Vol. 17, No. 30May 7, 1998

New book shows that learning economics = fun

Once upon a time in a faraway land..." begins a chapter in the newest book by Larry Seidman, economics. But this book is not a fairy tale for children. Economics Parables and Policies, published by M.E. Sharpe, is for adults who might not normally read a book by an economist. "The basic premise of this book is that learning economics can be fun," Seidman said.

"Written for the intelligent layman, the book has no graphs, diagrams or math. It is for anybody who realizes the importance of the subject of economics, and who wants to read about it in a fun way. That's what I have tried to get across," he said.

The book, available in the University bookstore, begins with Adam and Eve, to teach the reader about the "genesis" of economics: "In the beginning Adam and Eve had no tools," it reads in a parody of the Bible.

Other characters in the book include the Earnest family, the Bully family, an extraterrestrial named XT, and Sen. Myopia, all designed to teach the reader economics in a humorous way.

Seidman said the book grew out of an article he wrote in the late '80s that featured the land of Aroma and its food crisis. The tone of that article became the idea for a book on economics written in parables, and the concepts from the article are incorporated into a chapter called "Health Card." An ancient proverb cautions, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." The chapter illustrates how this proverb applies to health care issues.

Seidman uses fanciful settings throughout the book to inform the reader about the concepts of saving for retirement, funding social security and the role of the Federal Reserve Bank.

A reviewer in The Swathmorean wrote, "This is an excellent and easy to read book about the economic impact of the decisions of daily life. It rarely oversimplifies and leaves most moral decisions to the reader, using economics to clarify the question."

Reactions from other economists also have been quite positive, Seidman said. Nobel laureate Robert Solow wrote, "Prof. Seidman explains simply and clearly, and his parables are fun to read."

"This is a book for the night table, not the study desk," Seidman said. "It won't put you to sleep immediately though!"

Seidman, who has been at the University for 16 years, teaches classes in public finance and economic issues and policies.

He is currently working on another book, called Funded Social Security.

-Gail E. Walford
Photo by Jack Buxbaum