Did Greg Mankiw really just brandish his $170 textbook as evidence of the benefits of unfettered competition?

There’s plenty wrong with this Greg Mankiw article (see here), but one thing I haven’t seen pointed out yet [ah, here’s somebody else pointing it out, with a little less snark than this post] is the strangeness of Mankiw using his textbook as an example of fierce competition in a crowded market, unburdened by meddlesome government.

What’s strange about this? Well, what keeps me from selling PDFs of Mankiw’s textbook for $5 each online? The same thing that keeps his own students (who are, by the way, assigned this textbook by Mankiw himself; I  wonder if he’s ever once decided, based on the merits, that anybody else had a superior text on the market?) from scanning the book and passing it back and forth for free: government enforcement of copyright law.

Is having government act as a bill collector for textbook companies and authors good economic policy? Probably not, but I think it’s safe to say that textbook authors pretending as if the price tag on their books reflects only supply and demand curves functioning in perfectly competitive markets probably shouldn’t be trusted on sweeping claims about the proper role of government in determining economic outcomes.

  • fhmuraca

    Nope – price is probably determined by planned obsolescence. 

  • Did he really say that we can easily move to a more enlightened state with more expensive and less comprehensive health care than Massachusetts? Yes he did, only he intimated that less health care is evidence of more freedom.

  • Guest

    Mankiws book actually is best.

    • hurls

       But by making small changes and forcing students to by ONLY the latest edition he is ACTIVELY working to keep the textbook market from functioning. So much for a guy who purports to believe in free markets.

      Has our knowledge and understanding of Economics actually changed so much in a year or two??? As Bill Cosby says – “Right”.

    • Robert Atallo

      Forgive me if I dissent. Mankiw’s book is fine if you’re a freshman at the University of Lubbock. Otherwise, not so much.

  • RN

    Very well said.  Mankiw is a disingenuous apologist for the moneyed class, with no interest in anything but making them (and hence himself) richer.

  • ELB

    Textbooks are a terrible example, because the person who decides what book to use (the professor) is not the person who has to pay for them (the student).  If it were up to students, I’m sure they’d decide that the 2 year old version that is available for $35 is a pretty good substitute for the current one– economics doesn’t really cahnge that much from year to year.