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Lessons for the Young Economist

  • Lessons for the Young Economist by Robert Murphy
March 10, 2011

Tags EducationAustrian Economics Overview

Lessons for the Young Economist is easily the best introduction to economics for the young reader—because it covers both pure economic theory and also how markets work (the domain of most introductory books).

Robert Murphy has the right frame of mind and mastery of the subject matter to provide the best possible pedagogy. The logic is super clear. The organization is impeccable. It achieves a great balance between “plain old” economics and that aspect of economic thought that is considered particularly Austrian. Therefore, it prepares the student for both conventional economic studies in the future and provides the logical rigor and policy clarity that only the Austrian School perspective can offer.

Most of the attempts at such texts falter because they are either too dry and technical for the young reader or they are littered with attempts to keep the student entertained with references to pop culture or cheesy passages that attempt to “speak the child’s language” but only end up sounding patronizing.

Dr. Murphy’s text has none of this. The prose has relentless fire without needless fireworks. What drives it forward is intellectual passion born of his love of the topic. What’s also nice is that he is nowhere self-consciously trying to sound like someone he is not. It is his real voice, explaining everything point by point. For this reason, the text is warm and engaging.

Here is the product of vast experience and daily writing. This permits the voicing of the book to achieve a remarkable integration page to page, chapter to chapter. Though he is drawing from the whole history of the development of economics, the text ends up being strikingly original. His approach is not based on anything but his own sense of how to teach this subject.

This book will not be boring or useless even for people who think they already know the subject. Every page or two, there are fresh insights. For example, on the problems with barter, he shows that in the real world, most goods and services would not have come into existence at all (so that there would be no trading of tractors for cobbler services because there would be no tractors or repairable shoes). In another place, he points out that one of the advantages of the division of labor is that it makes the advantages of automation more readily apparent.

Maybe these points appear in other introductory texts but the way he works them into a logical and seamless system is very impressive. It has a much larger market than just high-school students. Anyone can enjoy this book and learn from it. The appropriate age here is probably 13 and up but any adult will love this book.

Murphy wrote the first study guides to Human Action and Man, Economy, and State. He can now add another medal to his chest. It is a big one. There is every reason to believe that this book will still have powerful legs decades from now.

Lessons for the Young Economist | Robert P. Murphy


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