Monday, 2 February 2009

The Undercover Economist

Title: The Undercover Economist

Author: Tim Harford

Number of pages: 278

Started: 28 January 2009

Finished: 2 February 2009

Opening words:

I would like to thank you for buying this book, but if you’re anything like me you haven’t bought it at all. Instead, you’ve carried it into the bookstore cafĂ© and even now are sipping a cappuccino in comfort while you decide whether it’s worth your money.

Plot summary:

Who makes most money from the demand for cappuccinos early in the morning at Waterloo Station? Why is it impossible to get a foot on the property ladder? How does the Mafia make money from laundries when street gangs pushing drugs don't? Who really benefits from immigration? How can China, in just fifty years, go from the world's worst famine to one of the greatest economic revolutions of all time, lifting a million people out of poverty a month? Looking at familiar situations in unfamiliar ways, The Undercover Economist is a fresh explanation of the fundamental principles of the modern economy, illuminated by examples from the streets of London to the booming skyscrapers of Shanghai to the sleepy canals of Bruges. Leaving behind textbook jargon and equations, Tim Harford will reveal the games of signals and negotiations, contests of strength and battles of wit that drive not only the economy at large but the everyday choices we make.

What I thought:

This book was ok. Not one of the best books I have read and not one that I always found very readable, but it was ok.

I thought the author made some interesting assertions. But I also felt that he always felt his interpretation of the world was right, but was a bit lacking in actually providing the evidence to back up what he was saying. That doesn’t mean he was wrong – but it also didn’t necessarily mean that he was right.

I also felt that it jumped too much on the “let’s look at the ordinary and turn it on its head” principle. That can work, but I think it has to be a more engaging book to really succeed.

I do think it was a book that could prompt a reader to question the decisions they make and reconsider the way they deal with things. But with out the evidence for his assertions it is more difficult to follow those trains of thoughts through for yourself.

No comments: