Increasingly, economics is being used to explain the actions people take outside of their financial lives and then turned into books that are readable and, dare I say, interesting for lay people. Harford's latest work is the best of this crop that I've read so far.
What Harford does so well is pick interesting everyday topics, some big and some small, explain the rationale typically used to explain why things are the way they are, and then paint a new picture of what is driving peoples' actions. Harford explains why people will pay more to live in cities and why new tele-commuting technology will make cities more attractive, not less. He digs into the sadly explainable roots of racial discrimination in hiring and why some students are making the rational choice when they conciously decide not to study. The reasons may surprise you, but you will enjoy his explanations and frequently end up nodding in agreement or shaking your head in frustration with the inescapable but lousy conclusions.
The greatest thing about Harford's book is how clearly it demonstrates the value that economics can deliver. Done right, economics is a powerful tool for identifying the root causes of both good and bad trends. If a trend is good (Harford explains historic growth in wealth) you can learn how to promote it further. If a trend is bad (the decline of a city like New Orleans or Detroit) you can figure out how best to deal with it. Economics gives its users a tool for objective, clear thinking that is tough to come by.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to develop their thought process. You'll come away a smarter voter, wiser consumer of news and thinking more clearly all-around.
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