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Basic Economics A Citizen's Guide to the Economy Hardcover – December 23, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 438 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Rev Exp edition (December 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465081452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465081455
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Economic illiteracy (and its political results) may be the single largest cause of avoidable human misery worldwide. Even in the US, (the most advanced market ecomony in the world), it is painful to listen to the daily pronouncements of most politicians and commentators on the subject.
Sowell provides a good complilation of what any educated citizen needs to know. As he admits, there is little in this book that hasn't been understood by at least some economists for decades (and sometimes centuries). But he spices the presentation with many recent examples of political folly.
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Format: Hardcover
The author presents a solid synopsis and analysis of economic data that span most of Humanity's history. He uses these data to clearly explain complex economic phenomena as an application of simple, seemingly immutable, economic rules. The consequences of failure to account for these rules by policy makers over both time and distance are well described.
The primary review of this book is objectionable. The reviewer erroneously applies the label "conservative" to Dr. Sowell, lamenting the author's expressed point of view. Dr. Sowell writes the book as an economist, not an ideologue, and the book is simply an economic treatment of evidence, devoid of any political bend. What should be clear to the reviewer is that economics is not a belief system, but rather the study of the allocation of scare resources. A study-of employs scientific method and standard statistical techniques to test hypotheses and to draw inferences. This process, done correctly, must be free from ideology. Therefore, while a liberal might very well continue to support rent control as a policy, he does so in lieu of the demonstrated consequences of such policy. One can disagree with a political or philosophical stance; one cannot "disagree" with accumulated evidence.
There are some annoying typographical errors that should have been culled during editing. However, it is a great work overall. I endorse the sentiment that this book should be required reading for anybody that votes, anybody that holds office, and for anybody that has not given substantial thought or study to the subject of economics, yet considers himself educated.
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By A Customer on February 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I wish there were some way to get this book into the hands of every household in America. Someone with the means should fund that project.
The amazing thing is that what Sowell says throughout this book should need saying. Much of what he says is patently self-evident to anyone not blinded by idelogical prejudices. We should not have to continue repeating the mistakes of the past (and present).
Sowell, in his own inimitable style, discusses clearly and concisely all of the basic issues involved in economics. Probably the most important thing he says repeatedly is that economic plans should NOT be evaluateed on the basis of their purported goals. Instead, they should be evaluated on the basis of the incentives they will create. It is a failure to take into account these incentives that explain why so many good intentions have resulted in complete and utter failure. Incentives, not intentions, are what count.
If you want to know why the common analyses of the ecomomy and the common suggestions for improvement that are promoted by politicians, pundits, and professional news anchors are misguided and counter-productive, read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
In the textbook industry, "progress" is signified by style over substance, with the goal apparently to achieve the look and feel of "USA Today." Books compete to have more charts, sidebars, highlighted sections, and, of course, the ever-necessary multimedia CD ROM.
Into this wind spits Thomas Sowell, with his delightfully retro attempt to put the "text" back into textbook. Taking us back to the days before Samuelson, and indeed before Marshall, he presents economics in terms of logic, examples, and occasional data.
Turning to substance, one might fairly ask, "Is this book an economics textbook or a right-wing polemic?"
The answer is "yes."
My college economics professor used to point out that the liberal Samuelson and the conservative Friedman believed in the same price theory. However, Friedman applied it to policy more aggressively.
Sowell applies economic theory aggressively to policy, and the chips happen to fall well to the right of center. But what is there in "Basic Economics" to which a liberal economist might object? I can only think of a few things.
1. Sowell takes the monetarist view of macroeconomic fluctuations. He does not mention the savings/investment imbalance theory of Keynes. But even most liberal economists won't stick up for Keynes nowadays (I will).
2. Sowell points out that social security is an intergenerational transfer, and that its feasibility depends on the ratio of workers to retirees. Liberal economists agree with this view. But they still like social security, and Sowell does not deal with their rationale (weak as it may be).
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