Profitable returns by old friends

Macroeconomics. First edition - Macroeconomics. Third edition - Macroeconomics. First edition
May 28, 2004

These three intermediate macroeconomics texts are in varying degrees recognisable as "old friends". J. Bradford DeLong's and Olivier Blanchard's books are an updated and new edition respectively, and although Manfred Gartner's is a new book, it is closely based on his earlier Primer in European Macroeconomics . All are modern in the sense that growth occupies a more prominent position now than was typical a decade ago. They also give roughly the same and balanced weight to the treatments of flexible and sticky/fixed-price models. Thus they reflect in most crucial respects what has become the consensus in macroeconomics, and I would be happy to teach from all three.

There are differences. Some are subtle, such as the ordering and description of the material. DeLong begins with growth and flexible price models and moves on to sticky prices. Blanchard and Gartner invert this order, moving from the short through the medium, and ending in the long run. Nevertheless, they share basically the same architecture, beginning with "core" theory, followed by chapters on the "extensions" that principally take up policy issues. Blanchard, perhaps peculiarly these days, starts with a closed-economy model and leaves the open economy until his "extensions" section; Gartner weights the "extensions" relatively more heavily than the "core"; and there are no marginal comments in DeLong. But these are minor points.

The biggest difference is between Gartner and the others over applications of the theory. There are two aspects to this. First, Gartner's focus is on Europe and while the others use examples from around the world, most of their applications relate to the US. This in turn means that Gartner covers some topics, such as economic and monetary union, in much greater depth than Blanchard and DeLong.

Second, Gartner has an applied problems section at the end of each chapter that typically reports on some relevant piece of applied work and sets a problem with data that requires regression analysis. I doubt that his "primer on econometrics", which appears as an annex, is sufficient for students to get the most out of these sections. If, however, the students have a prior basic understanding of econometrics, these sections will be extremely valuable - and this together with the European focus would probably tip the balance for me in favour of adopting Gartner on an intermediate course. But it is a close call. In understanding monetary policy, for example, Blanchard and DeLong have the advantage of offering stronger discussions of the term structure of interest rates.

Gartner has added two new chapters compared with his Primer on European Macroeconomics : there is a second chapter on growth, and the material on booms and recessions using aggregate demand-and-supply analysis has been expanded over two chapters. Blanchard has mainly simplified a number of arguments in this edition. DeLong's updated edition shows less change than the others.

All have websites and an instructor's manual. Blanchard and De Long also have test banks and a greater range of aids such as PowerPoint illustrations. Blanchard comes with a 12-week online subscription to The Economist magazine for students. So much for the details, these are good texts.

Shaun Hargreaves Heap is professor of economics, University of East Anglia.

Macroeconomics. First edition

Author - J. Bradford DeLong
Publisher - McGraw-Hill
Pages - 523
Price - £39.99
ISBN - 0 07 121671 5

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