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The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works Paperback – January 31, 2012
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“Taylor breaks the complex ideas of macro- and microeconomics into bite-sized chapters, each covering a distinct aspect, by using examples and stories instead of formulas and equations.”—Library Journal
“Presenting a broad, non-mathematical treatment of microeconomics and macroeconomics, this book requires no prior knowledge of the subject and is clearly written. Taylor, the managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, also adds a good dose of humor.”—Reference & Research Book News
“Taylor sets out to teach us how economists think and begins with a microeconomics understanding of the economy (the view of individuals). We learn how markets work in the context of goods, labor, and financial capital and also about unregulated markets, including monopoly, the environment, and poverty; he notes that although these issues can attract democratic government involvement, such intervention can fail. He concludes with macroeconomics (an overall view of the economy), with topics including economic growth, unemployment, and inflation. Taylor wants us to respect the power of market forces but understand where those forces fall short; he encourages a belief that government policy can be useful but, in some cases, can be useless or even counterproductive... Excellent.”—Booklist
About the Author
Timothy Taylor is managing editor of the American Economics Association's Journal of Economic Perspectives. He won numerous teaching awards for his classes at Stanford University and was named a distinguished lecturer at the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Note that this book is divided into two sections: the first half is dedicated to Micro-Economics and the latter half is designated for Macro. Micro was more interesting to me.
Importantly, this book is not written using either an academic or overly simplistic approach. With a minimum of work, the average person can understand the material and not feel insulted. Almost equally importantly, the book is written in a blessedly non-partisan style.
Before I opened the book, I very quickly sketched out the most important topics I thought it should address: scarcity, opportunity costs, the role of prices, "marginal" analysis, monetary and fiscal policies, specialization and trade, and externalities. Upon reading the book, I found all of these topics addressed and many more: the interplay of supply and demand in market equilibrium, elasticity, the Federal Reserve, international exchange rates, personal finance, etc.
Would I give this book to someone with an interest in economics if they had precious little background in the subject? Absolutely yes. And I'd bet they would enjoy it.
Perhaps most importantly, the tedious and distracting math and diagramming in standard intro economics books are gone and the reader is left with the main ideas, succinctly stated. And Taylor is very balanced, focusing on economic trade-offs and not assuming his desired results as writers on the far left (Krugman) and far right (Friedman, Sowell) tend to do.
Before the book, I'll come across some economic terms in articles or news, and I will Google to try to understand what it meant. It was fragmented, and I hardly got the "big picture", or understood anything to help me level up to more advanced understanding.
This book helped me to kinda "hang all the grapes in the vine", and gave me a much better understanding of the topic rather systematically.
This book got me so interested in economics, that now I am following up the reading with The Great Courses where the author teaches.
Thank you Timothy Taylor! I hope to come across more authors like you in various other topics that I would like to learn more on.
The author is a well-know economist who has run the most widely read journal among economists, the Journal of Economic Perspectives. What he says is what in fact economic theory says.
I think the author should write a longer book in which he explores some key issues missing from this book. One is to give solid advice on personal investment, and a second is to apply the theory to evaluating important social policy questions. He doesn't have to come down on one or the other side of a debate, but rather to state clearly what economic theory has to add to the evaluation of issues.