The Great Economists
Why are wages so low? Are central banks doing too much? Are we at a risk of repeating the 1930’s? These are just some of the questions posed by author, broadcaster and academic Linda Yueh in her new book, ‘The Great Economists — How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today’. Dr Yueh looks back at the seminal works of some of the most celebrated economic thinkers in history, and tries to use their ideas to address the most important issues of our time.
In this interview, Dr Yueh says that the book marries two of her interests; understanding the biggest economic challenges, and her personal love of biographies and getting to know the lives of some of the profession’s most accomplished minds.
The father of economics
The first chapter unsurprisingly begins by talking about Adam Smith (who is widely regarded as the father of economics), and his magnum opus, ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Smith discussed the ‘invisible hand’ of market forces, or supply and demand, and individual self—interest, which he argued should benefit society more than government intervention. Dr Yueh investigates how Smith’s theory could help the UK as it looks to rebalance its economy, after the global financial crisis in 2008 identified an overdependence on services, particularly in the finance sector.
Lessons from Adam Smith on Trump’s protectionism
Adam Smith’s father was a customs officer, which gave him first—hand insight into tariffs and how they work. In this interview, Victoria Scholar asks Dr Yueh what we can learn from Adam Smith about President Donald Trump’s protectionist stance, given the current skirmish taking place between the US and China, with both sides threatening tariffs on each other’s imports, raising concerns about a potential trade war. Dr Yueh says that Adam Smith was against trade distortions including tariffs, as he believed it was inimical to the theory of the invisible hand.
This interview discusses some of the other economists in her book, including David Ricardo, John Maynard Keynes and Joan Robinson, and how they can help us address today’s economic problems.