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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is rare to find a book so aptly described by its title as "A Concise Guide to Macroeconomics." The book really is concise; the text is only 141 pages long, and even that number might give an exaggerated impression because there are fairly wide margins and two blank pages between each chapter, as well as numerous graphs and tables. Yet in those 141 pages, this guidebook covers the essentials of output and GDP accounting, the role of money, interest and expectations in monetary policy and business cycles, a brief monetary history of the United States, as well as the basics of international economics: why countries trade, how to read a balance of payments statement, and what sorts of forces move exchange rates.

The tables and charts scattered throughout the book provide excellent intuition for understanding international comparisons of GDP, the history of business cycles, or whatever topic is presently at hand. All of these media are well referenced in the text, clearly explained, and contain up-to-date information. Moss also illustrates some concepts, such as the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage, with examples of his own; these too are excellent.

What impresses me most about the book is that Moss seems to have gotten the technical level just right: this book has none of the anecdote-ridden flakiness so common to journalistic writing about economics, nor is it ponderous or over-burdened with theory. This guide will aptly explain the essentials of the field to those who are curious; I know of no other book like it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you have any lingering doubts (you shouldn't) just click on the "Search Inside" icon at the top of the page, and click "Surprise Me" to get a random sample of Moss's writing.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Professor Moss' Concise Guide to Macroeconomics is titled aptly. It is very concise; fluidly written and easily read in a couple of sittings. It is also very fundamental. The author focuses in one the three core pillars of macro-economics, output, money and expectations, and takes the reader through them in a tried and trued presentation format: tell the reader what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them.

As such the first part has a chapter dedicated to introducing each of these three core concepts. The second part has a chapter for each of these three concepts again, but with slightly more sophistication afforded from the reader now having seen all three concepts in isolation, and the conclusion quickly ties everything together holistically. I found this format very effective for the content it was meant to convey.

To be clear though concise is the key word to describe this book. It covers first things first and only first things. As such many concepts, such as foreign reserves, aren't even mentioned. This book is very much a starting point, and it is written for the lay reader with only a simple or passing knowledge of economics concepts in general. It certainly won't make you a genius who can understand the world. It could likely help students understand concepts qualitatively but has no real math or graphical analysis and probably wouldn't help students with their homework or tests.

Despite its brevity and the fact it skips some topics many would like to see in a macroeconomics book I feel five stars is richly deserved on account of an admirable and rare honesty on behalf of the author. Although a Harvard Business School professor (and thus, if reputation is to be believed, about as educated as one can come) Mr. Moss is extremely clear that macroeconomics is not a precise science, most macroeconomic theories do not slide seamlessly into successful practice in real life, the reasons behind macroeconomic situations (i.e. currency collapses, recessions, sharp inflation, etc.) can be ambiguous and arguable, and macroeconomic monetary and fiscal policies (such as interest rate cuts or deficit spending) can have contradictory and unpredictable impacts in the real world. His explanation of macroeconomics can show how we can ask smarter questions to increase our chances of being successful when it comes to private enterprise and government venture, but also shows why there is such disagreement and room for argument on both sides of any macroeconomic issue.

A great starting place and, rare for an academic book, armed with a highly appropriate warning on the limits of a imprecisely understood albeit very important topic.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book does introduce some basic macro concepts concisely, and in clear prose. Most of the main points are nicely summarized in simple graphics showing you how one thing (GDP, inflation, whatever) goes up as something else goes down, etc. And the author (DM) does remind you several times, in a general way, that the real world often behaves differently from macroeconomic theory.

That said, it's often hard to distinguish whether DM is talking about real effects or hypothetical ones. For example, DM mentions a couple of arguments aginst the Keynesian idea of stimulating the economy by means of deficit spending (an idea that was big in the 1930s-1970s, and that might make a comeback under the Obama Administration). The "rational expectations" argument says that consumers might rationally expect taxes to be higher in the future, to pay back for the deficit spending; and therefore they might increase their savings (in preparation for paying those taxes) instead of spending on goods or services. To the extent they save, that would neutralize the intended stimulus effect. The "crowding out" argument says that if the government tries to raise money by selling bonds, it will be competing with private borrowers for funds; the resulting increased demand for money could raise interest rates; and the higher rates, in turn, could discourage entrepreneurs and other private borrowers from borrowing; with the result that potentially useful projects would go unfunded and be scuttled. Has either of these effects ever been observed, and if so, to what extent? Or are they just arguments by supply-side economists, Reagan Republicans and other anti-Keynesian partisans? We are never told.

The book may also disappoint you if you're looking for insights into the current world situation. For example, in the chapter describing economic output (i.e., goods and services, usually measured by GDP), DM notes "At root, most financial assets represent claims on real productive assets (such as plants and equipment), which in turn are expected to generate output in the future. But of course, all of these productive assets were once output themselves" (@27; emphasis in the original). Maybe this statement is true, in a textbook theoretical way, about shares of stock in corporations: profs teach that a share of stock represents a claim to a piece of the company's assets. But this statement doesn't help you understand how the value of outstanding credit default swaps and other financial derivatives based on US home mortgages can be $33-$47 trillion, while the value of the mortgages themselves is only $10-$11 trillion, and the value of the homes (real assets, and BTW not "productive" ones) subject to the mortgages is in many cases less than the mortgages themselves. How do those financial assets in excess of 1x the mortgage values represent claims on real anything? DM's book doesn't clarify the mystery of derivatives -- or even mention it. Unfortunate, since the estimated value of all outstanding financial derivatives of all types is around $60T.

Another striking comment comes from a discussion of monetary policy: "A lower rate of interest may encourage consumption by making saving appear less attractive (since it now pays less) and -- what is essentially the same thing -- by reducing the cost of consumer borrowing" (@73). Sure, a lower interest rate could reduce the cost of consumer borrowing; the problem with DM's remark is between the dashes. If you don't save, couldn't that simply mean you're spending the money you earn, rather than borrowing? To call borrowing "essentially the same thing" as not saving seems an illustration of the messed-up thinking that got us into the current crisis, rather than something that will help you think your way out of that crisis.

If DM had allowed himself even 10 additional pages or so for thoughtful analysis and more specific examples of how well the theory relates to the real world, the book might have been more balanced. Instead, while its generally clear writing style is admirable, the book is a bit too short on substance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book not only covers lucidly the major categories of macroeconomic theory, but also explains in considerable detail what every student of economics should know about national income account, exchange rates, inflation, and the like.

What is missing from the book should be carefully noted. There is no discussion of dynamics in any form, except for elementary and outdated notions of the Keynesian multiplier, and the like. This is good, because standard macroeconomic theory pretends to do market dynamics but it is in fact all smoke and mirrors. There is no serious, acceptable model of market dynamics, no matter what the so-called experts tell you (if the claim there is, they are liars or self-deluded fools).

Also missing are perspectives on economic regulation. There is no discussion of state failures vs. market failures, the role of automatic stabilizers vs. discretionary fiscal and monetary policy, and no discussion of the sociopolitical forces that led to the replacement of classical macro by Keynesian, and Keynesian by New Classical.

What is missing from this book is controversial, but a discussion of the various sides of the issues would be useful to the reader, who must search elsewhere for such material.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
To follow up a concise guide to something, I'll make a concise review.

Pros:

Short book = Quick read
Very easy to read
Topics explained well and consequently easy to understand
Great for beginners to the economic world
Probably will help for going into an Econ 101 class
Has numerous good ideas that are explained well.

Cons:
Tends to be US-centric as far as examples of application
Can be sterile and text-bookish at times
Seems too simplistic; might not help enough for an economics class

Despite the number of cons, I feel that they are not that extreme. All in all, this book is short enough and good enough to qualify it for 4 stars. But it's simply not a perfect 5 in my opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I love economics. The idea, the theory, the practice. Unfortunately, back when I was in college, I didn't pay the best attention in my Econ 1 course. Moss' "A Concise Guide to Macro Economics" was a great refresher, bringing back a lot of the vague concepts I'd forgotten since graduated.

If you're an economist, an economics major, or anyone else with any sort of advanced economics knowledge, this book really isn't for you. This book is what it is, and that is a brief overview that can be used as a gateway to more advanced economic theories (in other books).

Moss writes in an easy-to-understand manner, perfect for taking a fairly dry subject matter and making it as enjoyable as your everyday casual reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
An impressive book especially for those studying Macroeconomics for the first time. It is well researched and written in a language that is simple and easy on the eye and the mind. The 'conciseness' of this book is the most impressive part. It can be read in a day or two (at a relaxed pace)and it addresses the fundamentals of Macroeconomics, such as GDP, Balance of Payments, Exchange Rates, etc.
The book is by no means an exhuastive guide, instead, it is what its title states .. a concise guide to the subject. It is a good book 'starter book', the kind you would read before the first day of classes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this book as an introduction to Macroeconomic Concepts & it does a great job of explaining these in an easy to understand but non frivolous way . It is a great introduction to the topic .
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on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly a "concise guide" to macroeconomic theory. The basic and central fundamentals are covered: output, money, and expectations. Output refers to GDP, of course, and is the standard measurement for macroeconomic performance. The "money" section covers interest rates, inflation, exchange rates, and central banking. The "expectations" section puts the two previous ideas together to illuminate the human element in macroeconomic phenomena (this section also explains the Keynesian multiplier). Overall, this book is ideal for the student who knows a minimal amount concerning macroeconomics. Professor Moss writes with a clear explanatory voice and finds the perfect balance between technical and explanatory prose: this book is much more valuable than a book like, say, Freakonomics, in this regard. That said, I can tell you that the material covered in this slim volume is essentially the same as that covered in my Intro to Macroeconomic Theory course at the university. In all, it'd be wise to keep this book on one's bookshelf for reference.
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on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is exactly what says it is: A concise guide to macro economics about what "managers, executives and students need to know". Nothing less, but, as a big advantage to other macro-intro books, nothing more either (i.e. no lenghty academic discussions or unreadable graphs). It includes some tables and a small number of graphs, but still it is much more enjoyable and readable than the macro economics textbook I studied in university. It covers most of the relevant stuff you need to know in order to make sense of the economics section in the paper: GDP, interest rates and inflation, the impact of expectations, plus some more, all in some 150 pages! Although I have a background in finance, my guess would be this is also a good introduction for the lay reader: Mr. Moss explains things very well. Definately a highly recommendable introduction!
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