Explores how economic reasoning relates to the broader concepts of liberalism and racism

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Noneconomists often think that economists' approach to race is almost exclusively one of laissez-faire. Racism, Liberalism, and Economics argues that economists' ideas are more complicated. The book considers economists' support of markets in relation to the challenge of race and race relations and argues that their support of laissez-faire has traditionally been based upon a broader philosophical foundation of liberalism and history: what markets have and have not achieved in the past, and how that past relates to the future. The book discusses the concepts of liberalism and racism, the history and use of these terms, and how that history relates to policy issues. It argues that liberalism is consistent with a wide variety of policies and that the broader philosophical issues are central in choosing policies.

The contributors show how the evolution of racist ideas has been a subtle process that is woven into larger movements in the development of scientific thought; economic thinking is embedded in a larger social milieu. Previous discussions of policies toward race have been constrained by that social milieu, and, since World War II, have largely focused on ending legislated and state-sanctioned discrimination. In the past decade, the broader policy debate has moved on to questions about the existence and relative importance of intangible sources of inequality, including market structure, information asymmetries, cumulative processes, and cultural and/or social capital. This book is a product of, and a contribution to, this modern discussion. It is uniquely transdisciplinary, with contributions by and discussions among economists, philosophers, anthropologists, and literature scholars.

The volume first examines the early history of work on race by economists and social scientists more generally. It continues by surveying American economists on race and featuring contributions that embody more modern approaches to race within economics. Finally it explores several important policy issues that follow from the discussion.

". . . adds new insights that contribute significantly to the debate on racial economic inequality in the U.S. The differing opinions of the contributors provide the broad perspective needed to examine this extremely complex issue."
--James Peoples, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

"There is an immense economic literature on racial discrimination, employing a variety of models and decomposition methods. This volume makes a unique contribution by focusing on the philosophical assumptions at the root of this analysis and by presenting many sides of the very vigorous debate surrounding these controversial issues."
--Thomas Maloney, University of Utah

"By focusing upon the progress of analytical technique, historians of economic thought have grossly neglected the symbiotic relation of economics to public policy and ideology. This collection of essays offers a most welcome breach of disciplinary apartheid. Seizing upon recent research in the almost forgotten writings about race of Classical economists and their contemporaries, it relates nineteenth-century ideas to current debates about economic discrimination and other manifestations of racism. As the writing is both learned and lively, the book should appeal both to the generally educated reader and to teachers of courses in multiculturalism."
--Melvin Reder, Isidore Brown and Gladys J. Brown Professor Emeritus of Urban and Labor Economics, University of Chicago

David Colander received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and has been the Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics at Middlebury College since 1982. In 2001-2 he was the Kelly Professor of Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. He has authored, coauthored, or edited over thirty books and a hundred articles on a wide range of topics. He has been president of both the Eastern Economic Association and History of Economic Thought Society and is, or has been, on the editorial boards of numerous journals, including the Journal of Economic Perspectives and the Journal of Economic Education.

Robert E. Prasch earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. He is now Associate Professor of Economics at Middlebury College, where he has been teaching since the fall of 2000. He is completing a book on American economic policy as well as a series of articles on the history of minimum wage legislation in the United States. He has published approximately sixty articles, book chapters, and book reviews on various topics in journals such as the Review of Political Economy, Journal of Economic Issues, and History of Political Economy. He also served on the board of editors of the Journal of Economic Issues and is currently on the board of editors of the Review of Political Economy.

Falguni A. Sheth, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory at Hampshire College, received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the New School for Social Research. Her interests are philosophical and multidisciplinary, covering various topics in feminist, political, and legal philosophies and the philosophy of race. She has published articles on public policy topics such as the ethics of the minimum wage and educational vouchers, and on the feminism and social economics of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Her current research is on the political and racial treatment of Muslim immigrants and Black Americans in post-9-11 American political discourse; on the eclipses of subaltern political spaces in Hannah Arendt's discussion of politics; and on the ethnocentric and class-biased treatment of women's work in feminist theory.