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Economics in a Post-Pandemic World

As the policy failures of recent decades have shown, navigating the intersection of economic theory and practice is never easy, especially when powerful and wealthy interests are involved. The task for economists, then, is to debate not just economics but political economy, and their own place in it.

LONDON – The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world and the world economy this year. Will it also transform economics?

The strength of the four books reviewed here is that they focus on an evergreen topic, the intersection of economic theory and practice (in this case, public policy), even as they offer solutions to what may seem like pre-pandemic problems. The question, of course, is which proposals will hold up against the “new normal” that COVID-19 has ushered in.

All four authors examine economics in terms of the tools that it offers to policymakers. In doing so, they bring together “positive economics” – analyses of how the world works – and what the Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman refers to as “normative economics”: prescriptions of how the world should work. Krugman, along with Martin Sandbu, an economics commentator at the Financial Times, is explicit that the objective of such a discipline is to bring about “a better future” and “prosperity for all.” Among other things, that means ending the populism that in the United States has come to be associated with President Donald Trump and his brand of radical conservativism based on white supremacy and fundamentalist Christianity.

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