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

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

by Tim Harford

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199792719
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 804,445
File size: 3 MB

About 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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The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor - and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
addunn3 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Good overview of economics, definitely opinionated guy, but well worth the read. Explains why trade tariffs are usually a bad idea, why buying products from 3rd world is OK and better for the world, and how to create incentives to solve problems.
waitingtoderail on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A better book than Freakonomics, Harford is wide-ranging without being scattershot like Levitt and Dubner. I found myself disagreeing with Harford in some places but have to admit he made me reconsider some things that I would never have expected to. Worth the read, but read with a critical eye.
maunder on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Tim Harford indeed explains why the rich are rich but I think his explanation of why you can never buy a decent used car holds more water than his first premise. Mr. Harford believes that truly unfettered free enterprise is self regulating and is the only way to ensure that things are bought and sold at their true value. His explanations become less and less convincing when he enters into the realm public policy on such things as health care. While he admits (and shows figures to prove) that the United States has the most expensive health care system in the world which, when compared to other system provides woeful coverage, he advances a plan of governemnt funded catastrophic care and individual private forced savings as an alternative. Certainly the recent vagaries of the stock market give many people pause to question whether government regulations should not play a role in national and international financial policies. Mr. Harford would seem to disagree.
librisissimo on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Expalins in clear and informative language how economic systems work, and especially how the free market is subverted by political desires and corruption.
rohelm on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Made me paranoid at the supermarket haha amazing analyses of everyday scenarios through the prism of behavioral economics.
ashishg on LibraryThing 10 months ago
An excellent, intriguing, insightful and stimulating introduction to fundamentals of economics, and its impact in everyday life. Deals with basic pricing, externalities, international trade, globalization, market failures, game theory, and more.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I picked up a bargain priced copy of this work after having leafed through Tyler Cowen's hardback Inner Economist (waiting for the paperback version). Having studied the craft of economics, I am probably not the book's target audience. Economics has at last arrived in the pop science book section, albeit in a strange format. Just like the physics books, it sheds all elements of math and rigour: Look, no need to think, no complicated formulas. Add a snappy moniker ("freakonomics", "undercover", ...) for extra street cred. Unfortunately, these junkfood books are very low in nutritional value. The reader is only left with an illusion of understanding. Better read a textbook on microeconomics or managerial economics.Tim Harford has written a readable book which presents economic concepts such as markets, scarcity, choices, externalities, asymmetric information, adverse selection, games, auctions, comparative advantage and free trade via household examples (coffee and beer being Harford's staples). Essentially an unconnected tour of some ideas and concepts of some Nobel prize winners from the perspective of a rich, white male.The book has three obvious blind spots: Firstly, the good aspects of government (and government's function in a modern market economy) are hardly mentioned. Mostly, government is treated as the source of failure, waste and stupidity. While the value of an institutional framework gets a positive remark, the valuable contributions of economists to the study of government are ignored. Secondly, Harford is not interested in discussions of equality and fairness, invalidating his subtitle ("exposing why the rich are rich and the poor are poor"). Your parents determine much of your station in life. I wonder if a Harford born in Cameroon would express a similar world-view. Again, a less insular treatment would have illuminated some of the contributions of economics to the discussion of fairness and equality. Thirdly, spending his time between London and Washington DC, the author has developed a smug view about the rest of the world. Instead of belittling corrupt Africa, he might have taken his examples from corrupt Washington (federal or district, your choice). Public transport is notoriously bad in the US and the UK too. No need to go to Cameroon. He praises the US imperialistic market opening of Japan in 1854 but ignores the British gunships promoting free trade in opium a few years later. A less Panglossian worldview would make the text better.Overall, a book I can not recommend for teaching purposes or as an introduction for beginners. Its one-sidedness does not present the full range of economics. Curiously (or to demonstrate my objections to the text), neither book nor index mention the founder of economics, Adam Smith, a professor of moral philosophy (hear, hear). The undercover economist has yet to uncover the foundations of economics.
bupkiss on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I liked it better than Freakonomics. Anecdotes were just as interesting, but the explanations were more fleshed-out. Better introduction to the principles of microeconomics. I especially liked the discussion of Starbucks pricing.
dvf1976 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Similar to Freakonomics, but a bit more standard "economist" fare...More dollars and GDP talk than the Freakonomics authors who were all over the place. (but made a superior book)
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