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The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume One: Microeconomics
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book and was surprised by how naturally Bauman and Grady link various topics together with a balance of serious focus and light humor.

Once I started, I found it hard to put down, since each chapter leads comfortably into the next, as if it were woven into a single, coherent story. At surprisingly frequent intervals, Bauman and Grady decorate the discussion with humorous comments about economics and economists which also tends to keep reading fun, even when discussing serious topics.

Another interesting feature is the way the book boils down the work of recent Nobel laureates in economics: the book visually demonstrates the idea. You'll soon find yourself comfortable with the new "big ideas" of economics in ways that allow you to see the world with additional insights (not to mention being able to discuss adverse selection in casual conversation with your friends...).

A final feature I found useful was a visual glossary that explains key concepts and echo the visual treatment of the concept in the book. Throughout the glossary are images that convey the meaning of economic concepts. If you're a visual learner, you will really enjoy this book.

For those who want to make sure that serious economics concepts are truly covered in this book, I've included a short list below. The book is organized into 3 main sections:

- The Optimizing Individual (one person)
This section covers decision trees, the time value of money and it's use in decision making, decision making under risk (diversification, expected value, adverse selection, etc), and trade (efficient market hypothesis, Coase Theorem, etc).

- Strategic Interactions (one person to some people)
This section covers cake cutting, Pareto efficiency, simultaneous-move games, auctions, and larger markets (competition and monopolies).

- Market Interactions (some people to many people)
This section covers supply and demand, taxes, margins, elasticity, competitive markets and externalities.

The table of contents I've listed above doesn't adequately convey the manner in which the content is covered. For example, imagine pirates discussing "maarrhginal analysis" or two siblings working on cake cutting. The topics are surprisingly full of opportunities for humor.

Bauman and Grady have found a way to make learning economics easy and fun.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is amazing and hilarious! I first came across Yoram Bauman on […]
and I have visited his blog regularly ever since. I pre-ordered the book because I knew from seeing his stand-up that it would not dissappoint and it's hasn't.
I'm a Economics undergraduate student in Sydney Australia. The content in this book summarises the basic information I learnt in my first year at university but, it's done in a really smart, easy to understand and funny way.
I recommend this book to who ever enjoys economic theory or any parent who has a child who is struggling with micro-economic theory.

I can't wait for Volume 2!!!!

Mon
Sydney, Australia
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I preordered my copy, and was happy to find out that Amazon had shipped it early enough so that it would arrive at my home on the release date.

I have quite enjoyed reading it, and if you're looking for an easy-to-digest introduction to the topic, this might be the book for you. One thing that makes it a nice introduction is that

Yoram Bauman is definitely a funny guy: search for "stand up economist" on youtube, or enjoy this presentation where he translates the 10 Principles of Economics into layman's terminology. If you like this presentation you will like the book.

[...]
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I teach high school economics so I bought this as a resource to help my students grasp some of the concepts involved in the subject. I loved reading the book & will definitely use some extracts in class. My only beef is that the terminology isn't always what we use in Australia, & particularly in the NSW syllabus. But this can't be helped & is a small price to pay for a truly original, amusing & engaging book which does indeed make economics more accessible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Cartoon Introduction to Economics. The fundamental ideas in Microeconomics are presented in a clear and intelligent manner, with many humorous but thoughtful examples and analogies. The organization of the book is clean and logical, moving from the "optimizing individual" to "strategic interactions" of small groups to "market interactions" involving many people. A wide variety of topics are distilled down to their essence (decision trees, risk, pareto efficiency, auctions, trade, supply and demand, taxes, elasticity, etc.). Klein's whimsical and funny illustrations add a great deal to the text, and hold the reader's interest while at the same time helping to explain the various concepts and examples. This book is appropriate for many different ages and backgrounds, from high school or college students studying econ to the average adult seeking a little more knowledge and understanding of basic economic principles. I've read parts of it several times, and find that I get a deeper understanding of some of the more complicated and nuanced concepts the second time through. My one (minor) complaint is that this otherwise quick read bogs down a bit in some of the later chapters (e.g. margins and elasticity) with too much theory (and not enough jokes?). But this is a minor issue, and on the whole I enthusiastically recommend this book for both econ students and for people who just want to learn more about the topic (and have fun doing it).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Organized in good textbook fashion, "The Cartoon Introduction to Economics" is divided into three major units: 1)'The Optimizing Individual,' 2)'Strategic Interactions,' and 3)'Market Interactions.' Within these major units the authors provide adult treatment of important topics like decision trees, Pareto thinking, taxes, supply and demand, and many others. The material is cute, funny, and easy to understand. The only problem: How will students memorize all those cartoons and learn to quickly reproduce them on an exam?

I'm looking forward to Volume Two: Macroeconomics, when they show us how to fix the economy and bring back our jobs from Asia.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is a quick and fun way to get up to speed on some of the fundamentals of micro-economics, with cartoons by Grady Klein and economics by the youthful stand-up comedian Yoram Bauman ([...] ). Bauman even gets up-to-date and practical by describing a carbon tax to combat global warming. Along the way he pokes fun at economists and illustrates the enigmas of some economic concepts. Yet I hope that citizens and students will be alerted to far more limitations and paradoxes in the next edition.

For example, Bauman shows how the simplistic notion that "optimizing individuals" will automatically optimize the economy runs head on into the paradox of the "prisoner's dilemma". Likewise the theory of "competitive markets" runs head on into the common reality of markets that are monopoly-like (few sellers) or monopsony-like (few buyers). Or how it is "Pareto efficient" for everything to be owned by one individual.

In particular, the Pareto criterion is a "local optimization" criterion (no single trade can make anyone better off without making someone else worse off). Yet real-world economics is a problem in "global optimization", where you have to descend from a secondary peak to a valley before ascending to a higher peak (some people become worse off before more people become better off). That is, there will be "dislocations" when going from one economic system to another, even a better one, such as one that is more egalitarian or more sustainable.

Bauman could have noted similar problems with "free trade". Trade between nations based on "comparative advantage" enriches all from a narrow economic perspective, but such simplistic analysis fails to include all stakeholders. Often it is wealthy owners of corporations and other elites who reap most of the profits, creating great inequality and stress, as well as a less sustainable economy ("privatizing the gains while socializing the cost"). Without strong mechanisms of income redistribution, worker retraining, protecting environment and resources, etc., resistance to some kinds of trade is natural, even economically beneficial from a broader long-term perspective.

Another issue arises with supply and demand curves, from the very fact that all these are portrayed as straight lines. First of all these curves are more intuitive when quantity is a function of price, rather than the other way around. Then elasticity is simply the "slope in percentages" of the curve at a point. A splendid example of such a non-straight supply curve is one that starts off almost vertical (little or no supply below a minimum price), then curves to a straight line (slope = cost per item), then curves again toward a horizontal line (as supply reaches a hard limit). Oil is a good example, now in its decade of all-time maximum production ("peak oil"), with supply soon to going into permanent decline despite high prices. This example also illustrates how supply curves can change with time, with a smaller maximum supply once you're past peak oil.

This example also shows exactly how the "law of supply and demand" sometimes fails in real-world economics. Both the supply and price of oil reached their all time peak in July, 2008, driven by the speculative boom. But the extraordinary price of oil combined with the extraordinary effects of financial deregulation and the failure of financial institutions to deal with either, produced a distortion of the global economy so severe that a crash ensued which decreased the demand for oil, hence the price. That is, price represents resources and resources are limited so you can't just keep increasing price forever in order to increase supply. In another real-world scenario, price increases, instead of increasing supply, drive a switch to substitutes. Yet in the kind of "limits to growth" scenario we are now facing, substitutes may be no match for what is lost, resulting in a world that must "make do with less".

Likewise, interesting points could be made on the limitations of "competitive markets". Suppose that significant economies of scale are possible (production and transportation costs, marketing, financing, political influence, etc). Then a perfectly competitive market will not stay so, because a few competitors will drive others out of business or buy them up, by one means or another, so you end up with only a few firms, which are able to fully exploit the economies of scale and charge monopoly prices. This will happen unless there is strong regulation by government agencies (or equivalent customs or regimes) that prevents this. That is, competitive markets represent an unstable equilibrium in some situations. More generally a complex of interacting markets and government and nature exhibits chaotic behavior over time, including business cycle and financial crashes, as well both stable and unstable equilibrium points for various sub-regimes.

This is a delightful introduction to economics, with a few well-chosen caveats. Yet with a discipline that is so fraught with both theoretical shortcomings and political implications, what people need for understanding real-world economics are far more examples of the limitations of the basic concepts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Students will be drawn in by the lighthearted approach and Bauman's explanations will clarify points that don't always come through from a graphical analysis. At under $8 it's a steal relative to economics texts. Recommend recommending it to an Intro Micro class as a complement to one of the usual texts. In case you haven't seen it yet - Bauman's parody of Mankiw's ten principles of economics at [...] is hilarious.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a wonderful and humorous introduction to microeconomics! I bought the second volume ("macroeconomics") while waiting for a train in Frankfurt at the bookstore in that station (no idea, why they thought it a good idea to put copies of that book next to the cash register --- but that's how I found it!), read it in full riding a train to Berlin and chuckled all the way! I then decided to also get the first volume on microeconomics from Amazon, and it was just as terrific. It contains a surprising amount of valuable information, it is surprisingly complete and up-to-date, it is fun and fast to read (a few hours) and it is excellent value for the price. I love the little cartoons when they describe tongue-in-cheek, how many fundamental ideas in economics received a Nobel prize. It is well written, an enjoyable read, and should be required reading in schools, for journalists and politicians. It is an excellent quick-guide intro for anyone embarking on learning all the details in earnest, e.g. economics students or MBA students. I recommend it highly. Harald Uhlig, Dept. of Econ., Univ. of Chicago.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is a really special book that delivers textbook-level content, yet fulfills it's "cartoonish" promise. Although I'd picked up a bit here and there, I'd never actually taken an economics class nor read a textbook. There cannot possibly be a more enjoyable, entertaining, easy-breezy way to ramp up than reading this book. It's like "buttah" - it just melts in your brain. I learned a great deal, effortlessly, and I got a huge kick out of it. Funny, poignant and fascinating.

Eric Siegel, Ph.D.
Founder, Predictive Analytics World
Author, [...]
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