Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Learning from ideas by great economists

- HT Correspond­ent letters@hindustant­imes.com

Dr. Linda Yueh is Fellow in Economics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at London Business School. She is also Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s (LSE) foreign policy think tank, the IDEAS research centre, and was Visiting Professor of Economics at Peking University. Yueh is a widely published author and her latest book, The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today explains the key thoughts of history’s greatest economists from Adam Smith and David Ricardo to Joan Robinson and Milton Friedman, how their lives and times affected their ideas, how our lives have been influenced by their work, and how they could help with the policy challenges that we face today.

For example, she asks in the book: what do the ideas of Karl Marx tell us about the likely future for the Chinese economy? Edited excerpts:

What made you write this book and why did you pick these economists?

I was interested in writing an accessible book to help us address our most pressing economic problems during a time of vast structural change in the world economy. Learning the lessons from history and from great economic thinkers seemed to be a good place to start. Thus, these Great Economists are of an ear- lier vintage who were generalist­s who worked on the big questions such as how markets work and economies prosper.

How can the ideas of the great economists help us today? Do they still have relevance in the 21st century?

Their ideas can help us in numerous ways. Each chapter looks at the idea of a great thinker and traces through where that idea came from, and how others built upon and modified it for their own times. But, the foundation­s that Great Economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo built still underpin the 21st century economy in how we understand how market forces work and why nations trade.

Are there any learnings from the book that India could benefit from?

Yes, India is one of the big emerging economies that has transforme­d the global economy away from growth that had mostly been driven by developed countries, so it plays a significan­t part in the story of what the world of the 21st century will look like. The chapter on why are so few countries rich may be particular­ly useful to India as it continues to become more prosperous. The ideas of Douglass North who stressed the importance of institutio­ns in supporting stable economic developmen­t and “path dependence” in creating virtuous circles of growth may be useful to India as it fashions policies to support its continuing growth.

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