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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! [Paperback]

Tim Harford
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 30 2007
An international bestseller, The Undercover Economist is an entertaining and pain-free introduction to the key concepts of economics, by a popular Financial Times writer.

Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor – and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!

Tim Harford’s bestselling debut is part field guide to economics and part exposé of the economic principles lurking behind daily events. Showing us the world through the eyes of an economist, Harford reveals that everyday events are in fact intricate games of negotiations, contests of strength, and battles of wits.

He explains:
-Why picking stocks is like picking a line in the supermarket
-The connection between a drunken frat party and getting stuck in traffic
-How coffee companies use fair trade products to skim money from customers

This book offers the hidden story behind these and other questions, as Harford reports back from Africa, Asia, Europe, and your local Starbucks. Written with a light touch and sly wit, The Undercover Economist turns
“the dismal science” into a true delight.

Frequently Bought Together

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! + If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government + The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers
Price For All Three: CDN$ 45.96

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Product Description


"Required reading."
—Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics

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

"A book to savor."
The New York Times

"The Undercover Economist is a book you must pick up if you want a fresh perspective on how basic ideas in economics can help in answering the most complex and perplexing questions about the world around us."
Business Today

“[Harford] is in every sense consumer-friendly. His chapters come in bite-size sections, with wacky sub-headings. His style is breezy and no-nonsense. . . . The Undercover Economist is part primer, part consciousness raiser, part self-help manual.” --Times Literary Supplement

"Anyone mystified by how the world works will benefit from this book – especially anyone confused about why good intentions don’t, necessarily, translate into good results."
The Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Harford writes like a dream – and is also one of the leading economic thinkers of his generation. From his book I found out why there’s a Starbucks on every corner, what Bob Geldof needs to learn to make development aid work properly, 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 E=mc2 and Electric Universe

"Popular economics is not an oxymoron, and here is the proof. This book, by the Financial Times columnist Tim Harford, is as lively and witty an introduction to the supposedly 'dismal science' as you are likely to read."
The Times

About the Author

Tim Harford is an editorial writer at the Financial Times, where he also writes the newspaper’s “Dear Economist” column and “The Undercover Economist” column, which also appears in Slate. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basic Economic Principles Applied to Real Life Nov. 2 2008
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
The science behind this book is, in the end, a dumbed-down version of what you would learn in Economics 1 at any college or university. The author explains basic principals such as externalities and Adam Smith's "unseen hand"; there are no break-through insights here.

On the other hand, this is no college textbook. It is much more fun to read and much more accessible. There are no formulas or math. The concepts are explained in simple English, and then immediately applied to everyday life situations such as the price of coffee at Starbucks, health care and traffic. Whether or not you know anything about economics, you won't be bored.

Most importantly, this book helps people think in rational terms about hot-button issues like free trade and the environment. The author has his own views -- we all do -- but his approach to issues is rational. He encourages us to think critically, rather than simply reacting emotionally. For that reason, if no other, this is a worthwhile book and the world would be a better place if everyone read it.

Note: my undergraduate degree is in economics, although that was a long time ago and I have not studied economics, nor used it in my job, for about 20 years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book EVERYONE should read at least once! March 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While I don't personally like how the author chooses to accept altruism and the general notion of the "greater good" in his arguments, I absolutely love the economic side of all of his arguments. If it were purely a book about how economics works without delving into the author's moral point of view, I would have given it 5 stars.

To reiterate the heading of my review: This book is a must-read for everyone -- especially those who haven't formally studied economics.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining yet educatiive Oct. 6 2010
The author manages to make the subject easy and entertaining. I actually enjoyed every chapter of the book. An interesting point of view on many important (and less important but very common) facts about our society.
Definitely recommended
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overly Simplistic and rightist view of ecomonics Nov. 21 2007
Frankly anyone who has taken introduction to college economics will find this book redundant, oversimplified and dull. His explanation of why poor countries are poor is valid (cites corruption as a major cause) but ignores other important factors such as post-colonialism, agricultural subsidies, geopolitics and debt.

If you have actually been to university I suggest you skip this one.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An undergrad view of economics Sept. 20 2008
Alas, I had to stop reading part way through -- the book is merely a collection of undergraduate thought experiments regarding eocnomics of everyday activities -- a bunch of just-so stories. Quite a lot of the conclusions are probably wrong, all are simplistic, and all are unsupported.
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