The Dismal Science: Economics!

Moderators: Hy Edelstein and Richard Hamilton
Time: Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30 am
Place: Lathrop Communities, 1 Shallowbrook Lane (off Bridge Road), Northampton
Parking: Ample parking on site

To draw on the ideas of the great economic thinkers to understand events and issues of economic consequence over the last 200 years.

In the 19th century Thomas Carlyle called the ravages of capitalism “the dismal science”. Thomas Malthus wrote that population growth would outrun the food supply needed to sustain it. Ultimately most of humanity would be condemned to an existence of abject poverty. But a century later John Keynes observed, “Practical men who believe themselves to be exempt from intellectual influences are usually the slaves of some defunct economist…”

Today, in a Presidential election season, political parties are once again divided over how to manage a multi-trillion-dollar economy. Our seminar is not a course. Our focus will not be on the technical aspects of economics (its “science”), but on its general ideas and history — and to what extent it succeeds in its claims. We will draw on the ideas of the great economic thinkers from Adam Smith to John Keynes to understand events and issues of economic consequence over the last 200 years. Some topics are: the Industrial Revolution, the Robber Barons, Theodore Roosevelt and Reform, the Great Depression, Labor Unions, WWII and after, Wall Street versus Main Street, the Federal Reserve, Income Inequality, Trade and Competitive Advantage, Money and Taxes, and the Computer Revolution.

Format: Seminar

Role of participants: Each participant is responsible for a presentation on an appropriate topic.

Number of participants (including the moderators): 16

Resources: For reference and review, the following books are suggested and available in local public and college libraries: The Worldly Philosophers: the Great Economic Thinkers by Robert Heilbroner, Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, and  Economics by Paul Samuelson. The Internet is also a resource for readings of virtually every aspect of economics.


The moderators: Moderator Hy Edelstein has held a number of management positions in industry and has been a member of 5CLIR for over a decade, having moderated seminars in history, philosophy, and biology. Co-Moderator Richard Hamilton taught European History for 37 years at HCC and Westfield State University and has moderated three other LIR seminars.