- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (January 16, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594631409
- ISBN-13: 978-1594631405
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy Hardcover – January 16, 2014
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Economist Tim Harford has made a career of demystifying many of the central assumptions of economic thinkers and policy makers—the sort of endeavor that’s likely to get you barred from exclusive DC social gatherings if done right. […] Harford’s latest book, The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, expands the range of his analysis to take in the broader sweep of macroeconomic planning. […] Harford’s style is accessible, engaging, warm, witty, and fun, and he takes us on a romp through some of the denser thickets of macroeconomic thinking. […] Along the way, Harford takes on more than a few quasi-sacred shibboleths in our current economic and political environment. —Helaine Olen
"Every Tim Harford book is cause for celebration. He makes ‘the dismal science’ seem like an awful lot of fun.”
– Malcolm Gladwell
“With fascinating examples and vivid explanations, Tim Harford succeeds in turning macroeconomics into a gripping read.”
—Simon Singh, author of Fermat’s Last Theorem
"Tim Harford is perhaps our very best popular economics writer, and with this book he turns his attention to inflation, unemployment, business cycles, and macroeconomics, with lucid clarity and compelling insight."
—Tyler Cowen, author of Create Your Own Economy and The Great Stagnation
"Tim Harford is a brave man to write a book about macroeconomics for the lay person; luckily, he is also a funny man...his perky style and chatty asides keep us grinning... [and he] has a knack for posing questions the average reader will have wondered about."
—Wall Street Journal
"Harford has a knack for writing about economic issues in a clear and gripping way."
“Harford brings vigor and even humor to otherwise dry topics…[and] clarity to what has often been comprehensible to only a select few.”
“Independent thinkers aspiring to a better understanding of the world economy and of possible fixes for the current downturn will delight in this crisp, readable, and knowledgeable explication and analysis of macroeconomic events and theoretical perspectives.”
“By the end of this book, you'll have learned so much that you'll be just as confused as the experts – and anything but bored.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“Tim Harford is perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world… what [he] has achieved with his new book is nothing less than the holy grail of popular economics. While retaining the accessible style of popular microeconomics, he has managed to explain, with clarity and good humour, the knottiest and most important problems facing the world’s biggest economies today.”
—The New Statesman
“With beguiling clarity and…effortlessly breezy style… Harford explains the subject with impressive clarity and wit.”
—The Times (London)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is only suitable for people who have not taken a semester long course in Macroeconomics. If you have, then you can skip this.
As far as picking up something meatier, the books that I have in mind are any of three:
1. Basic Economics
2. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One
3. Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
This book comes across as a bit too breezy and working a bit too hard to be funny/ approachable.
For people who have already read on this topic a bit (like the present reader), the book comes across as a shill for Keynesian economics. And even after all that, the author does a lot of hemming and hawing about how stable and predictable is the Keynesian multiplier. He spends the first third of the book building up the idea of inflation and nominal growth and real growth and then finishes by saying that "We don't really know what the multiplier is." Give me a break.
Later, he does actually get around to discussing some classical economics, but only after he has built up Keynes first.
Harford also spends time blowtorching James Rickards (whose books I have read/ am reading) and people who like the idea of the gold standard. In doing so, he goes over the same arguments that Krugman and other anti-gold people have been repeating against the gold standard camp. (He says that gold has nothing to do with the amount of goods and services produced in an economy, when the point that they were making was that gold is a way to constrain the amount of money that can be printed.)
For the record, a 4th book that is worth reading in addition to this is: Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis.
Verdict: Qualified recommendation. This book can be useful for someone who has ZERO understanding of Economics, since if they know a little bit then it is better than nothing at all. (A copy of this for every member of Congress would not be bad.) But for people who study Economics as serious hobbyists, then this book is just not that useful.
I'd heartily recommend this to anyone who wants a macro primer or a light and entertaining way to refresh their memory. If you're 'into' economics, you can safely give this one a pass for the content, although you'll still like it for the writing and stories.