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The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, Why the Poor Are Poor And Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!by Tim Harford
Synopses & Reviews
An economist's version of The Way Things Work, this engaging volume is part field guide to economics and part expose of the economic principles lurking behind daily events, explaining everything from traffic jams to high coffee prices.
The Undercover Economist is for anyone who's wondered why the gap between rich and poor nations is so great, or why they can't seem to find a decent second-hand car, or how to outwit Starbucks. This book offers the hidden story behind these and other questions, as economist Tim Harford ranges from Africa, Asia, Europe, and of course the United States to reveal how supermarkets, airlines, and coffee chains to name just a few are vacuuming money from our wallets. Harford punctures the myths surrounding some of today's biggest controversies, including the high cost of health-care; he reveals why certain environmental laws can put a smile on a landlord's face; and he explains why some industries can have high profits for innocent reasons, while in other industries something sinister is going on. Covering an array of economic concepts including scarce resources, market power, efficiency, price gouging, market failure, inside information, and game theory, Harford sheds light on how these forces shape our day-to-day lives, often without our knowing it. Showing us the world through the eyes of an economist, Tim Harford reveals that everyday events are intricate games of negotiations, contests of strength, and battles of wits. Written with a light touch and sly wit, The Undercover Economist turns the dismal science into a true delight.
"A rare specimen: a book on economics that will enthrall its readers....It brings the power of economics to life." Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
"A playful guide to the economics of everyday life, and as such is something of an elder sibling to Steven Levitt's wild child, the hugely successful Freakonomics." The Economist
"A tour de force....If you need to be convinced of the irrerelevant and fascinating nature of economics, read this insightful and witty book." Jagdish Bhagwati, author of In Defense of Globalization
"This is a book to savor." The New York Times
"Harford writes like a dream. From his book I found out why there's a Starbucks on every corner and how not to get duped in an auction. Reading The Undercover Economist is like spending an ordinary day wearing X-ray goggles." David Bodanis, author of Electric Universe
"Much wit and wisdom." The Houston Chronicle
Harford ranges from Africa, Asia, Europe, and of course the United States to reveal how supermarkets, airlines, health care providers, and coffee chains to name just a few are vacuuming money from our wallets.
Today, this engine has stalled. The decade of the 2000s lost one million American jobs, whereas the previous three decades averaged approximately 20 million new jobs per decade. If the next decade, the 2010s, generates only marginal jobs growth, the US economy could collapse under the weight of US debt and obligations. The US has several hundred trillions of dollars worth of debt, which it will not be able to pay if its workforce does not grow. The Jobenomics team is launching a national 20 by 20 campaign to create 20 million new US private sector jobs by 2020. 20 by 20 includes initiatives for government, large business, small and self-employed businesses, foreign investment in US businesses, and major emerging technology initiatives. Through Jobenomics, Americans will have common cause and resources to create jobs in order to build a more prosperous future.
“The economy [isnt] a bunch of rather dull statistics with names like GDP (gross domestic product),” notes Tim Harford, columnist and regular guest on NPRs Marketplace, “economics is about who gets what and why.” In this acclaimed and riveting book-part exposé, part users manual-the astute and entertaining columnist from the Financial Times demystifies the ways in which money works in the world. From why the coffee in your cup costs so much to why efficiency is not necessarily the answer to ensuring a fair society, from improving health care to curing crosstown traffic-all the dirty little secrets of dollars and cents are delightfully revealed by The Undercover Economist.
“A rare specimen: a book on economics that will enthrall its readers . . . It brings the power of economics to life.”
-Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
“A playful guide to the economics of everyday life, and as such is something of an elder sibling to Steven Levitts wild child, the hugely successful Freakonomics.”
“A tour de force . . . If you need to be convinced of the everrelevant and fascinating nature of economics, read this insightful and witty book.”
-Jagdish Bhagwati, author of In Defense of Globalization
“This is a book to savor.”
-The New York Times
“Harford writes like a dream. From his book I found out why theres a Starbucks on every corner [and] how not to get duped in an auction. Reading The Undercover Economist is like spending an ordinary day wearing X-ray goggles.”
-David Bodanis, author of Electric Universe
“Much wit and wisdom.”
-The Houston Chronicle
From Publishers Weekly
Nattily packaged-the cover sports a Roy Lichtensteinesque image of an economist in Dick Tracy garb-and cleverly written, this book applies basic economic theory to such modern phenomena as Starbucks' pricing system and Microsoft's stock values. While the concepts explored are those encountered in Microeconomics 101, Harford gracefully explains abstruse ideas like pricing along the demand curve and game theory using real world examples without relying on graphs or jargon. The book addresses free market economic theory, but Harford is not a complete apologist for capitalism; he shows how companies from Amazon.com to Whole Foods to Starbucks have gouged consumers through guerrilla pricing techniques and explains the high rents in London (it has more to do with agriculture than one might think). Harford comes down soft on Chinese sweatshops, acknowledging "conditions in factories are terrible," but "sweatshops are better than the horrors that came before them, and a step on the road to something better." Perhaps, but Harford doesn't question whether communism or a capitalist-style industrial revolution are the only two choices available in modern economies. That aside, the book is unequaled in its accessibility and ability to show how free market economic forces affect readers' day-to-day.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Harford exposes the dark underbelly of capitalism in Undercover Economist. Compared with Steven Levitts and Stephen J. Dubners popular Freakonomics (*** July/Aug 2005), the book uses simple, playful examples (written in plain English) to elucidate complex economic theories. Critics agree that the book will grip readers interested in understanding free-market forces but disagree about Harfords approach. Some thought the author mastered the small ideas while keeping in sight the larger context of globalization; others faulted Harford for failing to criticize certain economic theories and to ground his arguments in political, organizational structures. Either way, his case studies—some entertaining, others indicative of times to come—will make you think twice about that cup of coffee.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
About the Author
Tim Harford is an editorial writer at the Financial Times, where he also writes the newspaper's "Dear Economist" column and "The Undercover Economist" column, which also appears in Slate. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
Part I: Employment versus Unemployment
Chapter 1: Employment versus Unemployment Tyranny of Trillion$: Debtor Nation
Chapter 2: Awash In Debt
Chapter 3: National (Public) Debt
Chapter 4: Private (Mortgage & Consumer) Debt
Chapter 5: USG Bailouts, Pledges and Obligations
Chapter 6: Entitlement Programs
Chapter 7: Derivatives: Exotic Financial Instruments
Chapter 8: US Resources
Part 2: Recovery Scenarios
Chapter 9: Economic Recovery Scenarios
Chapter 10: V-Shaped Recovery and Jobs
Chapter 11: W-Shaped Recoveries and Joblessness
Chapter 12: Declining L-Shaped Recovery Forces and Factors Challenges, Issues and Indicators
Chapter 13: Closing the Spending/Receipts Gap
Chapter 14: Potential Second Residential Real Estate Crisis
Chapter 15: The Markets
Chapter 16: Inflation
Chapter 17: US Treasuries and the Dollar
Chapter 18: US Manufacturing & Emerging Markets
Chapter 19: Corporate Recovery May Not Increase Jobs
Chapter 20: Small Business Is The US Economic Backbone The Way Ahead: Jobs Creation
Chapter 21: The 20 by 20 Jobs Creation Plan
Chapter 22: Energizing the Private Sector
Chapter 23: Six Imperatives for Washington
Chapter 24: The Austerity Contingency Plan
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