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December 15, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

I attended the University of Chicago Law School. I know almost nothing about economics, much less the Chicago school, but people keep expecting me to. Where do I start?

I graduated from college with a computer sciencey major and without taking any economics classes. While my coursework at the law school came from a law & econ perspective, I never actually learned any economics. How do I begin? Please recommend some beginner reading material. I'm a total newbie.
posted by anthropomorphic to Education (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith is a good start for the history of economics as a science.
posted by gauche at 9:28 AM on December 15, 2011

Virtually anything by Milton Friedman would be a good place to start. I'd recommend "Capitalism and Freedom".
posted by Lifeson at 9:29 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Economics for Lawyers
posted by facetious at 9:30 AM on December 15, 2011

Start here.

Then read Coase's "The Problem of Social Cost"

Then move on to Richard Posner and Gary Becker. If you don't feel like reading their actual academic work, you can start following the Becker-Posner blog, where they write articles about current issues in a sort of point/counterpoint style.
posted by The World Famous at 9:31 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gary Becker's The Economics of Discrimination is a classic study.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:31 AM on December 15, 2011

Milton Friedman (no relation) and Gary Becker are two of the more prominent economists of the so-called Chicago school of economics.
posted by dfriedman at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2011

Also, to understand why the Chicago school specifically is such a well-known influence, a couple surveys of the history of economic thought can help put things in perspective. While Robert Heilbroner's "The Worldly Philosophers" is the classic introduction to the history of economics, I enjoyed Todd Buccholz's "New Ideas From Dead Economists" a more enjoyable read.

Also, Nthing the suggestion to read Becker/Posner. They're brilliant, and more focused on legal econ issues.
posted by Lifeson at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2011

Response by poster: I do read the Becker-Posner blog infrequently but I feel like I don't have a good foundation in econ generally. I'm looking for reader-friendly Econ 101 type recommendations with a Chicago school flavor.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2011

If you literally have no economics background and want to learn something about free-market economics, there is no better book than Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. Hazlitt comes from the Austrian School, but I've done a lot of reading and teaching in this area, and I know of no book out of Chicago that is anywhere near as good for beginner students as this one is. I have never had a student tell me they regret reading it, and it will give you a good sense of the major underpinnings of free market economics. It's also quick, easy, and pretty entertaining. Once you've read it, you'll be pretty well set up to read Friedman or Coase or Posner or any of the other Chicago folks you want to delve into.
posted by decathecting at 9:45 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't need a "Chicago school flavor" for Econ 101--economists basically agree on everything in an Econ 101 course, so any intro to Econ should do fine.
  • Do you have access to the Chicago undergrad course websites? No idea what Chicago's IT looks like but I know I have access to videos from undergrad courses based on my undergrad login credentials.
  • Alternately, you could try an online course like this.
  • If those look too basic/boring for you (with a law & econ background I'm guessing you actually know most of this stuff), you could just pick up a textbook and read chapters that interest you. Greg Mankiw is always shilling his textbook on his blog, you can get it used for almost nothing, and I think it's fairly readable for a textbook (it's what I used for my introductory Econ. course).

  • posted by _Silky_ at 10:02 AM on December 15, 2011

    By no means really a course or anything, but after having taken my Econ 101/102 I thought that there was a lot ringing true about Stand Up Economist on the Principles of Economics and it boils down some fundamental concepts into things that actually do make more sense than they did before.
    posted by gracedissolved at 10:05 AM on December 15, 2011

    While the other suggestions are better books, Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics" is a very good Econ 101 book with Chicago school flavor, in that it covers the uncontroversial common ground of all economics and then offers lots of examples and color commentary from a very Chicago-style perspective. It's exactly what you're asking for, though the other recommendations in this thread are probably better books overall.
    posted by Lifeson at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

    You can always sit in on Intro to Macro/Micro Economics classes.

    Time Schedule for when the classes meet. They're huge lecture classes so the professors don't bother to take attendance or even make sure there's no random people just sitting in.
    posted by astapasta24 at 10:14 AM on December 15, 2011

    Hayek's the Road to Serfdom and the Constitution of Liberty are pretty foundational texts here. But FWIW, Friedman, Sowell, Hazlitt, Becker and just about everyone else mentioned so far are good recommendations.
    posted by Heminator at 10:50 AM on December 15, 2011

    Another place to get acquainted is the Fame/French forum hosted at Dimensional Funds website.
    posted by jchaw at 12:18 PM on December 15, 2011

    It's not clear from your question whether you are looking for an intro to economics or an intro to the Chicago school. Most of the responses have focussed on the Chicago school.

    If you want a really easy, really quick (non-Chicago) read to start off with, I'd suggest Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan. You can probably breeze through it in a few evenings and then decide if you want to work a little harder.
    posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:38 PM on December 15, 2011

    Second Sowell's Basic Economics. I have the same background as you (former software engineer), and I read this before law school because I thought it would be useful. It was. It's long, but easy to understand.
    posted by chickenmagazine at 1:10 PM on December 15, 2011

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