Basic Economics

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Stated first edition of this economics classic by Thomas Sowell. Collectible and giftable. We ship daily from our smoke-free, humidity-controlled premises. No-hassle returns. ... Email us with questions. Read more Show Less

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From one of America's best-known economists, the one book anyone who wants to understand the economy needs to read.
At last, there is a citizen's guide to economics-for those who want to understand how their country's economy works but have no interest in graphs, jargon, or equations. Sowell reveals the general principles behind any kind of economy—capitalist, socialist, feudal, etc. In readable language, he helps the reader critique economic policies in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the goals they proclaim. With clear explanations of the entire field, from rent control and the rise and fall of businesses to the international balance of payments, this is the first book for anyone who wishes to understand how the economy functions.
"Voters by the millions want to know basic economics, not for passing tests, but for grading politicians, and for understanding how the world works.... They have waited a long time for this book, by one of the nation's best and most trenchant minds."
-Michael Novak, American Enterprise Institute

Author Biography: Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. He writes on economics, history, social policy, ethnicity, and the history of ideas. Sowell's writings include a syndicated column appearing in 174 newspapers and a column in Forbes. He lives in Stanford, California.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
Clear and concise . . . Among economists of the past 30 years, [Sowell] stands very proud indeed.
If there is a single recent book that can advance economic literacy in this country, it is Thomas Sowell's latest book, Basic Economics . . . Sowell has managed to make economics humane again, relevant and interesting to young people and ordinary citizens . . . Buy a copy and read it immediately-no: buy two, and give one to a school teacher, a journalist, or a politician near you!
The Washington Times
Dr. Thomas Sowell has just released his latest treasure . . . Basic Economics is not only valuable for a general lay-person audience; it would also benefit lawyers, politicians, and, yes, economists, as well.
The American Spectator
Basic Economics might do a great service in the hands of the lay voter for whom it is intended. Sowell fans will find it a good read and a good resource. His enemies will be no more inclined than usual to forgive him for deflating their most dearly held myths.
Claremont Review
Badly needed . . . Anyone who has been subjected to biased and dreary economics textbooks should read Basic Economics as a bracing corrective.
Business Wire
At last there is a citizen's guide to the economy, written by an economist who uses plain English . . . A comprehensive survey.
Ideas On Liberty
Thomas Sowell is one of the fine scholars of our time.
George Will
Basic Economics is not only valuable for a general lay-person audience; it would also benefit lawyers, politicians and, yes, economists. . .
Deseret News
All Democrats should be required to read Thomas Sowell's book 'Basic Economics'...
American Spectator
Sowell fans will find it a good read and a good resource.
Laissez-Faire Books
Basic Economics complements Henry Hazlitt's great classic Economics in One Lesson.
Library Journal
Syndicated columnist Sowell (economics, Hoover Inst.) is the author of 31 books and monographs on a broad range of topics, including race, culture, education, social policy, philosophy, and economics. In this groundbreaking work, he explains the basics of economics without resorting to the graphs, equations, and jargon that typically fill the textbooks and literature in the field. Along the way, he explains exactly what economics is and what its guiding principles are. Sowell covers a broad range of topics, from scarcity, the balance of trade, and price controls to minimum-wage laws, competition, profits and losses, and the role of government. Intended as a primer for the citizen not trained in the basics of economic theory, this book is flawed only in a somewhat confusing organization that leads to repetition. Recommended for public libraries. Norm Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Sowell, one of America's best-known economists and a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, explains the economy in plain English for general readers, covering everything from rent control to the international balance of payments. He uses examples drawn from around the world and from different time periods to show how whole societies create property or poverty for their people by the way they organize their economies. Chapters are in sections on prices, industry and commerce, work and pay, time and risk, the national economy, the international economy, and popular economic fallacies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465081387
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/1900
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 384
  • Lexile: 1480L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and has taught economics at Cornell, UCLA, and Amherst. Author of Intellectuals and Society and the classic Basic Economics, among others, Sowell lives in Stanford, California.
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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
What is Economics?     1
Prices and Markets     9
The Role of Prices     11
Price Controls     38
An Overview     62
Industry and Commerce     87
The Rise and Fall of Businesses     89
The Role of Profits-and Losses     108
Big Business and Government     138
An Overview     162
Work and Pay     181
Productivity and Pay     183
Controlled Labor Markets     207
An Overview     237
Time and Risk     255
Investment and Speculation     257
Risks and Insurance     282
An Overview     307
The National Economy     323
National Output     325
Money and the Banking System     342
Government Functions     364
Government Finance     393
An Overview     419
The International Economy     431
International Trade     433
International Transfers of Wealth     457
An Overview     480
Special Economic Issues     493
Myths about Markets     495
"Non-Economic" Values     518
Parting Thoughts     544
Questions     553
Sources     569
Index     615
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Customer Reviews

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( 32 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2004


    Anyone not familiar with the work of Thomas Sowell would be well advised to check out the blurbs on the back of the dust jacket of Basic Economics, where praise flows from conservative bastions like The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and the American Enterprise Institute. Take this as a warning that, even though Sowell¿s book does offer an excellent plain-English explanation of fundamental economics, its real mission is to explain how many societal catastrophes are caused by government policies he deems faulty. In so doing, he takes aim at minimum wage standards, rent control and, through his spirited defense of international trade, the anti-globalization crowd. But no matter which side of the ideological fence you occupy, we suggest reading this book for its insightful distillation of some of our most passionate political debates down to their economic essentials.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2004

    good book

    This book is easy to understand and is easy reading. If you are learning or just want a better understanding, It is a perfect choice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Great book on world economics.

    I'm an MBA with a background in engineering. I have an OK understanding of centrally planned economies verses consumer driven economies. This book provides excellent historically examples showing the effects of the political/economic model a country has on the quality of life of it's people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2002

    The Ockhams' Razor of Economics

    Simplicity in teaching requires much understanding and scholarship, none of which is more apparent than with "Basic Economics." Economics is simply the study of human behavior in a market environment, which is exactly how Dr. Sowell presents his case. A rare find in the Economics world where simple ideas consume many a page. The 14th Century Franciscan William Ockhams' idea that the easiest explanation is most likely the best is proven once again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2002

    Don't let the subject intimidate you

    This truly is a MUST READ. Dr. Sowell is a master of the English language and clearly explains the nuances of economics with thoughtful organization and down to earth examples. Basic Economics pulls back the curtains on political "solutions" and shows why capitalism offers society the best chance to maximize benefits available to all of it's members.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2002

    Required Reading for EVERY American

    This is the basics of Economics and the free-market system, what has worked, what hasn't and why. My only complaint is that it was not more technical and detailed. However, for someone that is looking for an introduction or just someone who wants to learn the overall workings the economic system and policies in a clear, VERY easy to understand format then this book is for you. I said in the subject that this was required reading because the author also points out past (and present) political policies in that politicians deceive the public (whether intentionally or not) with policies that are emotionally popular even though they make no economic sense and it lot of cases actually cause the situation they are trying to prevent. Very interesting and enlightening.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2001

    Economics Made Interesting and Accessible

    Dr. Thomas Sowell has taken a rather challenging and complex subject - economics -and explained it in a manner that is easy to understand and interesting to boot. For the student of economics, this book will give you a better appreciation and understanding of all the typical subjects covered in an economics course - (1) Scarcity, (2) Demand and Supply, (3) Prices, (4) Competition, (5) Money, (6) World Trade, etc. For the average adult, this book explains in an accessible manner how and why businesses, households, and governments interact in producing goods and services to meet people's needs. Basic Economics is written without any of the intimidating economic and financial jargon present in other books treating this subject. The numerous historical examples of economic forays run amok make this book a fascinating read. Dr. Sowell provides case after case, covering different nations at different times, of governmental or social policies that were meant to produce one set of results but that gave rise to completely unintended, even harmful, results. He then provides examples of the demise of many formerly dominant American firms - companies that lost vast market share and fell into decline just because they failed to adjust their business strategies to best counter the competition or to meet the changing needs, wants, and other circumstances of the consuming public; to wit: White Castle Hamburgers overtaken by Mc Donald's because the latter had drive-thru windows; A&P Supermarkets, a cost-cutting leader, overtaken by Walmart, a more effective cost-cutter. Finally, Dr. Sowell exlains how examining economic incentives helps to understand why societies, government institutions, private firms, etc., behave the way they do. He gives plenty of evidence in support of consumer sovereignty, free markets, and minimal government intrusion in the marketplace. He also gives numerous examples of the failures common to centrally planned economies, such as the former Soviet Union's. If you want to understand a whole lot about the way the world operates, or make informed decisions about the likely consequences of government programs, such as rent control or social security, you must read this book.

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