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Nonfiction in Brief

A FIELD GUIDE TO THE U.S. ECONOMY, coordinated and written by Nancy Folbre (Pantheon: $10.95)

April 03, 1988

Economics, perhaps the most objective of the social sciences, is usually discussed in public by the most opinionated of writers. This flies in the face of our standards of objectivity, of course, but bias seems helpful in economics, humanizing facts and figures and singling out meaningful trends from the daily rush of data. The author, assisted in these pages by a team from Amherst College's Center for Popular Economics, makes no effort to hide her own bias. She wants to encourage people to take a more active, critical "watchdog" role over the economy: "Good citizens should be good critics, for controversy and debate over economic issues are central to the meaning of political democracy." Folbre tries to rally interest by knocking down stereotypes about equal political opportunity, for instance: In 1980, the average money spent on political campaigns where the winner won by 55% or less was $1.6 million; by 1985, the figure had soared to $6.7 million. Read in concert with a book illustrating capitalism's merits in encouraging worker motivation, this book offers a provocative introduction to the U.S. economy.

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