Thomas Sowell

 The problem is that there are no real incentives for academic economists to write a book that simply explains economic issues in plain English and without the usual paraphernalia of the profession. The last book that did so was written by a non-academic economist half a century ago: "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt, who wrote a popular column for a living.

 It was -- and is -- a fine book. The fact that it is still in print after 50 years, despite being small and outdated, shows not only its merits but also how little the other economists have written that can compete with it.

 Incentives have a lot to do with this lack of competition. It will certainly not do an academic economist's career any good to write a book saying what every other economist already knows. Your colleagues might even wonder what was wrong with you.

 Moreover, it is hard to throw off the habits of a lifetime and write a book on economics without a single graph, equation, or use of familiar jargon. I know. At one time, I doubted that it could be done.

(Note: This is part two of three. Part one is here. Part two is here

Nevertheless, from time to time, as some ridiculous economic idea was proclaimed in the media or in politics, I would sit down and write something to explain what was wrong with that way of thinking. Over the years these fragmentary writings accumulated in my computer until -- after about a decade -- I realized that there was enough material to organize into a book.

 That book became "Basic Economics." Its second edition has just been published and it has also been translated into Japanese, Korean, and Polish, and is currently being translated into Swedish, so apparently people find it worth reading. Maybe there will be some more informed voters in the future.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate