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The Undercover Economist

By Tim Harford

(22)

| Paperback | 9780345494016

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Book Description

“The economy [isn’t] a bunch of rather dull statistics with names like GDP (gross domestic product),” notes Tim Harford, columnist and regular guest on NPR’s Marketplace, “economics is about who gets what and why.” Continue

“The economy [isn’t] a bunch of rather dull statistics with names like GDP (gross domestic product),” notes Tim Harford, columnist and regular guest on NPR’s Marketplace, “economics is about who gets what and why.” In this acclaimed and riveting book–part exposé, part user’s manual–the astute and entertaining columnist from the Financial Times demystifies the ways in which money works in the world. From why the coffee in your cup costs so much to why efficiency is not necessarily the answer to ensuring a fair society, from improving health care to curing crosstown traffic–all the dirty little secrets of dollars and cents are delightfully revealed by The Undercover Economist.

“A rare specimen: a book on economics that will enthrall its readers . . . It brings the power of economics to life.”
–Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics

“A playful guide to the economics of everyday life, and as such is something of an elder sibling to Steven Levitt’s wild child, the hugely successful Freakonomics.”
The Economist

“A tour de force . . . If you need to be convinced of the everrelevant and fascinating nature of economics, read this insightful and witty book.”
–Jagdish Bhagwati, author of In Defense of Globalization

“This is a book to savor.”
The New York Times

“Harford writes like a dream. From his book I found out why there’s a Starbucks on every corner [and] how not to get duped in an auction. Reading The Undercover Economist is like spending an ordinary day wearing X-ray goggles.”
–David Bodanis, author of Electric Universe

“Much wit and wisdom.”
–The Houston Chronicle
From Publishers Weekly
Nattily packaged-the cover sports a Roy Lichtensteinesque image of an economist in Dick Tracy garb-and cleverly written, this book applies basic economic theory to such modern phenomena as Starbucks' pricing system and Microsoft's stock values. While the concepts explored are those encountered in Microeconomics 101, Harford gracefully explains abstruse ideas like pricing along the demand curve and game theory using real world examples without relying on graphs or jargon. The book addresses free market economic theory, but Harford is not a complete apologist for capitalism; he shows how companies from Amazon.com to Whole Foods to Starbucks have gouged consumers through guerrilla pricing techniques and explains the high rents in London (it has more to do with agriculture than one might think). Harford comes down soft on Chinese sweatshops, acknowledging "conditions in factories are terrible," but "sweatshops are better than the horrors that came before them, and a step on the road to something better." Perhaps, but Harford doesn't question whether communism or a capitalist-style industrial revolution are the only two choices available in modern economies. That aside, the book is unequaled in its accessibility and ability to show how free market economic forces affect readers' day-to-day.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Harford exposes the dark underbelly of capitalism in Undercover Economist. Compared with Steven Levitt’s and Stephen J. Dubner’s popular Freakonomics (*** July/Aug 2005), the book uses simple, playful examples (written in plain English) to elucidate complex economic theories. Critics agree that the book will grip readers interested in understanding free-market forces but disagree about Harford’s approach. Some thought the author mastered the small ideas while keeping in sight the larger context of globalization; others faulted Harford for failing to criticize certain economic theories and to ground his arguments in political, organizational structures. Either way, his case studies—some entertaining, others indicative of times to come—will make you think twice about that cup of coffee.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

96 Reviews

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  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Tim Harford tiene una columna en el Financial Times, "Dear Economist", traducida hace un tiempo en Italia por el famoso periodico Internazionale. De allí, descubrí el interesante blog del autor en el que él se divierte en explicar problemas cotidiano ...(continue)

    Tim Harford tiene una columna en el Financial Times, "Dear Economist", traducida hace un tiempo en Italia por el famoso periodico Internazionale. De allí, descubrí el interesante blog del autor en el que él se divierte en explicar problemas cotidianos propuestos por los lectores en clave económica, en el estilo de Dubner y Levitt (Freakonomics).
    Pues, cómo pasa a menudo en estos casos, el libro ha sido una decepción: la columna se queda ganadora respecto al libro (que en concreto no es una recopilación de los artículos) que se pierde en divagaciones y desperdicia las ideas originales y a veces geniales del autor.

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    Bakis said on May 4, 2014 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Divertente testo divulgativo di economia di Tim Harford, editorialista del Financial Times.
    (riprendo con minime varizioni una recensione dal mio blog http://www.robertosedda.it/?p=687)

    È un libro che spiega in termini economici le cose banal ...(continue)

    Divertente testo divulgativo di economia di Tim Harford, editorialista del Financial Times.
    (riprendo con minime varizioni una recensione dal mio blog http://www.robertosedda.it/?p=687)

    È un libro che spiega in termini economici le cose banali della nostra vita quotidiana, tipo perché il caffé negli aereoporti è uniformemente cattivo ma costa il doppio del bar sotto casa, perché c’è sempre un ingorgo in centro a mezzogiorno, perché le sedi delle banche hanno portoni di bronzo, perché la CocaCola spende milioni di dollari in pubblicità insignificante e perché non esiste un oggetto come una buona macchina usata.

    Non solo si legge con molta facilità ma pian piano si scopre che va a toccare (a parte il prezzo del caffé…) questioni di grande rilevanza, come l’ambiente, la salute pubblica, la povertà del sud del mondo e così via.

    È fortemente consigliato per confrontarsi almeno una volta nella vita con l’eleganza, il rigore e, lasciatemelo dire, la bellezza del ragionamento economico classico. Si tratta di un regalo intellettuale che tutti prima o poi dovrebbero farsi.

    Naturalmente… sono tutte cavolate; nel senso che uno che ha studiato economia a fondo saprà che ci sono mille modelli che spiegano gli stessi fenomeni in maniera radicalmente diversa (e molto meno amichevole nei confronti del mercato e del capitale); tuttavia se si vuole arrivare a quel passo bisogna pur sempre passare per il pensiero economico ortodosso (e non schivarlo come certi teorici dell’economia alternativa dei miei stivali) e l’introduzione ininterrottamente spiritosa, provocante e… amichevole e gentile di Harford è quanto di meglio io conosca.

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    Roberto Sedda said on Jul 7, 2013 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    I had great expectations from this book. I thought it would be as funny and as interesting as "Freakonomics."
    Unfortunately, the author cannot set a uniform tone in this essay.

    At times he can be super-partes and show how ignorance (meaning: ...(continue)

    I had great expectations from this book. I thought it would be as funny and as interesting as "Freakonomics."
    Unfortunately, the author cannot set a uniform tone in this essay.

    At times he can be super-partes and show how ignorance (meaning: lack of mutual information) can affect the efficiency of exchanges. Other times, instead, he is clearly taking sides.
    He likes Gordon Brown and he will spend pages and pages explaining how his government has been better than New Zealand's, Australia's, and the USA's in setting up an auction for 3G licenses. You would expect that, since he's a British Labourist and there may be some bias involved, this didn't go on for pages, but it does.

    Harford likes London's congestion charge and he spends pages saying it. He asks himself the question: "what about the rich being able to allow the congestion charge as they want?" (which is my main concern about these charges) but he replies quickly "It's not true that the rich do not care what they spend." But they could!

    On the other hand, the first pages of "Adapt", which are attached to this book as a "teaser", look much more promising. There, it seems the tone is much clearer and quite an original theory is well explained. Will read!

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    Christina Shepard said on Sep 3, 2012 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Molti spunti su cui riflettere a lungo. Un'introduzione agli aspetti dell'economia applicati alla vita reale.

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    Xno71 said on Aug 8, 2012 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    *** This comment contains spoilers! ***

    此書可重讀。
    就一些社會的情況/問題提出經濟觀點,可刺激思考。

    1. 非市場的體系有它的好處,但缺了一樣東西;資訊──關於願望、需求、渴望與成本的資訊。有時候.缺乏資訊是值得的.因為在資訊缺乏下的平等與穩定,可以帶來好處。但有些時候,缺乏資訊會導致整個經濟和社會的錯亂與浪費。
    2. 千萬別將他人的陰謀看做是他人的無能。

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    虛空 said on Aug 5, 2012 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Buen libro sobre economía en la linea de freakconomics, pero se centra un poco más en explicar algunos aspectos básicos de economía pero con ejemplos muy didácticos.

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    Rata almizclera said on Jul 18, 2012 | Add your feedback

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