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Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science Hardcover – September 15, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Ever wonder what it means when the Fed raises interest rates? Or why there are occasional fears of inflation? To the rescue comes this simplified and chatty nontextbook textbook. Using words rather than math, it makes economics accessible, comprehensible and appealing. Wheelan, the Economist's Midwest correspondent, breezily explains the big picture, including finance, capital markets, government institutions and more. His informal style belies the sophisticated and scholarly underpinnings of his subject. Wheelan champions the often-maligned science: "Economics should not be accessible only to the experts. The ideas are too important and too interesting." Well before book's end, highly persuasive yet simply illustrated concepts sway the reader. Complex ideas are demystified and made clear, using familiar examples, such as the price of sweatshirts at the Gap. A chapter on financial markets compares a grapefruit and ice cream fad diet with get-rich-quick schemes. (He wryly offers the mantra "Save. Invest. Repeat.") Similarly, an explanation of interest rates compares them to "rental rates," an easy-to-grasp concept. And to convey what the major international institutions do, Wheelan writes: "If the World Bank is the world's welfare agency, then its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the fire department responsible for dousing international financial crises." Wheelan's simplicity does not mask the detailed encapsulation of complicated issues, such as relative wealth, globalization and the importance of human capital. He smartly shows that while economic consequences can be global, they are also a part of everyday life.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Economics has often been an orphan in the world of college electives largely ignored, rarely enjoyed, and almost instantly forgotten by undergraduates. In his new book, Wheelan, a Chicago-based correspondent for the Economist, has decided to shake the dust off economics, making the case that it is not just an arcane academic science but a practical set of tools. Though he admits that many of us are "economically illiterate," his book is "not economics for dummies, it is economics for smart people who have never studied economics (or have only a vague recollection of doing so)." Eschewing jargon, charts, and equations, Wheelan gives us the essentials. He clearly defines terms like GDP and inflation, explaining how they work and what the short- and long-term impact might be. He makes a convincing argument that there is a role for "good" governmental regulation, using the Federal Reserve as a model. He also examines the pros and cons of taxation. Topics like productivity, trade, and globalization are insightfully covered as well. This is a thoughtful, well-written introduction to economics, with the author projecting a genuine excitement for his material that makes it not quite so dismal. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. Richard Drezen, The Washington Post/New York City BureauEducation
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Wheelan makes no secret that capitalism is an amoral system that often leaves short-term damage in its wake. He insists though, that in the long-term it is the best system around, hands down. He makes some interesting points about international trade and globalization, pointing out that those who oppose it, often do more harm to the very people they intend to protect. For instance, he claims that Third World sweatshops, while deplorable by Western standards, are often the best option that some people have, and that they are a necessary step in the process toward industrialization. He claims that any attempt to boycott or otherwise oppose these conditions would simply force these places to shut down, condemning the workers to even worse prospects. My only criticism of this argument, and maybe I'm naïve, is that this seems a bit too "all or nothing." It seems hard for me to believe that any effort to enforce better working conditions would automatically put these places out of business. Isn't there a middle road here?
One thing I did notice was that Wheelan states early on that capitalism is not a zero-sum game, meaning that my wealth does not depend on someone else's poverty. Then, later in the book he says that there is a finite amount of capital in the world and the more in the hands of government, the less for the rest of us. Either I'm missing something or this is a contradiction. Other than that, I enjoyed the book greatly and actually feel more knowledgeable on the subject than before I started. Economics has always frustrated me but the author explained it in a way that even a meathead like myself could understand. Wheelan also accomplished something I heretofore thought impossible; he actually made economics interesting! 4.5 stars.
- Social security system is NOT a pyramid scheme, as he claims. Later he states that it can be fixed. No true pyramid scheme can be fixed!
- His criticism of a statement of Abraham Lincoln - why rails should not be imported from Britain, but built here in US -- is also off the mark. Trade is good, but you must have something to trade with or offer. For that to happen, a country must improve skill sets of its people. Lincoln wanted to built human capital of USA.
- His criticism of so called "marriage tax" is silly since it is not applicable to 99% of the people.
Despite these minor quibbles, it was the most satisfying book of economics I ever read.
The author explained with a great clarity the major economics topics and how different countries approach economics and social problems and how policy decisions can have a great impact (positive or negative) on the the society and the individuals.
My only gripe with this books is that it seems that it advocates strongly Capitalism and didn’t give similar portion to argue why some nations go for a more socialize public policy.