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The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy [Kindle Edition]

Tim Harford
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.95
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A provocative and lively exploration of the increasingly important world of macroeconomics, by the author of the bestselling The Undercover Economist.

Thanks to the worldwide financial upheaval, economics is no longer a topic we can ignore. From politicians to hedge-fund managers to middle-class IRA holders, everyone must pay attention to how and why the global economy works the way it does.

Enter Financial Times columnist and bestselling author Tim Harford. In this new book that demystifies macroeconomics, Harford strips away the spin, the hype, and the jargon to reveal the truth about how the world’s economy actually works. With the wit of a raconteur and the clear grasp of an expert, Harford explains what’s really happening beyond today’s headlines, why all of us should care, and what we can do about it to understand it better.



Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Economist Tim Harford has made a career of demystifying many of the central assumptions of economic thinkers and policy makers—the sort of endeavor that’s likely to get you barred from exclusive DC social gatherings if done right. […] Harford’s latest book, The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, expands the range of his analysis to take in the broader sweep of macroeconomic planning. […] Harford’s style is accessible, engaging, warm, witty, and fun, and he takes us on a romp through some of the denser thickets of macroeconomic thinking. […] Along the way, Harford takes on more than a few quasi-sacred shibboleths in our current economic and political environment. —Helaine Olen

Review

Praise for The Undercover Economist

“This is a book to savor.”
The New York Times

“Distinguishes itself from the pack . . . lively and insightful.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Harford is smart. Scary smart. So smart he can illuminate, in clear, entertaining English, ideas and forces of mind-boggling complexity.”
BusinessWeek

The Undercover Economist is a rare specimen: a book on economics that will enthrall its readers. Beautifully written and argued, it brings the power of economics to life. This book should be required reading for every elected official, business leader, and university student.”
—Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics

Product Details

  • File Size: 1023 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594631409
  • Publisher: Riverhead; Reprint edition (January 16, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DMCV624
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,862 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Non-Technical Intro to Macroeconomics December 17, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
**I received an uncorrected proof copy of the 2014 paperback edition of this book through a LibraryThing giveaway.**

I came to be a fan of Tim Harford through his podcasts, "More or Less: Behind the Stats" and "Pop Up Ideas". I was eager to read this book, because I am a big fan of the way the podcasts explore ideas and make sense of numbers in the news, and I've recently developed an amateur interest in economics. I was not disappointed.

One word of advice to the reader: throughout the book, Harford explicitly uses the conceit that he is speaking directly to you (who have been chosen to run a world economy) and that you are answering him. I found that jarring, but it was easy to put aside by imagining that instead of participating in a conversation, I was merely observing one.

The book explores macroeconomic ideas in an engaging way, and the dialog style allows the author to take the occasional left turn away from the topic at hand into an interesting cul-de-sac before jumping back on track. Most of the material is readily accessible if you have an interest in current events (no economic theory needed), though the discussion of the Beveridge curve could really have done with at least one diagram.

The entire discussion is bookended with by elements of the story of Bill Phillips, a tinkerer, war hero, hydraulics engineer, and eventually an influential economist who created a very cool machine—the MONIAC, or Monetary National Income Analogue Computer—that solved economic differential equations with water. His story is a highlight of the book, and is told largely in the first chapter.

Overall, this is a very accessible and non-technical introduction to macroeconomics, which is a especially nice since much of the material I've come across recently online, in podcasts, and in books has been on microeconomics or behavioral economics.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb, fun to read look at macroeconomics October 24, 2013
By sien
Format:Kindle Edition
The Undercover Economist Strikes Back (2013) by Tim Harford is another excellent book from a superb economics writer. This book covers macroeconomics and presents a Socratic dialogue where Harford discusses how to run a modern economy. This sort of dialogue is often contrite. However Harford manages through his mastery of the subject and by being reasonable, skeptical and carefully presenting both sides of an argument to make it highly informative and enjoyable.
Sadly the cover of the edition I have has a quote from Alex Bellos suggesting that Harford could be Britain’s Malcolm Gladwell. While Harford has some similarities to Gladwell in that both write excellent infotainment Harford is much better because he writes over a more limited subject area but with much greater depth of knowledge.
The book covers recessions, money, inflation, stimulus, output gaps, unemployment, management, GDP, happiness and endless economic growth. It covers all with such aplomb that it’s hard to pick out the best bit.
Stylistically Harford uses a dialogue and also has the wonderful character of the economist Bill Phillips to provide a narrative core for the book. It all works.
This book is a delight to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An easy and fund read with a lot of anecdotes February 22, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fun read for sure. The writing style is a fictitious Q&A, but it does not bother me at all. What I like the most is that the book comes with a lot of anecdotes. Many economics students might know about theories, but usually people are not exposed to the real-life examples of many economic issues. You can walk through historical and recent economic anecdotes with this book. However, this book is neither a macroeconomic textbook nor its substitute. It is simply incorrect to "learn" macroeconomic theories from it. This book is about macroeconomic phenomena, and we can familiar with the subject. Perhaps the theoretical rigor and depth is compromised, as others point to it; it is because the book is for everybody who may or may not study economics.

Highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice read, nice storytelling, lacks depth January 25, 2014
Format:Hardcover
This book is very well written and educational, as Tim Harford has led his readers to expect. At times, it is a bit heavy on the storytelling style. Overall, it does a nice job explaining a lay reader how economists think about the big macro issues such as growth, recessions and unemployment. I list what I view as some pluses and minuses of the book below.

Pluses:

- Great quotes from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

- A nice debunking of Krugman's babysitting coop rant.

- A great discussion of Radford's POW camp article.

- A very pedagogical comparison of the classical and Keynesian views of recessions, concluding on an ironic note (but see below for a minus): « Sometimes an economy’s output is constrained by the demand for goods and services (Keynes’s Law) and sometimes it is constrained by their potential supply (Say’s Law). It sounds like neither of them are really laws at all. Yup. This is social science—what did you expect? » ... « But there is also a really simple way to combine the two views. We need to introduce a concept you’ll hear discussed often in economics—the “short run” and the “long run.” Most economists would agree that in the short run, it is Keynes’s Law that is relevant. And most economists would also agree that in the long run, it is Say’s Law that counts. »

- A thought provoking discussion of the question Can Growth Continue Forever?: « Energy growth is not the same as economic growth [...] It’s easy to grasp why exponential economic growth is not the same as exponential energy growth. If I’m worried about money, I may turn off my heating and wear a coat and hat indoors; a bit of extra money will mean I take off the hat and coat and use more energy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, well-written, objective introduction to contemporary...
Tim Harford needs very little introduction, Javier Estrada has done Harford justice in his review of Harford's first book (JOIM Q2, 2006) - The Undercover Economist, which delivers... Read more
Published 18 days ago by N. Kulasekaran
4.0 out of 5 stars This book provides good insights into the world of economics
This book provides good insights into the world of economics, which are easy to understand and not loaded with jargons.
Published 1 month ago by Rishi Jha
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
really well written. important concepts.
Published 1 month ago by Marshall Marriott
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so good as the 1st book
Just my opinion, the style of "coaching" you doesn't work for me. In addition, the book is "back to basics" and I was expecting a little more in depth analysis and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by LSBerg
5.0 out of 5 stars gift magazine
Gave the magazine to my son who is just beginning his trek into the business world. It will be a great guide for him and answer a lot of questions I can't begin to help him with.
Published 3 months ago by Zoiderella
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great story
I had previously read Tim Harford's Undercover Economist and this is a great follow up. I don't know if you could pass a Economy 101 course with this book, but for the rest of us... Read more
Published 3 months ago by batman
5.0 out of 5 stars Undercover Economist -excellent
Enjoyable and off-beat way to explain many economic principles. I liked it so much I got the earlier "Undewrcover Economist" from the library.
Published 4 months ago by Mary K. L'Esperance
1.0 out of 5 stars Keynsian Drivel
If you are liberal Keynsian you will love it. Otherwise, it's not worth the cost of the paper it's printed on.
Published 4 months ago by The Publisher
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent but average guide to beginning economics
This book is useful only to those with a limited economic background. Admittedly, popular economic books tend to oversimplify; however there are many books of this nature, and this... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm a big fan of Tim Harford, but this book is weak compared to his...
I loved all of Tim Harford's other books, but only found this one acceptable. He pretends to explain the Classical/Austrian side of the debate, but clearly and strongly pushes the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Power
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More About the Author

Tim Harford is the author of the bestseller The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life and a member of the editorial board of the Financial Times, where he also writes the "Dear Economist" column. He is a regular contributor to Slate, Forbes, and NPR's Marketplace. He was the host of the BBC TV series Trust Me, I'm an Economist and now presents the BBC series More or Less. Harford has been an economist at the World Bank and an economics tutor at Oxford University. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.


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