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Greg Mankiw: too big to fail?

Posted by Christopher Shea  May 15, 2009 11:57 AM

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Harvard's Greg Mankiw is the reigning king of the introductory-economics-textbook market, a fact he isn't shy about reminding readers of on his blog. And unlike some other professors with prominent books, he is not in the least abashed about assigning his book as mandatory reading and collecting the royalties from those assignments. (A number of Harvard professors who assign their own books donate that income to charity.)

Mankiw has also pointed out that, as in many other business sectors, the position of the market leader is a precarious one: "Any day now," he has written, "someone could come along with a better textbook and put me out of business."

The Atlantic's Conor Clarke was reminded of Mankiw's comment when he learned that a couple of other prominent econ-bloggers, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, of George Mason, are unveiling their own principles-of-economics textbook. Cowen and Taborrok say that their book will distinguish itself from others by placing special emphasis on the importance of economic growth to human well-being.

Mankiw responded to Clarke's friendly jab thusly:

I am not worried. I am one of the economics profession's leading producers of textbooks, I have an extensive network of dealers (aka professors), and I have friends in high places (Larry Summers, Christy Romer). So doesn't all this make me precisely the kind of too-big-and-too-interconnected-to-fail plutocrat that, if push comes to shove, will get a government bailout?

"If you doubt me," added the leader in textbook market share, "let me point out that my initials are GM."

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