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Paul Strathern

Dr Strangelove's Game

We all have our ideas on how to put the world to rights, in particular on how money should be distributed. Various economic ideas have taken hold over the centuries, with differing degrees of success. In Dr Strangelove's Game Paul Strathern tells the stories of some of the originators of these economic theories.

He tells of the early ideas of people such as John Graunt and John Law, and of how Adam Smith put economics on a firm footing. In the 19th century there are thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham and Karl Marx, and in the early 20th John Maynard Keynes and Thorstein Veblen. This leads to 'Dr Strangelove' himself John von Neumann and on the the more recent game theoretic ideas of John Nash.

I felt that Strathern let his politics colour his writing a bit too much, for instance in his criticism of Adam Smith, and indeed in the identification of von Neumann with Dr. Strangelove. Also the title suggested to me that it would be a book about 20th century economics and game theory, when in fact it's mostly about earlier economists. But it provides a useful overview of how economics has developed over the centuries, expecially for those who don't want to get into the technical details. Also, to come up with original economic ideas you need to be someone who stands apart from the crowd, and the stories of such people are always interesting.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews