The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run--or Ruin--an Economy

The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run--or Ruin--an Economy

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by Tim Harford
     
 

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A provocative and lively exploration of the increasingly important world of macroeconomics, by the author of the bestselling The Undercover Economist.

Thanks to the worldwide financial upheaval, economics is no longer a topic we can ignore. From politicians to hedge-fund managers to middle-class IRA holders, everyone must pay attention to how and

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Overview

A provocative and lively exploration of the increasingly important world of macroeconomics, by the author of the bestselling The Undercover Economist.

Thanks to the worldwide financial upheaval, economics is no longer a topic we can ignore. From politicians to hedge-fund managers to middle-class IRA holders, everyone must pay attention to how and why the global economy works the way it does.

Enter Financial Times columnist and bestselling author Tim Harford. In this new book that demystifies macroeconomics, Harford strips away the spin, the hype, and the jargon to reveal the truth about how the world’s economy actually works. With the wit of a raconteur and the clear grasp of an expert, Harford explains what’s really happening beyond today’s headlines, why all of us should care, and what we can do about it to understand it better.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/11/2013
In his follow-up to The Undercover Economist, Financial Times columnist Harford brings vigor and even humor to otherwise dry topics such as the difference between GDP and GDP per capita. Presented as a Socratic dialogue between Harford and the reader, with questions that can veer cutesy and answers that become arch, the reader is treated nonetheless to a thorough happily concise explanation of economic policies and issues. After discussing microeconomics and the Keynesian approach, which Harford openly supports, the last third of the book focuses on macroeconomics, an analysis that takes into account more outside influences. By Harford’s own admission, the complex nature of culture and populations makes the outcome of any economic policy virtually impossible to forecast, which makes the book’s title disappointingly inaccurate. The economist not only doesn’t strike back, he doesn’t strike at all. By presenting explanations of, but no opinions on, the efficacy of economic responses, Harford leaves it to readers to form their own conclusions as to why the microeconomic stimulus plan in the U.S. was neither more nor less effective than the more macroeconomic austerity measures in Europe. However, by remaining noncommittal and demystifying the topic, Harford brings clarity to what has often been comprehensible to only a select few. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Having taught us the basics in his best-selling The Underground Economist, Financial Times columnist Harford here gives us instruction in macroeconomics, e.g., the study of how the global economy works, starting with a user-friendly question: What would you do if you ran the world's economy? He also explains why we should care.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-18
It's hard enough to manage, or even understand, our own finances. The "Undercover Economist" seeks to teach us how to manage the economic affairs of nations. Before we can fix the world's dysfunctional economies, Financial Times columnist Harford (Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, 2011, etc.) would have us understand the forces that make national and global fortunes thrive or fail--i.e., macroeconomics. Harford is a Socratic sort of tutor; here, he presents the questions from the point of view of a wonkish student. Money, we learn, encompasses three things: a store of value, a medium of exchange and a means of accounting. Harford neatly defines such terms as "nominal GDP targeting," "recession," "liquidity trap," "price rigidity," "consumption smoothing" and "spending multiplier." Remarkably, it is all quite accessible and occasionally waggish. Readers will easily follow a discussion of stimulus versus austerity and determining the right amount of inflation (3 or 4 percent). The author also notes that printing money is sometimes a good practice. John Maynard Keynes, the patriarch of modern macroeconomics, is the right fellow for the short term, and the classic economists are fine for the long haul. As the recent crisis teaches, understanding and managing a global economy is difficult and complex, requiring many thinkers. Harford examines Keynes, Paul Samuelson, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and other wise practitioners. There is much to learn from the Underground Economist's primer, though against whom he is striking back, as the title has it, isn't clear. Readers may not be called upon to manipulate the world's economies, but the next time a conversation turns to the "Phillips Curve," Harford's students need not be excluded. Uncovering cant and weak practice with some common sense and plenty of experience, Harford puts the art of macroeconomics within reach, making the unruly study considerably less dismal.
From the Publisher
"Every Tim Harford book is cause for celebration. He makes ‘the dismal science’ seem like an awful lot of fun.”
– Malcolm Gladwell

“With fascinating examples and vivid explanations, Tim Harford succeeds in turning macroeconomics into a gripping read.”
—Simon Singh, author of Fermat’s Last Theorem

"Tim Harford is perhaps our very best popular economics writer, and with this book he turns his attention to inflation, unemployment, business cycles, and macroeconomics, with lucid clarity and compelling insight."
—Tyler Cowen, author of Create Your Own Economy and The Great Stagnation

"Tim Harford is a brave man to write a book about macroeconomics for the lay person; luckily, he is also a funny man...his perky style and chatty asides keep us grinning... [and he] has a knack for posing questions the average reader will have wondered about."
Wall Street Journal

"Harford has a knack for writing about economic issues in a clear and gripping way."
Worth Magazine

“Harford brings vigor and even humor to otherwise dry topics…[and] clarity to what has often been comprehensible to only a select few.”
Publishers Weekly  

“Independent thinkers aspiring to a better understanding of the world economy and of possible fixes for the current downturn will delight in this crisp, readable, and knowledgeable explication and analysis of macroeconomic events and theoretical perspectives.”
Library Journal 

“By the end of this book, you'll have learned so much that you'll be just as confused as the experts – and anything but bored.”
The Christian Science Monitor 

“Tim Harford is perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world… what [he] has achieved with his new book is nothing less than the holy grail of popular economics. While retaining the accessible style of popular microeconomics, he has managed to explain, with clarity and good humour, the knottiest and most important problems facing the world’s biggest economies today.”
The New Statesman

“With beguiling clarity and…effortlessly breezy style… Harford explains the subject with impressive clarity and wit.”
The Times (London)

“Tim Harford is a brilliant explainer of economics…A superb guide, whatever your level of expertise.”
The Evening Standard
 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594631405
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/16/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Simon Singh
With fascinating examples and vivid explanations, Tim Harford succeeds in turning macroeconomics into a gripping read. --Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Last Theorem
Malcolm Gladwell
Every Tim Harford book is cause for celebration. He makes 'the dismal science' seem like an awful lot of fun. --Malcolm Gladwell
From the Publisher
"Every Tim Harford book is cause for celebration. He makes ‘the dismal science’ seem like an awful lot of fun.”
– Malcolm Gladwell

“With fascinating examples and vivid explanations, Tim Harford succeeds in turning macroeconomics into a gripping read.”
—Simon Singh, author of Fermat’s Last Theorem

"Tim Harford is perhaps our very best popular economics writer, and with this book he turns his attention to inflation, unemployment, business cycles, and macroeconomics, with lucid clarity and compelling insight."
—Tyler Cowen, author of Create Your Own Economy and The Great Stagnation

"Tim Harford is a brave man to write a book about macroeconomics for the lay person; luckily, he is also a funny man...his perky style and chatty asides keep us grinning... [and he] has a knack for posing questions the average reader will have wondered about."
Wall Street Journal

"Harford has a knack for writing about economic issues in a clear and gripping way."
Worth Magazine

“Harford brings vigor and even humor to otherwise dry topics…[and] clarity to what has often been comprehensible to only a select few.”
Publishers Weekly  

“Independent thinkers aspiring to a better understanding of the world economy and of possible fixes for the current downturn will delight in this crisp, readable, and knowledgeable explication and analysis of macroeconomic events and theoretical perspectives.”
Library Journal 

“By the end of this book, you'll have learned so much that you'll be just as confused as the experts – and anything but bored.”
The Christian Science Monitor 

“Tim Harford is perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world… what [he] has achieved with his new book is nothing less than the holy grail of popular economics. While retaining the accessible style of popular microeconomics, he has managed to explain, with clarity and good humour, the knottiest and most important problems facing the world’s biggest economies today.”
The New Statesman

“With beguiling clarity and…effortlessly breezy style… Harford explains the subject with impressive clarity and wit.”
The Times (London)

“Tim Harford is a brilliant explainer of economics…A superb guide, whatever your level of expertise.”
The Evening Standard
 

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Meet the Author

Tim Harford is the author of The Undercover Economist, The Logic of Life, and Adapt. He writes two columns for the Financial Times, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, Esquire, Parade, New York, and Wired. He lives with his family in Oxford.

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The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Mitton More than 1 year ago
It’s odd in economic writing but Hartford makes a genuine attempt to understand and explain economics based on numbers without political bias. In a sea of books purporting to explain why the other guy is wrong and the writer is correct it’s nice, I think, to find an accessible writer focusing on what is provable. Well, arguable. Hartford has the enjoyable skill for making the difficult sound a little less so. His writing is accessible and his explanations easy to digest. Compared to his other books this one is different: he writes in question and answer form. I notice that other reviewers are bothered by it. The style lends itself to reading in smaller chunks - slogging through page after page of Q&A wears one down. But don’t be put off – it’s accessible and very readable. In this book he takes on the larger picture of macroecomonics with the same insight he uses in his other books. He lauds logic and history when it is repeatable and explores more deeply when it seems to fail us – we are human beings after all – as in unemployment. Topics include GNP, inflation, money, stimulus, and both the ‘babysitting’ and ‘prison camp’ recession. No doubt there are cranks on all sides deriding Hartford as leaning too far this way or that. It’s how economists who don’t write books make a living. But for the average interested reader there is much to learn from this very able teacher. You won’t come away understanding triple variable investment curves but you will have an uncommon insight into economy that ought to make you the life of the party.