So, second day of the Columbia Foundations of the Regulatory State class. I've looked over the syllabus, Wormwood, and I think that if you're wondering what to expect from the course, you'd be better served if you consider the class to be Economic Analysis for Lawyers and Policymakers. Maybe there's more to it than that, but the discussions of Pareto, Kaldor-Hicks, and even Jeremy Bentham are giving me flashbacks to my high school economics class.
So, let's suppose, dear Wormwood, that you're considering attending Columbia Law, you've just been accepted (it's about that time of year), and you're thinking, "I've got lots of time to prep. What I'd really like to do instead of hitting the beach and enjoying my last days before law school, or earning a little money to defray loans, is fill that huge hole in my educational history that I dug by never taking any course that bordered on economics."
Well, first, if you're thinking this, you need professional help. Go hit the beach, Wormwood, really: if economics were thrilling to you, you'd have studied it by now, and you'll have plenty of time. But supposing that you've just discovered your deeply buried love of economics, but being out of college you don't have any way to satisfy this burning desire, I suppose I should regretfully recommend a good book or two. Obviously, this is personal experience, but I've found the following to be helpful.
First, there's Economics by Begg, Fischer, and Dornbusch, a relatively accessible economics textbook with a good index and plenty of charts and graphs. This was my 'teach yourself macroeconomics' textbook that I used to prepare for an old AP test back in high school (so it's not too dense) and it's served me well ever since. If you think 'extreme Keynsianism' might be something in the X-Games ("hey dudes, Pareto just did a gnarly Kaldor-Hicks and a half pipe in that tube"), it'll put you right.
But supposing you want to spend some time on the beach during the summer. You want sugar with your cereal, or at least something closer to Dawson's Creek than Anna Karenina. You want intrigue, devious Senators, and high school politics. In that case, I'll recommend a book I've mentioned before, The Invisible Heart, the only romance novel ever published by MIT Press. I'll warn you, though: as a romance novel, it's a very good overview of economic policy failure. Prepare to cringe at the puppy-love flutterings of two people you'd never want to date.
But frankly, Wormwood, I'd recommend just hitting the beach. (For any current CLS students, I'm happy to loan either book.)
The Invisible Heart:
An Economic Romance