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.
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—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
"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."
“[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
"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."