- Hardcover: 704 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 5 edition (December 2, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465060730
- ISBN-13: 978-0465060733
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 644 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Basic Economics 5th Edition
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''Clear and concise . . . Among economists of the past thirty years, [Sowell] stands very proud indeed.'' --Wall Street Journal
''At last there is a citizen's guide to the economy, written by an economist who uses plain English . . . A comprehensive survey.'' --Business Wire --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of dozens of books and the recipient of various awards, including the National Humanities Medal, Presented by the President of the United States in 2003.
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In Basic Economics, he reminds you that economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. And with this fundamental truth in mind we see a master expositor at work. He derives many economic principles from this easily forgotten fact, offering you real-life examples along the way. This book was, of course, written for the layman. In fact, no prior knowledge of economics is needed before you read it. Yet the book is of such breadth and depth that economist Dr. Walter Williams says "it provides an understanding of some economic phenomena that might prove elusive to a Ph.D. economist."
As you read and become familiar with how Sowell thinks, you will yourself begin to think like an economist. You will learn to judge policies not by their proposed goals, but by the incentives they are likely to create, which may have the opposite effect of their intended goals. You will learn to think about not only a policy's immediate effects, but also its effects in the long run, and not only its effects to a specific group of people, but to everyone. In the process, many of your long-held cherished beliefs may be challenged.
Consider, for instance, minimum wage laws. Sowell explains why increasing the price an employer must pay his employees--though put into law for benevolent reasons--can have unintended bad effects, like an increase in unemployment. He also explains why, for similar reasons, rent control decreases the quality of apartment buildings, or why lowering the price of gas can cause a shortage.
This 5th edition of Basic Economics includes a new chapter on international disparities in wealth. An insightful chapter, Sowell explains why some countries enjoy luxury while others suffer poverty, pointing to such commonly overlooked factors as geography and culture. Another addition is that this book ends with a section of questions covering important economic issues. If you don't know the answer to a question, it tells you where in the book you can find it. This is especially helpful for someone forgetful like me, who must regularly return to refresh on economics. It's also helpful for quizzing yourself to see how well you understood the information.
To say that Sowell's books have boring covers and titles is an understatement. But they provide strong evidence for the claim that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover." I recommend this book as a must-read to everyone, not just to aspiring economists. (I also highly recommend Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.) However, I would be remiss if I did not include in this review any drawbacks, and there's a big one. Basic Economics will leave you more pessimistic for your country than before you opened it.
"Sowell's book, Basic Economics, comes pretty close to being a neutral exposition of what economists know about running the economy. There is no statement of fact, no statement of economic principle in this book with which I disagree, even though my background is from the Left, and I have never voted for a Republican in my life, and Sowell is the arch-conservative guru of Hoover Institution fame. I am sure some of my Left colleagues will be shocked at this statement, but I predict that their objections to Sowell's basic principles will be simply wrong."
"Contemporary American liberals will not like this book because it defends free international trade and criticizes many of the types of programs liberals favor. However, I think Sowell is usually correct. On the other hand, there have been monstrously successful liberal program that Sowell does not acknowledge, such as social security, Medicare, EITC, and the welfare system. We need similar programs to deal with world poverty, domestic poverty, environmental destruction, and several other important social issues. The correct way to deal with this problems is to use the market system, but to erect incentives that lead private individuals and firms to act on behalf of the public interest. Only a strongly synergistic pattern of market and state activity can conceivably succeed. Sowell's imbalance in favor of markets is, in this respect, part of the problem rather than part of the cure."
I am also reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikket. This book is aimed toward those who are involved in helping the poor through social programs, Christian missions, and the like. The combination of the two books is helping me not only understand underlying economic principles, but also how to apply that knowledge to helping the poor.