Friday, 1 August 2014

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

As the author himself wrote in the introduction to his book,

I would like to thank you for buying this book, but if you’re anything like me you haven’t bought it at all.
Sure I haven’t. Normally I don’t buy the paperback editions that shout at me from their covers “OVER ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD”. (My reasoning being, that’s enough already, the author won’t die of hunger.) Apparently, the landlady of the house that we rent did buy this book. I thought I’ll give it a try.

The book was first published in 2006. Next year, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression began. In hindsight, it is too easy to kick the author in the pants for his rather naïve faith in free-market capitalism, but hey, I don’t always look for things that are not easy. So let’s kick him. Then again, what’s the point doing it eight years later? I’m sure he learned by now at least some of his lessons.

There are many things I disagree with, but I have enjoyed the book anyway. Or maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much? It is well-written, occasionally funny, and makes you think, be skeptical, and go and research those numbers for yourself. And if it is so, Tim Harford should be proud that he made you think and even save some money. (For example, by going for the cheapest of the cappuccinos in Starbucks, or by not buying The Undercover Economist.) Last but not least, he knows Three Men in a Boat (or at least its first chapter), and that counts for something in my book.

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