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The Economic Naturalist's Field Guide: Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times Hardcover – May 26, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015115
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,143,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the last year and a half, Americans have been bombarded with more economic jargon, theories and potential solutions to our nation's financial problems than any time in recent history, and many struggle to make sense of how all these concepts fit together. Frank (The Economic Naturalist), a regular economic columnist for the New York Times, has long been a voice of common sense, and in this latest work he attempts to group complicated concepts into a handful of easily understandable principles. Compiling some of his most cogent essays on economic subjects, Frank tackles topics as complicated and controversial as taxes and job creation, health care, borrowing, saving and investing. Unfortunately, although the essays themselves are amusing, enlightening, instructive and easy to understand, their groupings often look forced. While economic principles should be timeless, many essays were written as far back as 2000, and the subject matter is dated and less relevant to our current economic crisis than most readers might prefer. Despite the brilliance of the individual pieces, the whole is disjointed and fails to offer the reader the clear picture of the commonsense principles promised in the title. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Booklist
“Witty, compelling, and sensible, these essays should resonate in this era of economic turmoil.”

Library Journal
“Frank’s writing sparkles, and the topics, which include health care and the subprime-mortgage crisis, are timely.”

Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bo Bayles on August 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was quite enamored with Robert Frank's last popular economics book, The Economic Naturalist. I could barely summon the enthusiasm to finish this one, though.

A collection of columns Frank has written, this book gives short arguments in favor of Frank's opinions on old and new political debates, with most of the justifications for the arguments ostensibly from economics.

Perhaps it's the length restriction on the columns, but almost all of them come off as a collection of hasty generalizations and shoddy reasoning. For example, several times he justifies higher taxes on the rich because otherwise they would just spend their money on something frivolous like a new yacht. There may be lots of good justifications for taxes, but this isn't one of them - yacht companies employ people just like other companies do. Even when I agreed with Frank's conclusions, I felt embarrassed with the reasoning he used to arrive at them.

There are a few flashes of insight, and nuggets of wisdom interspersed, but ultimately this book seemed like a cheap cash in on the success of the last one.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Many of our most important decisions have strong economic components, not all of them obvious. This is especially true in the political world. Frank's "The Economic Naturalist's Field Guide" explores the often hidden reality behind a number of them in a collection of short essays previously published in the New York Times. (Pause for conservatives to scream about the NYT.)

Frank begins with income inequality, asserting that most countries tend to push against increasing income inequality, but in the U.S. we enact tax cuts for the wealthy and cut public services for the needy. However, even the wealthy have been made worse off, on balance, by recent tax cuts - per Frank. On the benefit side, tax cuts have led the wealthy to buy larger houses; however, since economic satisfaction if primarily established on a comparative basis, the primary effect is merely to redefine what qualifies as an acceptable dwelling. Meanwhile, deficits have led to cuts in financing for basic scientific research, public health, highway maintenance, "loose-nuke" security of former U.S.S.R. weapons - threatening the long-term economic prosperity of all, including the wealthy. (A bit of a stretch, but interesting.)

Frank then acknowledges that government does waste money from time to time (my experience in education, the military, and health care tell me he doesn't BEGIN to understand how much), but waste is not limited to the public sector. Watches, for example, cost up to $700,000. (I'd be embarrassed to wear one - mine was $29.95 at Wal-Mart, with Atomic accuracy.) More importantly, the middle-class and poor are more likely to spend any tax savings than the rich.

A corollary of the "it's-your-money" argument is that the government should never redistribute income from the rich to the poor.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Taher Haveliwala on June 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There have been a number of books published recently covering economic principles and their applications to the world we see around us (e.g., Freakonomics and Armchair Economist). Frank's book however emphasizes a different slice of the field, in particular covering the concepts of "relative spending", "expenditure cascades", and an examination of the effects of various kinds of tax policy on people's daily lives.

The book consists of a collection of prior articles, organized by general themes and woven together with additional narrative. The book should not be looked at as "the definitive word" on the topics in question; indeed, Frank himself prefaces his article on the AOL/Time Warner merger with the caution that it was the worst piece he'd ever written. However, the book does take a look at various economic topics in an accessible an engaging way, and presents interesting perspectives that would probably be new to most.

Those with a strong ideological tilt in either direction will probably not appreciate the book, but it does provide an interesting and engaging look at a variety of economic concepts in play in the real world.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book it gives a fresh way to explain thing.

Be aware that this book is the same content that the one named : The Return of The Economic Naturalist: How Economics Helps Make Sense of Your World.

I bought 2 books with different name but same content ;-)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By freddybobs68k on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book as Franks runs through a variety of scenarios. As an economist he approaches problems from the perspective of incentives. In doing so he makes some interesting and thought promoting observations. I'd also say for a book about economics it's very readable and accessible. I didn't agree with all of the authors conclusions mind you - but the subject matter is covering the behavior of people on mass, so thats just to be expected.

Some of the other reviews here take a highly negative view of the book - but basically their arguments seem to boil down to the politically simplistic ideologies such as tax 'bad'. Not considering why there are taxes, or how they might be used. Franks books looks at taxes through the lens of incentives - sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad.
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The Economic Naturalist's Field Guide: Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times
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