Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: Solving Society's Problems from the Bottom Up

Princeton University Press
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Complexity science—made possible by modern analytical and computational advances—is changing the way we think about social systems and social theory. Unfortunately, economists' policy models have not kept up and are stuck in either a market fundamentalist or government control narrative. While these standard narratives are useful in some cases, they are damaging in others, directing thinking away from creative, innovative policy solutions. Complexity and the Art of Public Policy outlines a new, more flexible policy narrative, which envisions society as a complex evolving system that is uncontrollable but can be influenced.

David Colander and Roland Kupers describe how economists and society became locked into the current policy framework, and lay out fresh alternatives for framing policy questions. Offering original solutions to stubborn problems, the complexity narrative builds on broader philosophical traditions, such as those in the work of John Stuart Mill, to suggest initiatives that the authors call "activist laissez-faire" policies. Colander and Kupers develop innovative bottom-up solutions that, through new institutional structures such as for-benefit corporations, channel individuals’ social instincts into solving societal problems, making profits a tool for change rather than a goal. They argue that a central role for government in this complexity framework is to foster an ecostructure within which diverse forms of social entrepreneurship can emerge and blossom.

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About the author

David Colander is professor of economics at Middlebury College and the author of The Making of an Economist, Redux (Princeton). Roland Kupers is an associate fellow in the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He is the coauthor of The Essence of Scenarios: Learning from the Shell Experience.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 25, 2014
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400850136
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / Theory
Political Science / Public Policy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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David Colander
Economists seem to be everywhere in the media these days. But what exactly do today's economists do? What and how are they taught? Updating David Colander and Arjo Klamer's classic The Making of an Economist, this book shows what is happening in elite U.S. economics Ph.D. programs. By examining these programs, Colander gives a view of cutting-edge economics--and a glimpse at its likely future. And by comparing economics education today to the findings of the original book, the new book shows how much--and in what ways--the field has changed over the past two decades. The original book led to a reexamination of graduate education by the profession, and has been essential reading for prospective graduate students. Like its predecessor, The Making of an Economist, Redux is likely to provoke discussion within economics and beyond.

The book includes new interviews with students at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Chicago, and Columbia. In these conversations, the students--the next generation of elite economists--colorfully and frankly describe what they think of their field and what graduate economics education is really like. The book concludes with reflections by Colander, Klamer, and Robert Solow.

This inside look at the making of economists will interest anyone who wants to better understand the economics profession. An indispensible tool for anyone thinking about graduate education in economics, this edition is complete with colorful interviews and predictions about the future of cutting-edge economics.

David Colander
Noneconomists often think that economists' approach to race is almost exclusively one of laissez-faire. Racism, Liberalism, and Economics argues that economists' ideas are more complicated. The book considers economists' support of markets in relation to the challenge of race and race relations and argues that their support of laissez-faire has traditionally been based upon a broader philosophical foundation of liberalism and history: what markets have and have not achieved in the past, and how that past relates to the future. The book discusses the concepts of liberalism and racism, the history and use of these terms, and how that history relates to policy issues. It argues that liberalism is consistent with a wide variety of policies and that the broader philosophical issues are central in choosing policies.

The contributors show how the evolution of racist ideas has been a subtle process that is woven into larger movements in the development of scientific thought; economic thinking is embedded in a larger social milieu. Previous discussions of policies toward race have been constrained by that social milieu, and, since World War II, have largely focused on ending legislated and state-sanctioned discrimination. In the past decade, the broader policy debate has moved on to questions about the existence and relative importance of intangible sources of inequality, including market structure, information asymmetries, cumulative processes, and cultural and/or social capital. This book is a product of, and a contribution to, this modern discussion. It is uniquely transdisciplinary, with contributions by and discussions among economists, philosophers, anthropologists, and literature scholars.

The volume first examines the early history of work on race by economists and social scientists more generally. It continues by surveying American economists on race and featuring contributions that embody more modern approaches to race within economics. Finally it explores several important policy issues that follow from the discussion.

". . . adds new insights that contribute significantly to the debate on racial economic inequality in the U.S. The differing opinions of the contributors provide the broad perspective needed to examine this extremely complex issue."
--James Peoples, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

"There is an immense economic literature on racial discrimination, employing a variety of models and decomposition methods. This volume makes a unique contribution by focusing on the philosophical assumptions at the root of this analysis and by presenting many sides of the very vigorous debate surrounding these controversial issues."
--Thomas Maloney, University of Utah

"By focusing upon the progress of analytical technique, historians of economic thought have grossly neglected the symbiotic relation of economics to public policy and ideology. This collection of essays offers a most welcome breach of disciplinary apartheid. Seizing upon recent research in the almost forgotten writings about race of Classical economists and their contemporaries, it relates nineteenth-century ideas to current debates about economic discrimination and other manifestations of racism. As the writing is both learned and lively, the book should appeal both to the generally educated reader and to teachers of courses in multiculturalism."
--Melvin Reder, Isidore Brown and Gladys J. Brown Professor Emeritus of Urban and Labor Economics, University of Chicago
David Colander
Economists seem to be everywhere in the media these days. But what exactly do today's economists do? What and how are they taught? Updating David Colander and Arjo Klamer's classic The Making of an Economist, this book shows what is happening in elite U.S. economics Ph.D. programs. By examining these programs, Colander gives a view of cutting-edge economics--and a glimpse at its likely future. And by comparing economics education today to the findings of the original book, the new book shows how much--and in what ways--the field has changed over the past two decades. The original book led to a reexamination of graduate education by the profession, and has been essential reading for prospective graduate students. Like its predecessor, The Making of an Economist, Redux is likely to provoke discussion within economics and beyond.

The book includes new interviews with students at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Chicago, and Columbia. In these conversations, the students--the next generation of elite economists--colorfully and frankly describe what they think of their field and what graduate economics education is really like. The book concludes with reflections by Colander, Klamer, and Robert Solow.

This inside look at the making of economists will interest anyone who wants to better understand the economics profession. An indispensible tool for anyone thinking about graduate education in economics, this edition is complete with colorful interviews and predictions about the future of cutting-edge economics.

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