambitious change. What happened to bold political vision on the left, and what shrunk the very horizons of possibility? In Thinking Like an Economist, Elizabeth Popp Berman tells the story of how a distinctive way of thinking-an "economic style of reasoning"-became dominant in Washington between the 1960s and the 1980s and how it continues to dramatically narrow debates over public policy today.Introduced by liberal technocrats who hoped to improve government, this way of thinking was grounded in economics but also transformed law and policy. At its core was an economic understanding of efficiency, and its advocates often found themselves allied with Republicans and in conflict with liberal Democrats who argued for rights, equality, and limits on corporate power. By the Carter administration, economic reasoning had spread throughout government policy and laws affecting poverty, healthcare, antitrust, transportation, and the environment. Fearing waste and overspending, liberals reined in their ambitions for decades to come, even as Reagan and his Republican successors argued for economic efficiency only when it helped their own goals.A compelling account that illuminates what brought American politics to its current state, Thinking Like an Economist also offers critical lessons for the future. With the political left resurgent today, Democrats seem poised to break with the past-but doing so will require abandoning the shibboleth of economic efficiency and successfully advocating new ways of thinking about policy"-- Provided by publisher.
Subject: United States > Economic policy.
United States > Social policy.
Equality > United States.
Policy sciences > United States.
United States > Politics and government.
Economic policy.
Policy sciences.
Politics and government.
Social policy.
United States.

Available copies

  • 1 of 1 copy available at Skagit Evergreen Libraries. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at La Conner Regional Library District. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at La Conner Regional Library.


  • 0 current holds with 1 total copy.
Show Only Available Copies
Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
La Conner Regional Library 330.973 BERMAN 111290 NON FICTION Available -

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