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BOOKS in brief

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 1992
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Charles Schultze

Memos to the President

A Guide through Macroeconomics for the Busy Policymaker

The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, USA, 1992, vii + 334 pp., $24.95.

Whether Charles Schultze wrote Memos to the President in some nostalgia for his days on the Council of Economic Advisers, in anticipation of the recent presidential election in November, or for the simple pleasure of edifying non-economists makes little difference. The result is a tidy primer on macroeconomic principles and their implications for public policy. The unique format of the book—a series of twenty-nine memoranda to a US president from a CEA chairman—was born in a flight of fantasy. “I imagined,” Schultze explains, “a new president promising to devote an hour or so a week to learning about key economic relationships.” However implausible that scenario may be, the straightforward Schultze does write his text to educate—if not the president then bureaucrats, journalists, and interested bystanders. With memos on subjects like “Monetary Policy: What It Can and Cannot Do,” “Unemployment: Who, How Long, Why,” and the intriguing “A Summary of These Memos and How They Differ from What Others Might Have Told You,” it is hard to envision a policymaker—of any political stripe—not being helped by this book. To be sure, Memos makes no econometric or theoretical breakthroughs; nor does it dish up gossip on back-corridor economic policymaking in Washington. This book simply spells out the ABCs of macroeconomics in the US policy context—a limited alphabet perhaps, but one worth reciting.

Charles P. Oman and Ganeshan Wignaraja

The Postwar Evolution of Development Thinking

Macmillan Press, in association with the OECD Development Center, London, United Kingdom, and St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY, USA, 1991, vii + 272 pp., $40 ($17.50 paper).

The debate over development thinking and development practice has taken on a new urgency, with much of Eastern Europe and the republics of the former U.S.S.R. joining developing countries in the search for the best way forward. At such a time, it is helpful to step back and review the theoretical highlights of post-Second World War thinking in the field of economic and social development, which is exactly what this book does. The survey is divided into two parts: the orthodox approach (capital accumulation and industrialization; dualism, agriculture-centered development and the green revolution; open-economy development and the neoclassical resurgence; and reformist development thinking) and the heterodox approach (the Latin American structuralist and dependency schools, and Marxist development thinking).

Peter Hooper and J. David Richardson (editors)

International Economic Transactions

Issues in Measurement and Empirical Research

National Bureau of Economic Research, Studies in Income and Wealth Vol. 55, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA, 1991, xii + 499 pp., $75.

Flows of goods, services, and investment across national borders are becoming increasingly important to economic researchers and policymakers alike. Measuring these flows also poses many new problems, such as the measurement of trade in computer products, whose capabilities and prices have been rapidly changing. At the same time, the US Government has recently been devoting fewer resources to collecting, maintaining, and upgrading the quality of these data. This volume collects the papers presented at two conferences held in 1988 and 1989 that were designed to bring together the producers and users of data on US international transactions. These papers deal with measurement issues related to merchandise trade, the prices of traded goods and their implications for competitiveness, trade in services, foreign direct investment, and cross-country comparisons of the relationship between inputs and outputs. These papers make a useful contribution both in guiding efforts to improve the data’s quality and in helping those who use the data to understand its limitations.

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