Two Book Reviews on Economics

If anyone knows me, I can’t stand economics.  I know it’s a practical field, but for me, it’s an abstract field unless someone can explain it to me through examples.  Luckily, I’ve come across two books that does just that.

Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

This book is perfect to any introduction to economics.  It talks about the fundamentals to any capitalistic society.  It talks about markets, incentives, how the government is needed in economics, but at the same time, it’s best if it stays out of the market, human capital, productivity, branding, the politics of economics, inflation, the Federal Reserve, trade, globalization, and much more.

What made this more interesting is that there are no graphs, math equations, or statistical data that keeps you bogged down.  The book has wit and deals with everyday common problems that are easy to follow along.

I have certainly learned a lot from this book and I can see why people who study economics tend to have a libertarian outlook in life.  The author tries to be as non-biased as possible (although I could hint some bias in a few issues, such as privatizing education), but it’s well-thought out and it certainly brings up ideas where the government is needed in economics.  Hint: it comes down to the idea that if people won’t privatize something, it’s best if the government steps in.

If anyone is against free trade or globalization, you should read this book!  If you think that the free market is a good idea and that globalization is the way to go, you should also read this book.

This book is so good and well-written that I believe this should be taught in high school if possible.  I know economics probably won’t be a popular subject to take in high school, but it gives students a fresh start once they leave high school to figure out how the economy works.  If anything, this should be a book that every college student reads.  I wish I knew more about economics and this book when I was starting out in college.

If you have to opportunity, read this book!

More Sex is Safer Sex by Steven E. Landsburg

With a title like this, how can you not read this?

Landsburg has a job and writing style that I wish I could do.  If I ever was an economist, I would want my specialty to deal with incentives.  Indeed, I’m always trying to figure out ways to create incentives for my students to read.  Perhaps I’ll blog about that later.  Landsburg looks at the world in a strict and logical cost-benefit analysis.  From the first chapter, he makes an argument that having more sex will actually decrease the outbreak of AIDS.  I won’t give away the argument, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Let me just quote the preface:

Common sense tells you that promiscuity spreads AIDS, population growth threatens prosperity, and misers make bad neighbors.  I wrote this book to assault your common sense.

My weapons are evidence and logic, especially the logic of economics.  Logic is most enlightening–and surely most fun–when it challenges us to see the world in a whole new way.  This book is about that kind of logic.

Daughters cause divorce.  A thirst for revenge is healthier than a thirst for gold.  A ban on elephant hunting is bad news for elephants, and disaster assistance is bad news for the people who receive it.  Malicious computer hackers should be executed.  The most charitable people support the fewest charities.  Writing books is socially irresponsible; elbowing your way to the front of the water-fountain line is not.  The tall, the slim, and the beautiful earn higher wages–but not for the reasons you think.

Each of those statements is closer to the truth than you might imagine.  If you common sense tells you otherwise, remember that common sense also tells you the earth is flat.

Just based on that alone, it should pique your interest.

Some of his arguments I could see having some merit.  Other arguments I thought needed some more backing (and he does say that he wonders if he’s wrong about certain ideas).  Others, I couldn’t really see where he’s going.  But the book certainly has logical consistency which is what I aim for in thinkers.

He doesn’t expect everyone to agree with him, just to look at things in a whole new way. It certainly made me do just that.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Book Review, Capitalism, Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Two Book Reviews on Economics

  1. thekillerj says:

    I like the sex book preface. Are his arguments actually based on anything empirical, or is he stretching and extrapolating a lot?

    • shaunmiller says:

      His arguments are purely empirical. In fact, he recommends to put your intuitions and “common sense” at the door because they can get you into trouble. Obviously, people have said that he’s extrapolating or stretching the truth. However, he realizes that and responds to these replies. I’ll let you borrow it sometime if you want.

  2. Pingback: What I’ve Learned this Past Year — 2010 Edition « Shaun Miller’s Weblog

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