I am very pleased to have been invited to make this presentation about
Economic Issues Today: Alternative Approaches, 6th edition.
I am going to take this opportunity to explain what the book is about;
why we brought forth the 6th edition; the structure of the book;
the connection between Economic Issues Today and The American
Economy: Contemporary Problems and Analysis, another book that Robert
Carson and I wrote; and to demonstrate some the use of some educational
technologies that I have been developing for classroom use.
Economic Issues Today addresses 14 economic issues from very divergent ideological points of view: Conservative, Liberal, and Radical. Each chapter is set as a debate among these different points of view. This unique approach to economic issues was pioneered by Robert Carson who introduced Economic Issues Today in 1978.
Why bring forth a new edition?
If Volkswagen can bring back the Beetle, we can bring out another edition of this book. Actually, Robert Carson had received a reversion of rights from the original publisher and had placed the book with the present publisher M.E. Sharpe. His retirement from the State University of New York College at Oneonta served as an incentive to add Jason Hecht (a 1980 SUNY Oneonta graduate) and I as co-authors.
Origins and evolution of the book
The 1960s were distinguished by the rise to prominence of debate in
the economics discipline. In some ways this is not a surprising development
given the heterodox origins of the foundations of the economic science
espoused by Adam Smith. While the discipline by the 1960s had become increasingly
fixated with technical matters and model making, at the same time came
the rise of the Radical view. Just as the Great Depression had provided
fuel for Liberal and Radical views, the tumultuous sixties legitimized
Keynesianism and tolerance for the Marxist critique grew.
By the middle 1970s, the structure of the book develops. The New Left
had staked a position in the profession. URPE, the Union of Radical Political
Economists had formed. This school of thought stood juxtaposed with "Old
Keynesians and the "Classical tradition," dominated by "Marginalists" and
Waged against tendency for economics to reinvent itself as a "science,"
the book came at the "right time" when people were questioning the operation
of the economy and the "orthodoxy" of economics. It served to punctuate
the fact that yesterday's answer is not today's answer. The inevitable
purpose of the book was to provide useful understanding as a modest antidote
for the nihilism of the times (i.e., the late 1960s and to the middle 1970s).
The structure of the book
Each chapter (or issue) is considered in the following format. First, "The Problem" is explained. This is followed by a "Synopsis." Then the reader is challenged to begin thinking about the respective Conservative, Liberal, and Radical positions in a section called "Anticipating the Arguments." The Conservative, Liberal, and Radical arguments follow, each as a narrative from that particular point of view.
It is important to recognize that the economic ideologies portrayed in the book do not necessarily coincide with modern political notions of a "Liberal" or a "Conservative" or a "Radical" (to the extent that they actually exist in the modern political arena). Economic Issues Today uses "purist" positions.
The connection between Economic Issues Today: Alternative Approaches and The American Economy: Contemporary Problems and Analysis
Robert Carson and I co-authored another book titled The American Economy: Contemporary Problems and Analysis (Macmillan, 1993), which is inextricably linked to Economic Issues Today--and not because the same two authors are involved. The American Economy book was to be released in October of 1992 under the title: The American Economy: Contemporary Issues and Analysis. In April of 1992, I was informed of a legal problem that could impact publication of the book. St. Martin's Press, which was then publisher of Economic Issues Today, had raised objections about Macmillan's pending publication of The American Economy: Contemporary Issues and Analysis. St. Martin's maintained that Carson--at that time sole author of Economic Issues Today--might be violating the "non-competing works" clause of his contract by co-authoring a book with me and publishing it with Macmillan.
I can assure you that anyone comparing the two books would find them to be very different. The American Economy is much more a technical, mainstream introductory textbook than is Economic Issues Today with its ideological debate style. Nevertheless, St. Martin's persisted, essentially arguing that Robert Carson's name was synonymous with "economic issues." And they prevailed. When the book was published the title had been changed from The American Economy: Contemporary Issues and Analysis to The American Economy: Contemporary Problems (emphasis added) and Analysis. Evidently our editor and executives at Macmillan thought it not worth the battle to retain the book's intended title.
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