The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!

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Overview


An economist's version of The Way Things Work, this engaging volume is part field guide to economics and part expose of the economic principles lurking behind daily events, explaining everything from traffic jams to high coffee prices.
The Undercover Economist is for anyone who's wondered why the gap between rich and poor nations is so great, or why they can't seem to find a decent second-hand car, or how to outwit Starbucks. This book offers the hidden story behind these and other questions, as economist Tim Harford ranges from Africa, Asia, Europe, and of course the United States to reveal how supermarkets, airlines, and coffee chains--to name just a few--are vacuuming money from our wallets. Harford punctures the myths surrounding some of today's biggest controversies, including the high cost of health-care; he reveals why certain environmental laws can put a smile on a landlord's face; and he explains why some industries can have high profits for innocent reasons, while in other industries something sinister is going on. Covering an array of economic concepts including scarce resources, market power, efficiency, price gouging, market failure, inside information, and game theory, Harford sheds light on how these forces shape our day-to-day lives, often without our knowing it.
Showing us the world through the eyes of an economist, Tim Harford reveals that everyday events are intricate games of negotiations, contests of strength, and battles of wits. Written with a light touch and sly wit, The Undercover Economist turns "the dismal science" into a true delight.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195189773
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,498,335
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Harford writes the "Dear Economist" column in the Financial Times Magazine, in which he draws upon the latest economic theories to provide tongue-in-cheek answers to readers' personal dilemmas. Formerly an economics editorial writer at the Financial Times, Harford has worked at the International Finance Corporation, for a major oil company, and as an economics tutor at Oxford University. He lives in Washington DC.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2006

    Cogent rundown on why the economy matters to you personally

    In this brief, cogent book, author Tim Harford provides an accessible, entertaining introduction to economic thinking. This deftly written report belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in economic matters - and as the author makes clear, everyone has an interest in economic matters. He deftly punctures the balloons of those who advocate fair trade coffee, protectionism, government-underwritten medical care and other such policies. These tactics may seem humane on the surface, but he contends that they often merely advance the selfish goals of the few at the expense of the many. If the book has a weakness, it is Harford¿s tendency to take certain points of political opinion for granted and to state them as moral choices without qualification or proof. For instance, he puts forth the admirable - though some would say questionable - notion that governments are obliged to cushion the shock of unemployment. That, however, is a quibble. We highly recommend this concise, comprehensive book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    Econ for Everyman

    The intriguing title does a fairly good job of hooking the reader and leads to a well thought book that attempts to explain in layman's terms why the world economy is the way it is. And the book does so by relating it to one's everyday experiences, not by spouting some pie-in-the-sky theory or equation. This book could easily be used as an introductory volume in any high school or college class, as it covers the most basic ideas of economics and extends them in an easy to follow manner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2006

    Another Good Economics of Everyday Life Book

    The Undercover Economist is about using basic (micro) economic principles to understand the world around us. Few if any of Harford's ideas are new. Thus, those with significant training in economics may wish to pass on this book. Moreover, a couple of Harford's 'explanations' are better labeled as interesting but untested hypotheses. Nevertheless, the book is a pretty good read for those with little or no training in economics. It is mostly well written and thought provoking. For those looking for even better examples of how economics can be applied to everyday life, try Bruce Madariaga's 'Economics for Life', or David Friedman's somewhat more technical 'Hidden Order'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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