6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not what you might expect,
This review is from: The Undercover Economist, Revised and Updated Edition: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor - and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! (Hardcover)
If you think about buying this book assuming it is something like the very popular Freakonomics, full of with fun little factoids, you may be disappointed at first. While The Undercover Economist has its fair share of anecdotal illustrations and funny little chestnuts, it really is more of an Economics 101 course. It just happens to be written in a very lively way. It is clear that Harford takes his field of expertise, economics, quite seriously and that he is not out to compromise on substance over form. Rather, he seems passionate about economics and the power it holds and he must write his books in such a friendly, accessible way in order to share his truths with the greatest possible audience.
To summarize: The Undercover Economist explains the basic principles of incentives and the often quoted but not always correctly understood 'invisible hand' of the free market. Harford paints a picture of economic reality by building a framework out of a series of narratives and sometimes throws in an actual bit of theoretical explanation. Rather than concentrating on the best anecdotes that make for the easiest reads, he is clearly on a mission to make the reader truly understand the main principles of economic reality. From large concepts of why some countries have a hard time developing (spoiler alert: it's mostly due to lack of reliable and effective institutions) to why coffee at the station is expensive (spoiler alert: limited consumer choice makes it possible to sell at a premium).
A friend of mine used to say that certain left wingers would be perfectly reasonable people if only they took an introductory course in economics. This book might just be that. For example, to those who are stuck at the intuitive feel that economics is a zero sum game (if some get richer, others must get poorer), this book might include some invaluable additions to their thinking. And yes, they will have fun reading it, too.