Book Hints

A selective mention of books received


Back in 1959 and 1960 when Henry Hazlitt ventured forth with The Failure of the "New Economics" and then edited The Critics of Keynesian Economics, a word against John Maynard Keynes was close to heresy. Now, it is almost not an exaggeration to say that critics of Keynes are a dime a dozen. A look at publishers' lists (let alone the economic journals) bears this out.

In this light, it's interesting to see what objections were offered, before anti-Keynesianism became the order of the academic day, by such economic lights as F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Jacob Viner, Wilhelm Roepke, and others. This is what we get in the 1960 collection edited and introduced by Hazlitt, out of print since 1973 and now published by Arlington House (1977, $9.95).

Another republication is LibertyPress's second edition of W.H. Hutt's The Theory of Idle Resources (1977, $8.95), with the author's new introduction and comments on the original text. The work was originally published in 1939, and though it is a general discussion of unemployment—not just of labor, but of all resources—it, too, is directed critically at Keynes; for as Hutt said in the 1939 preface, "his General Theory happens to be in the thoughts of all economists today."

Quite another slant is offered by James M. Buchanan and Richard E. Wagner in their Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Academic Press, 1977, $11.50), which applies public-choice theory to provide a critical analysis of the politics, instead of the economics, of Keynes and Keynesianism.

Not unexpectedly, some people are coming to Keynes' defense. T.W. Hutchison, for example, in Keynes v. the "Keynesians"…? (London Institute of Economic Affairs, 1977, $5.95 paper), contends that most of those following in Keynes' footsteps have diverged from the original track, that Keynes would not have supported many of the economic policies perpetrated in his name.

One consequence of the ready acceptance of Keynes in the 1930's, as Gerald P. O'Driscoll observes in his introduction to a new book on F.A. Hayek, was that other economists were almost totally ignored; so that the wide-ranging work of the Austrian school, for example, is only now coming to be evaluated and appreciated. One step in this process is O'Driscoll's Economics as a Coordination Problem: The Contributions of Friedrich A. Hayek (Shead Andrews and McMeel, 1977, $15/$4.95), a volume in the Studies in Economic Theory series (co-sponsored by the publisher and the Institute for Humane Studies). Another new work in that series should also further the circulation of Austrianism: Capital, Interest, and Rent, by Frank A. Fetter (1977, $4.95 paper) edited and introduced by Murray N. Rothbard. (On earlier books in the series, the reader is referred to Leland B. Yeager's book review, REASON, February 1978). Also worthy of note is a publication of Hillsdale College Press: Essays on Hayek, edited by Fritz Machlup, foreword by Milton Friedman (1976, $2 paper), which contains the major contributions to a conference honoring Hayek.