The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Monday, 26 March 2007]

Review: The Undercover Economist

Marketed as being similar to Freakonomics, which it is not.

Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist is an interesting and breezy read which attempts to explain the basics of economic theory and how it applies to the everyday world. Unfortunately while it is being marketed as a hands-on book akin to Freakonomics, the real-life examples in the book are really only there to ground some of the author’s theorizing, which is very different from the work done in Freakonomics.

Nevertheless, Harford does a good job of making the basics of economic theory interesting and accessible, and while the concepts he covers are very basic, his explanations are lively and interesting.

The problem with The Undercover Economist is that it isn’t so much a book as a series of unrelated essays, which makes it disjointed and choppy.

Refreshingly, Harford is upfront about his predilection for free trade and the benefits to be derived thereof. Perhaps it was never his intention, as the book delves with the basics of economic theory, but it would have been nice to see him do a more thorough job of shoring up his beliefs with examples.

All in all, The Undercover Economist is a brief and interesting but ultimately disjointed read.

A warning: If, like me, you purchase it due to it being marketed as a close kin of Freakonomics, you will probably be disappointed.

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