Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

On Writing... again

Posted by Simon Halliday | Friday, July 11, 2008 | Category: |

Yesterday I commented on the pleasure I experienced reading Deirdre McCloskey's 'Economical Writing'. She recommended that everyone should read George Orwell. So I went back and re-read Orwell's essay 'Politics and the English Language'. I had read it a few years ago, but reading the McCloskey I was reminded how much writing, like any discipline, requires you to read good criticism, to read essays and books to improve your style.

These days, writing in economics is often devoid of anything that could be called style (see McCloskey's reply to my email in the previous post). I wanted, therefore, to recommend to anyone who happens on this blog to read Orwell. In economics, read Akerlof, Galbraith, Leijonhufvud, Robinson, Schelling and Stigler. I am going to try to read more of their work. I love Akerlof's writing, and Schelling is sublime. Leijonhufvud is an entertaining and immense Scandinavian, it was a surprise to meet him having read his prose.

Moving on, I think that Glenn Loury is a good economist whose writing is well-informed and transdisciplinary. He is not as good a stylist as some of those above, but have a read of his essay 'Social Exclusion and Ethnic Groups: The Challenge to Economics'. This essay, and much of Loury's other writing, lured me onto the path of research into group inequality, more of which at a later date.

Final note: can anyone point me to contemporary economists, or economics writers, who they believe has good style? I wish to learn at the feet of contemporary masters, as much as at those of older writers.

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