Leisure Time

To the Editor:

Richard A. Posner’s critical review of our book, “How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life” (Aug. 19), hinges on one argument. He says that if, as we suggest, people in rich societies (and we are talking about rich societies) worked 20 hours a week on average rather than 40, they would be too poor to enjoy the extra leisure. All they would do is “brawl, steal, overeat, drink and sleep late.” To retain its appeal, leisure must be filled with consumption goods, and that means we must work long hours in order to afford these goods.

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Rethinking how we teach economics: study economic history

The most important steps to improve the training of young economists would be to make economic history and the history of economic thought compulsory in all undergraduate teaching of economics. Both survive, if at all, as curricular options that the brightest are discouraged from taking. The rich history of economic thought has been replaced by a narrow range of currently fashionable mathematical “models” taught and often learned by rote: the sweeping panorama of economic history, by a training in econometrics, the accuracy of whose data is necessarily confined to the last few years. Yet it is these theoretical models and econometric forecasting techniques that were caught lamentably short by the economic collapse of 2008.

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The Remedist

Among the most astonishing statements to be made by any policymaker in recent years was Alan Greenspan’s admission this autumn that the regime of deregulation he oversaw as chairman of the Federal Reserve was based on a “flaw”: he had overestimated the ability of a free market to self-correct and had missed the self-destructive power of deregulated mortgage lending. The “whole intellectual edifice,” he said, “collapsed in the summer of last year.”

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