Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science / Edition 1

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Finally! A book about economics that won't put you to sleep. In fact, you won't be able to put this one down.Naked Economics makes up for all of those Econ 101 lectures you slept through (or avoided) in college, demystifying key concepts, laying bare the truths behind the numbers, and answering those questions you have always been too embarrassed to ask. For all the discussion of Alan Greenspan in the media, does anyone know what the Fed actually does? And what about those blackouts in California? Were they a conspiracy on the part of the power companies? Economics is life. There's no way to understand the important issues without it. Now, with Charles Wheelan's breezy tour, there's no reason to fear this highly relevant subject. With the commonsensical examples and brilliantly acerbic commentary we've come to associate with The Economist, Wheelan brings economics to life. Amazingly, he does so with nary a chart, graph, or mathematical equation in sight—certainly a feat to be witnessed firsthand. Economics is a crucial subject. There's no way to understand the important issues without it. Now, with Charles Wheelan's breezy tour, there's also no reason to fear it. "Explains our global economy in a way that is—gasp!—actually entertaining."—Book "Translates the arcane and often inscrutable jargon of the professional economist into language accessible to the inquiring but frustrated layman....Clear, concise, informative, [and] witty."—Chicago Tribune "Wheelan has an anti-Midas touch. If he touched gold he would turn it to life."—Burton G. Malkiel, from the foreword

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Editorial Reviews

Eric Wargo
From simple supply and demand to the much more frightening subject of monetary policy, this book manages to explain our global economy in a way that is (gasp!) actually entertaining. Economist correspondent Wheelan explains money and markets using current events and a dose of wit, and answers questions like: Do anti-globalization protesters in Seattle and elsewhere have a point? Are Asian sweatshops really a bad thing? How does the Federal Reserve work? (And why did Sen. John McCain quip that if Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan died, they would have to prop him up and put dark sunglasses on him?) Though often seen as a conservative science, economics isn't simply an advertisement for the Republican Party, Wheelan says. But he also explains why government regulations can worsen the environmental and social problems they're meant to solve when well-intentioned liberal politicians misunderstand real human motives in the marketplace. There's insight here for everyone—and even some practical investment advice along the way. All this, and without a single chart or table.
Publishers Weekly
Ever wonder what it means when the Fed raises interest rates? Or why there are occasional fears of inflation? To the rescue comes this simplified and chatty nontextbook textbook. Using words rather than math, it makes economics accessible, comprehensible and appealing. Wheelan, the Economist's Midwest correspondent, breezily explains the big picture, including finance, capital markets, government institutions and more. His informal style belies the sophisticated and scholarly underpinnings of his subject. Wheelan champions the often-maligned science: "Economics should not be accessible only to the experts. The ideas are too important and too interesting." Well before book's end, highly persuasive yet simply illustrated concepts sway the reader. Complex ideas are demystified and made clear, using familiar examples, such as the price of sweatshirts at the Gap. A chapter on financial markets compares a grapefruit and ice cream fad diet with get-rich-quick schemes. (He wryly offers the mantra "Save. Invest. Repeat.") Similarly, an explanation of interest rates compares them to "rental rates," an easy-to-grasp concept. And to convey what the major international institutions do, Wheelan writes: "If the World Bank is the world's welfare agency, then its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is the fire department responsible for dousing international financial crises." Wheelan's simplicity does not mask the detailed encapsulation of complicated issues, such as relative wealth, globalization and the importance of human capital. He smartly shows that while economic consequences can be global, they are also a part of everyday life. (Sept.) Forecast: A catchy cover illustration a naked stick figure with George Washington's dollar bill face covering his middle and the promise of finally understanding economics will attract recent college grads and uncertain older folk. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Economics has often been an orphan in the world of college electives largely ignored, rarely enjoyed, and almost instantly forgotten by undergraduates. In his new book, Wheelan, a Chicago-based correspondent for the Economist, has decided to shake the dust off economics, making the case that it is not just an arcane academic science but a practical set of tools. Though he admits that many of us are "economically illiterate," his book is "not economics for dummies, it is economics for smart people who have never studied economics (or have only a vague recollection of doing so)." Eschewing jargon, charts, and equations, Wheelan gives us the essentials. He clearly defines terms like GDP and inflation, explaining how they work and what the short- and long-term impact might be. He makes a convincing argument that there is a role for "good" governmental regulation, using the Federal Reserve as a model. He also examines the pros and cons of taxation. Topics like productivity, trade, and globalization are insightfully covered as well. This is a thoughtful, well-written introduction to economics, with the author projecting a genuine excitement for his material that makes it not quite so dismal. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. Richard Drezen, The Washington Post/New York City Bureau Education Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In just a few easy lessons, economics journalist Wheelan can teach the most innocent reader to think like an economist. In an effortless, sprightly manner, Wheelan takes us from basic concepts to the most current economic difficulties. Old Man Malthus was wrong, we now know (there's plenty to eat), but the once-dismal science still has direct application to our present-day lives. The amoral marketplace is not a zero-sum game, but sometimes the market, like French democracy, doesn't quite work right. That's why Honda Civics lose head-on confrontations with Ford Explorers. Can you explain why Israel's gross domestic product is twice that of Saudi Arabia? Maximizing utility, incentive, and human capital may have something to do with it, and so may public policy, as the author demonstrates. He intelligibly bares consequential concepts like "adverse selection," "deadweight loss," "asymmetry of information," and "purchasing power parity"; he nicely explains the difference between fiscal and monetary policy and the Fed's job, as well as why it matters. Just how economic depression and virulent inflation wreak havoc is made clear. He tells us why the role of our government is largely helpful. (Are you really able to get bin Laden on your own?) Of course, when it comes to government intervention, there are cons along with the pros. (Health care, for example.) Are you discomfited by the policies of the World Bank or the activities of the IMF? Keep reading. You will probably be convinced that on the whole and in the long run globalization is a good thing. (Whether historical forces will work against it and bring on a worldwide depression is yet to be seen). The workings of the financial markets aremade simple. Meanwhile, Wheelan's investment advice, conforming to the immutable laws of economics, is patently sane: save, invest, diversify for the long run, and eschew get-rich-quick schemes. A gentle, clear, and accessible hornbook that should crowd out many other general texts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393049824
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 694,956
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Wheelan is the author of the internationally best-selling Naked Economics and Naked Statistics and a former correspondent for The Economist, and founder of The Centrist Party. He teaches public policy and economics at Dartmouth College and lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 52 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2011

    Great Read!!

    For anyone looking for a way to gain some basic knowledge of economics without the grsphs this is your book. I read it years ago in paperback and am excited to read it again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Want to know economics... read this.

    One of the most well written economics books that removes the technical terms and describes economics in layman's terms. If you want to grasp economics in a easily read way, this book is for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Wheelan's work is straightforward enough for a beginner (it has, in fact, been used as an Honors Economics textbook in high school) and detailed enough to not seem overly simplistic. The author leads one through the basic ideas and concepts of economics (with much relevant contemporary data) and teaches one to think like an economist. This book is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to find an enjoyable introduction to this "dismal" science.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    Dismal science? Not anymore!

    NAKED ECONOMICS came out long before the banking/housing crisis, but the pages on the S&L crisis were a blueprint for the latest finacial debacle. If only the U.S. government had learned its lesson the first time, we would be in a different place today. This book, as it came out long before, does not address that 2007 crash, but the logical progression of comparable behaviors, shown here, leads the reader to an intuitive grasp--not one filled with incomprehensible numbers and mathematical processes--of the issues. Intuition is the key, but there is nothing mystical about it. Wheelan helps the lay person to see economics and understand the behind-the-scenes working of it. An economist who shuns the so-called virtues of "share the wealth," Wheelan reinforces the idea that capitalism ultimately generates wealth and choice, and it tends to provide a better life for almost all, as a result. A free market means that cost cutting will cost jobs, but, over time, progress, not stagnation, is the result. He is not afraid to say, though, that such ideas are always more acceptable in the abstract than when they happen to us. That is a serious issus, seriously addressed. My animosity toward by boards of corporations when they give CEOs huge stock options was transformed by his explanation of the rationale behind such decisions, and their benefit for me, the shareholder in a corporation over which I have no control. I am no less antagonistic toward CEOs for getting so much for doing so little, and for creating a wealth gap that is unconscionable, but at least I now understand the motivation behind the decision. This "dismal" science never really was that, but it seemed a far cry from transformational. Not any longer, because Wheelan knows how to write in a way that challenges the ideas and energizes the mind of the reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    I am the kind of person who likes to have a basic idea of promin

    I am the kind of person who likes to have a basic idea of prominent things that are discussed among "fancy people" during dinner parties or casual lunch conversations. With this book you are able to gain a basic understanding of what it means to think like an economist. It reads more like a humor book than a textbook, and the ideas he presents can really get you thinking. I recommend this book to anyone even if the are not planning on ever studying economics because even if you don't study it, it still exists and you should know about it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012


    This was really good, got me really excited to be an econ major next year. Probably a little to simple at some parts if you already know a bit about economics, though at other parts some concepts can be tough to grasp. A really great read all around and a good starting point for looking into other works :) highly recommend

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  • Posted December 17, 2011

    Great info for the non-economist

    I breezed though this book and re-read it to make sure that I had understood some of the finer points that had been made. Until now, economics had to do with how much money I had in my checking account (never enough <G>) but now I've got at least enough to discuss the subject more intelligently. The only problem I had with the book was that I sometimes got pretty chilly sitting around reading the book sans clothes. I recommend this book for anyone who would like to have more than just a basic idea of what economics are and how they function in our daily lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2011

    Great read!

    Just a terrific explanation of the science of economics in plain simple language that makes it easy to understand. Updated version is timely given our present world economic challenges. The explanation of the role that public policy plays in managing the economy is very well written without being political. Highly recomend!

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  • Posted November 17, 2011

    I used this in class

    This book helped me get an A- in a subject I barely understood!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2009

    I would recommend...

    I Liked this book, but it wouldnt be something i would suggest to someone who knows nothing about economics. It jumos back and fourth which works out for me, just i know some students at my school who would get confused. It was readble just not my kind of avarage book.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    A great intro that never talks down to the reader!

    This tome is well-written, interesting, and quite relevant despite the earlier publishing date. It would be interesting to see an updated version considering the economic mess that we are currently experiencing. Economic choices & ideas are cogently disseminated,allowed to be explained, illustrated with good examples, and reviewed later on when needed. I would recommend this for anyone, maybe less so for an economist except as a guide to some breezy & interesting writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    If you want to learn something about Economics.

    This novel was well written, but confusing. I found the book somewhat informative but felt like it was a little unorganized. Many of the topics jumped around from place to place, stating different instances and aspects of economics, so much that it was almost overwhelming. <BR/>The book was humorous, but not so entertaining that I was drawn in. I believe that the book is a good read for those who have a interest in economics and the way it works in the world, but I would not reccomend this book to someone who has just been introduced to economics.

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  • Posted November 28, 2008

    What got me started.

    I've had this book for years, and I continue to find myself picking it up and re-reading ti from time to time. I did that just recently saying I wish more teachers introduced Economics to students this way. It inspired me to start a blog for that very reason, helping kids understand Economics a little more by what they know and I'm doing that with a game called World of Warcraft. I created The WoW Economist, and a lot of my reasons for writing on the topics and the way I write on the topic started with this book.

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  • Posted November 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A great economics book.

    Fantastic book. Perfect mix of economic concepts and interesting stories. I've seen it used successfully in econ classrooms and I will be attempting to do the same. Interesting from page one. I'm an unashamed fan of the author's Yahoo! Finance column; even though I don't agree with everything he posts there, it always, always gives me stuff to think about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    highly recommended!!!

    Naked Economics is an edifying and highly enjoyable read. Well written, funny, serious, and easy to understand. This is the type of book that every American should read (especially opponents of free trade).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2004

    I learned more from this than 2 Econ classes!

    The main reason i picked this book up was because I always had a top-level interest in economics, but have never found a book to explain it. This should replace the high school text books - If I walked out of High School with this book under my belt I would have been more business and politically driven. If I walked out of COLLEGE with this book under my belt instead of my basic econ class I would have had more of a clue as to what I was doing with my credit cards and savings, as well as gotten a heads up before starting my business... Very enjoyable - highly recommended, a great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2002

    Weighty Book, Simple as 123

    Excellent book for anyone who wants to get a grasp on economics in general. Charles Wheelan's writing style is what struck me the most. Very elegant, yet simple language used to explain complex topics. I would highly recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2002

    American-style capitalism!

    As the Krokus review states, there is a lot of material covered in this book. It reviews much about macroeconomics that a standard undergraduate text would cover, and then some more, but with better examples. Indeed the examples are very current and make the book very timely. However, I fear in a few years those examples may not mean much and presently a few of the comparisons may be puzzling to non-americans who lack the common cultural reference points. Still, it IS an easy book to read. The chapters are short, interesting, and build a little on each other. I particularly learned from the federal reserve chapter (10). Chapters 11 and 12 recap the book very nicely -and expand on it- with great examples. I did not like the simple references to the "rock-throwing thugs in Seattle and Genoa" (page 200), and throughtout, but it's part of the coverage on trade & globalization. I look forward the reading more on some topics by researching the intersting material in the book's footnotes. I do wish he had given more footnotes with his examples, as I would have liked to see the research behind many items presented - very intersting book. The book clearly shows "how to think like an economist" and that is its goal, I believe - and no charts or graphs, just good examples. This book should be very interesting for foreign readers who wish to understand american-style capitalist thought. I hope it gets translated into Spanish, Chinese, and other languages. Makes me want to read more about deflation - are we headed there?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews

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