The History of Economics & Economic Theory Explained with Comics, Starting with Adam Smith

economix“Everyone has questions about the economy. I started looking for the answers in economics. I found enough insights to get me interested, but I couldn’t seem to make the insights add up. I went back to the original sources, the great economists, and started to see a big picture. And while the whole picture was complicated, no one part of it was all that hard to understand. I could see that all this information made a story. But I couldn’t find a book that told the story in an accessible way. So I decided to write one, in the most accessible form I knew: comics.”

Thus begins Michael Goodwin’s new book Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures.

The book covers two (plus) centuries of economic history. It starts with the Physiocrats, Adam Smith and theoretical development of capitalism, and then steams ahead into the 19th century, covering the Industrial Revolution, the rise of big business and big finance. Next comes the action packed 20th century: the Great Depression, the New Deal, the threat from Communism during the Cold War, the tax reforms of the Reagan era, and eventually the crash of 2008 and Occupy Wall Street. Along the way, Goodwin and the illustrator Dan E. Burr demystify the economic theories of figures like Ricardo, Marx, Malthus, Keynes, Friedman and Hayek — all in a substantive but approachable way.

As with most treatments of modern economics, the book starts with Adam Smith. To get a feel for Goodwin’s approach, you can dive into the first chapter of Economix, which grapples with Smith’s theories about the free market, division of labor and the Invisible Hand. Economix can be purchased online here.

Related Content:

An Introduction to Great Economists — Adam Smith, the Physiocrats & More — Presented in a Free Online Course

60-Second Adventures in Economics: An Animated Intro to The Invisible Hand and Other Economic Ideas

Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey (Free Course)


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  1. templeruins says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:38 pm

    Boris Johnson could do with taking a read.

  2. Thierry Reis says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    I would like to know the opinion of an economist regarding the credibility of this book. It seems to me there is some risk for the layman reader to begin economical education through the eyes of a “free lance writer”. Is he over-simplifying theories? Does he have a clear understanding on the subject?

  3. Thierry Reis says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    I would like to know the opinion of an economist regarding the credibility of this book. It seems to me there is some risk for the layman reader to begin economical education through the eyes of a “free lance writer”. Is he over-simplifying theories? Does he have a clear understanding on the subject?

  4. Thierry Reis says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    I would like to know the opinion of an economist regarding the credibility of this book. It seems to me there is some risk for the layman reader to begin economical education through the eyes of a “free lance writer”. Is he over-simplifying theories? Does he have a clear understanding on the subject?

  5. Thierry Reis says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    I would like to know the opinion of an economist regarding the credibility of this book. It seems to me there is some risk for the layman reader to begin economical education through the eyes of a “free lance writer”. Is he over-simplifying theories? Does he have a clear understanding on the subject?

  6. Eduardo Antonio Suarez Valles says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    There is a Mexican author, Eduardo del Rio or Rius, who has a great book called economy for beginners in economy. It is a great book and his style is superb. He writes the book as if it were a cartoon strip in the newspaper with some large clauses and many references in his book and involves the reader by asking rhetoric questions. I will check this out but as soon as I read the article I thought about Rius.

  7. Eduardo Antonio Suarez Valles says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    There is a Mexican author, Eduardo del Rio or Rius, who has a great book called economy for beginners in economy. It is a great book and his style is superb. He writes the book as if it were a cartoon strip in the newspaper with some large clauses and many references in his book and involves the reader by asking rhetoric questions. I will check this out but as soon as I read the article I thought about Rius.

  8. Eduardo Antonio Suarez Valles says . . . | December 3, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    There is a Mexican author, Eduardo del Rio or Rius, who has a great book called economy for beginners in economy. It is a great book and his style is superb. He writes the book as if it were a cartoon strip in the newspaper with some large clauses and many references in his book and involves the reader by asking rhetoric questions. I will check this out but as soon as I read the article I thought about Rius.

  9. Ivar Musum says . . . | December 4, 2013 / 8:23 am

    I found this quote: nnu201cEconomix is a lively, cheerfully opinionated romp through the historical and intellectual foundations of our current economy and our current economic problems. Goodwin has a knack for distilling complex ideas and events in ways that invite the reader to follow the big picture without losing track of what actually happened. Any reader wondering how our economy got to where it is today will find this a refreshing overview.u201dnu2013 Timothy W. Guinnane, Philip Golden Bartlett Professor of Economic History, Yale University

  10. GreenAdamSmith says . . . | December 4, 2013 / 12:16 pm

    The Invisible Hand – from The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)nnu201cThe produce of the soil maintains at all times nearly that number of inhabitants which it is capable of maintaining.nnThe rich only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements.nnThey are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.u201d

  11. Thierry Reis says . . . | December 5, 2013 / 6:48 am

    Nice job, Ivar! Thanks.

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