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The Undercover Economist Paperback – January 30, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Many recent books (notably Freakonomics) have dealt with the more exciting realms of economic research, such as the application of certain economic models to what most people would consider non-economic behavior. And far more books have talked about "economics" in the context of even trendier ideas like globalization (think The World is Flat or even No Logo). Such books, however, are reflections of marginal (in the case of the former) or unsophisticated (in the case of the latter) economic schools of thought.
Harford presents the orthodoxy in all its glory, and reminds readers that economists really do see the world in a different--and fascinating--way. He explains simple, but often misunderstood, concepts like adverse selection (that is, why health insurance costs too much), as well as even simpler, but far more consequential, economic models, such as David Ricardo's explanation of why landowners, and not farmers, make money from rising crop prices. Along the way, he explains why the prices at Safeway and Whole Foods are about the same--and why the prices for items on the top shelf are higher than prices for the same goods on the bottom shelf.Read more ›
Tim Harford's stuff, though, is worth reading. A regular contributor to slate.com and the financial times, Harford has the gift of explaining complicated economic ideas in accessible language.
Although the comparison to "Freakonomics" is made prominently by the book's cover (which in my version includes an endorsement from Freakonomist Steven Levitt himself, as well as a description as the "elder sibling" of Freakonomics by `The Economist'), `The Undercover Economist' is the better economics book. Freakonomics, after all, doesn't teach too much economics: beyond emphasizing that "people respond to incentives" (an important message, for sure) it answers such questions as whether Sumo wrestlers cheat (They do) and what name should you give your child (It doesn't matter).Read more ›
Economics is everywhere. We're surrounded by it, but most people do not think about it in they're daily lives. That's unfortunate: one would certainly learn to drive before standing behind the wheel of an automobile. So why not learn about the economic incentives that actually drive most of our own behavior before getting out and getting hit by that $2.90 latte?
Learning about those incentives is not only worth it, as the examples in this book prove again and again; it also helps you make sense of what is happening around you, and therefore make better, informed choices. If one understands how most things are driven by the invisible laws of trade, competition, inflation and cost/spending or tax incentives, then one has less chance to get abused by such a system. Even better: this book shows how to ride that system and take advantage of the inherent value one holds as a consumer.
I am finishing writing this review and am going out get a latte and do some grocery shopping. Now that I've read Tim Harford's book, I know where to go and how to make the best use of the scarce money I have (but I won't reveal the tricks here, as it would be like revealing a surprise end to a good book).
My bet is that I'll be able to save what I paid for the book by the time I log back in to Amazon to see if my review has been picked up or not!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My brother recommended it. He's the family expert, I liked it very much and learned a lot. Not sure if applicable to everyday life. But worth the 6 hours reading.Published 6 days ago
Tim Hartford's next piece will be about this breakthrough discovery, after having had an epiphany that water is wet. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rebecca_K
This is my favorite economics book. It is a pretty light read, but subtly changes the way you view the world. Read morePublished 2 months ago by jasper burch
Is a good book, I borrowed it from the library and I really enjoyed it. I loved the part about buying a used car, lemon or peach -it has to do with inside information.Published 5 months ago by stingray
Disappointed with the quality of the writing, an interesting perspective but poorly told and oversimplified.Published 5 months ago by Barbara Farrell