Book Review: An Economist’s Miscellany

Title: An Economist’s Miscellany

Authors: Kaushik Basu

Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 2011)

ISBN-10: 0198072503

ISBN-13: 978-0198072508

Pages: 240

Price: Rs. 395.00

Reviewer: Jainendra Shandilya, CFA

Kaushik Basu does not need any introduction, however, for someone new to the field of finance and economics, it is worth mentioning that he was predecessor of Raghuram Rajan with the Government of India in the capacity of Chief Economic Adviser. Basu, a great economist and professor at Cornel University, is currently serving as Chief Economist of the World Bank.

As the title of the book suggests, this is a recollection of different ideas, experiences and logical explanations of various facets of a society like India by an excellent economist. First few chapters of the book dwells on the Indian experience of growth from the time of Independence till recent few years. In that sense, the initial chapters make it hard for those not used to boredom of reading an economics treatise. There are interesting recommendations by the author on the plight of the state run carrier namely Air India. He has come heavily on the bureaucrats for creating the mess called Air India and he has also prescribed the remedies. The next few chapters really take off to the altitude expected of an author of his calibre. In subsequent chapters he tries to solve the conundrum between growth and inflation as is always the case when the central bank takes a hawkish stance. At various places he has marvelled by citing very interesting anecdotes as he does during his lectures/speeches, they are intellectually stimulating, yet puts one to laugh some of the times. His references of some of the theories of great economists and his interactions with various great personalities like the 1970 Economics Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Samuelson are very inspiring. Bureaucracy and Legal System are the two vital organs of the economic systems of a nation and, if tackled properly, these will lead us to catch up with China, observes Basu.

The author, at the later part of the book, drifts from his known field of expertise. One feels little puzzled as to why an economist ventures into plays towards the end of the book, however, the two acts at the end of the book are full of satires and philosophies. The author tries to convey many things through various characters in the acts, something that depicts the situations that are witnessed in real life. He has commented on various organizations, it seems, something he could not have done directly!

Overall the 200 pages book, although originally published in 2011, is a good glimpse of the past Indian Economic System and the prescription to be followed if India is to become economic superpower. The book, priced at Rs. 395 by Oxford University Press, is an easy read in a short journey.

–        J S

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