The tyranny of metrics

The tyranny of metrics / Jerry Z. Muller
Princeton, US: Princeton Univ. Press, 2018. 220 p.


Today, organizations of all kinds are ruled by the belief that the path to success is quantifying human performance, publicizing the results, and dividing up the rewards based on the numbers. But in our zeal to instill the evaluation process with scientific rigor, we've gone from measuring performance to fixating on measuring itself The result is a tyranny of metrics that threatens the quality of our lives and most important institutions. In this timely and powerful book, Jerry Muller uncovers the damage our obsession with metrics is causing - and shows how we can begin to fix the problem. Filled with examples from education, medicine, business and finance, government, the police and military, and philanthropy and foreign aid, this brief and accessible book explains why the seemingly irresistible pressure to quantify performance distorts and distracts, whether by encouraging "gaming the stats" or "teaching to the test."


Marx's inferno: The political theory of capital

Marx's inferno: The political theory of capital / William Clare Roberts
Princeton, US: Princeton Univ. Press, 2017. 282 p.


Marx’s Inferno reconstructs the major arguments of Karl Marx’s Capital and inaugurates a completely new reading of a seminal classic. Rather than simply a critique of classical political economy, William Roberts argues that Capital was primarily a careful engagement with the motives and aims of the workers’ movement. Understood in this light, Capital emerges as a profound work of political theory. Placing Marx against the background of nineteenth-century socialism, Roberts shows how Capital was ingeniously modeled on Dante’s Inferno, and how Marx, playing the role of Virgil for the proletariat, introduced partisans of workers’ emancipation to the secret depths of the modern “social Hell.” In this manner, Marx revised republican ideas of freedom in response to the rise of capitalism. Combining research on Marx’s interlocutors, textual scholarship, and forays into recent debates, Roberts traces the continuities linking Marx’s theory of capitalism to the tradition of republican political thought. He immerses the reader in socialist debates about the nature of commerce, the experience of labor, the power of bosses and managers, and the possibilities of political organization. Roberts rescues those debates from the past, and shows how they speak to ever-renewed concerns about political life in today’s world.


The invisible hand? How market economies have emerged and declined since AD 500

The invisible hand? How market economies have emerged and declined since AD 500 / Bas van Bavel
Oxford, GB: Oxford Univ. Press, 2016. 330 p.


The Invisible Hand offers a radical departure from the conventional wisdom of economists and economic historians, by showing that 'factor markets' and the economies dominated by them — the market economies — are not modern, but have existed at various times in the past. They rise, stagnate, and decline; and consist of very different combinations of institutions embedded in very different societies. These market economies create flexibility and high mobility in the exchange of land, labour, and capital, and initially they generate economic growth, although they also build on existing social structures, as well as existing exchange and allocation systems. The dynamism that results from the rise of factor markets leads to the rise of new market elites who accumulate land and capital, and use wage labour extensively to make their wealth profitable. In the long term, this creates social polarization and a decline of average welfare. As these new elites gradually translate their economic wealth into political leverage, it also creates institutional sclerosis, and finally makes these markets stagnate or decline again. This process is analysed across the three major, pre-industrial examples of successful market economies in western Eurasia: Iraq in the early Middle Ages, Italy in the high Middle Ages, and the Low Countries in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, and then parallels drawn to England and the United States in the modern period. These areas successively saw a rapid rise of factor markets and the associated dynamism, followed by stagnation, which enables an in-depth investigation of the causes and results of this process.


Lives of the laureates

Lives of the laureates: Twenty-three Nobel economists/ ed. by Roger W. Spencer and David A. Macpherson
Cambridge, US: MIT Press, 2014. 427 p.


Lives of the Laureates offers readers an informal history of modern economic thought as told through autobiographical essays by twenty-three winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The essays not only provide unique insights into major economic ideas of our time but also shed light on the processes of intellectual discovery and creativity. This fifth edition adds five recent Nobel laureates to its list of contributors: Vernon L. Smith (2002), Clive W. J. Granger (2003), Edward C. Prescott (2004), Thomas C. Schelling (2005) and Edmund S. Phelps (2006). Also included is the editors' revised afterword, "Lessons from the Laureates."

Lives of the Laureates grows out of a continuing lecture series at Trinity University in San Antonio, which invites Nobelists from American universities to describe their evolution as economists in personal as well as technical terms. Each laureate achieves the goal of clarity without sacrificing inherently difficult content: Kenneth Arrow makes grasping the essentials of his "impossibility theorem" painless; Lawrence Klein clearly presents what goes into econometric "model building"; George Stigler masterfully describes his "information theory"; and so on. These lectures demonstrate the richness and diversity of contemporary economic thought. The reader will find that paths cross in unexpected ways -- that disparate thinkers were often influenced by the same teachers--and that luck as well as hard work plays a role in the process of scientific discovery.