THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 18, Spring 2000

William A. McEachern, Editor

The Evidence File
DEFINE THIS

In the computer age, I'm reluctant to call attention to something as low tech as an economics dictionary in hard copy, but their numbers appear to be growing, which suggests that someone must be finding them useful. You are likely already acquainted with The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, published in 1987 in four volumes (now available in paperback for $225 from Amazon.com). But you may be less acquainted with several single-volume dictionaries aimed at a wider audience. Four of the five have British publishers and all have British origins.

The Economist Books Dictionary of Economics (1998) lists more than 1500 entries in 439 pages (about three definitions per page), giving priority to recent developments in economic theory and international terms. Although The Economist appears to be the publisher, since that name is on the cover, The Economist simply put its own hard cover on The Penguin Dictionary of Economics, now in its sixth edition and available in paperback. The Economist edition sells for $20.97 at Amazon.com and the Penguin edition for $13.56. The Economist doesn't mind trading on its good name to sell the dictionary, but it accepts no responsibility "for the accuracy of the information presented." No such caveat appears in the Penguin paperback (which has a Web site at www.penguin.co.uk/economics).

Oxford's Dictionary of Economics (1997) by John Blackwell of Oxford sells for $10.36 in paperback from Amazon.com, and is aimed at "lay readers of journals such as The Economist." It claims to provide "jargon-free" definitions of over 4000 entries in 509 pages, or about eight entries per page. But that total is misleading since many of these entries simply refer the reader to another definition.

The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics (1992), now in its fourth edition, contains nearly 2,800 entries in 474 pages, or about 6 per double-columned page. Prepared mostly by four economists from the University of Aberdeen and selling for $17.20 at Amazon.com, this source claims to be "An up-to-date, authoritative reference designed primarily for students of economics but invaluable also to students of business and other social sciences and ideal for anyone who wants a brief explanation of an economic concept or an institution." That about covers everyone.

The prize for the most important sounding title goes to The Routledge Critical Dictionary of Global Economics (1999), available from Amazon.com for $22.99. The first 150 pages contains essays "from the most influential thinkers and practitioners of global economics," a cross section of consultants, business economists, and academics. The next 200 pages is the dictionary, and the final 22 pages is an index. The essays are cross-referenced in the dictionary.

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