Peter Boettke’s Splendid Essays on Learning and Teaching Economics

I have just finished reading Living Economics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, a wonderful collection of essays by Peter Boettke. (It was published in 2012, but I move slowly these days.) The essays were written over a span of some twenty years or so, most of them in the first decade of the present century or soon thereafter. Several have a co-author or two; the co-authors include Christopher Coyne, Peter Leeson, David Prychitko, Steven Horwitz, and Frederic Sautet. I read the book from cover to cover and enjoyed it from start to finish.

Broadly speaking, the essays deal with how to teach—and learn—economics, but Pete and his co-authors approach this overarching topic in a variety of ways and usually in a substantive rather than merely hortatory manner. It will be a rare graduate student—or even a practicing professional economist—who cannot learn a great deal from the book. Pete writes clearly and well and has a deep knowledge of the history of economics. His excitement for teaching and learning shines forth on nearly every page. He has a true intellectual’s outlook, which means that he is constantly looking at anyone’s writing with the question in mind, What can I learn from this exposition? He has great willingness to set aside, at least for the moment, opportunities to criticize a scholar’s work, focusing instead on the work’s positive, worthwhile aspects.

Pete has excellent judgment about what is right and wrong with the economics profession today. And he exudes confidence that young economists can go forth successfully to practice and teach what he calls mainline economics—the basic elements of economic understanding that extend from Aquinas, the School of Salamanca, and Adam Smith to Menger, Mises, Hayek, Buchanan, and the New Institutional School. Although Pete is a great champion of Austrian economics, his vision is much broader than that of the typical Austrian, which in my view is a good thing.

So, my advice is that you buy the book, read it, learn from it, keep it handy for future reference, and take its solid advice to heart. You’ll know more and better economics if you do.

Robert Higgs is Retired Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Founding Editor of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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