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Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Economics for the common man, May 19, 2012
This review is from: ec·o·nom·ics: a simple twist on normalcy: a blend of pop culture, economics, and social trends (Paperback)
Most people today are economically illiterate so as an economics geek I welcome new books in the economics field that attempt to introduce important economic principles in a way that is simple and easy to understand. That is the goal of Kersten Kelly in her book ec·o·nom·ics: a simple twist on normalcy.

Bad economic decision making (and corruption, but that's another subject) has consequences, as we see on the daily news, but as a subject economics is generally viewed as boring and uninteresting. Luckily books such as this are written in an easy to read style, using multiple examples to convey complex subjects like the Asymmetric Dominance Effect and Dynamic Inconsistency in simple terms.

I enjoyed this book which, while not perfect, is a good way for the novice to learn about some key and rather complicated economic concepts. It is not a stand alone text, and it is definitely the authors first book - it could have used better editing, but I found it an enjoyable and entertaining read.

The author states she hoped to write a book explaining how economics, a subject many find boring and hard to understand, in a simple, easy to understand format. Some of the subjects Ms. Kelly tackles in the book include:

The Prisoner's dilemma - This was the majority of chapter one and it was covered in excruciating detail, using this as a vehicle to introduce the concept of Utility - How economist's measure happiness, and that to goal of economists is for people to be better off. This was a good introduction to the book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Not unfamiliar with the prisoner's dilemma I can't say I learned a hole bunch of new stuff, but I enjoyed her presentation and felt she did a good job of teaching the concept. One caveat - I did feel she went on too long and should have made for a shorter chapter, but again I knew the subject.

A key strength of the book is how the author views everyday things we all experience and deal with through an economic lens. This include -

Student loans - Should you get one. What is the payback.

The connection between education and income. - Like most economist's this was covered in the aggregate and no determination was made between engineering degrees and soft subjects like Women's Studies and Sociology, subjects which in this reviewers opinion have little to no market value.

Price of gas - Demand is inelastic and gasoline is largely considered a commodity item. Discusses concepts such as using gas as a "loss leader" and the pricing of gas in terms of the prisoners dilemma.

Fast food - Are those value meals really a bargain?

Prescription Drugs - The trade off between generics, amortization of R&D costs and human need.

Coupons - "Hyper-couponing" and how some people have replaced lost income from a job through astute use of coupons.

Dynamic Inconsistancy - Consumer's preferences change over time

Asymmetric Dominance Effect - Introducing a third choice to simplify and direct a consumer's choice.

There is an error in the example of the 1988 elections, where the book claims George W. Bush ran against Michael Dukakis. In fact it was George H.W. Bush, George W's father. She then claims that the introduction of Ron Paul to the race, an example of Asymmetric Dominance, made Mr. Bush more appealing. Ron Paul did not run in that election. Maybe a minor point but I found it bothersome and it took away from the impact of that example.

Overall I would encourage people to read this book if they want to learn about how economics applies to everyday life. The book well written and well researched as well as entertaining. It's not Freakonomics Rev Ed: (and Other Riddles of Modern Life) (P.S.) but it is written in the same vein.
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