14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great book, misleading subtitle,
This review is from: Filthy Lucre (Hardcover)I bought this book because I'd read one of the author's previous books, The Efficient Society, which I'd enjoyed. Had I not recognized the author's name I probably would have passed on it, because it sounded as though it might be a 300 page assault on capitalism. That would have been a mistake, because this is one of the best books on economics for the lay reader I've ever read. Whereas the subtitle suggests you might be in for a partisan polemic of some kind, what you get instead is a subtle, incisive and extremely balanced analysis of some key economic arguments. Heath's approach is to focus on fallacies commonly trotted out by those on both the left and the right of the political divide. The first half of the book sees the author standing firm on the ramparts of rationality, lacerating some of the beguiling, self-serving and false arguments frequently forwarded by right wingers who assert (roughly) that the market always knows best and that the rich and poor tend to deserve the stations in which they find themselves. But in the second half he turns the tables and lays into an equal number of fallacies from the bleeding heart half of modern society. At almost all stages, he offers clarity and insight. Even as someone who has done a lot of reading in this field, I found myself thinking about some new ideas, and about some old ideas in a new way. I say "almost" because I found the section on libertarianism a little too hurried for my liking; it could have benefited from a couple of extra pages.
Overall, this is not only an entertaining and illuminating field; it would possibly be the best all-round introduction for those who have read little about economics. I say this not because the book is some kind of Dummies guide that will introduce you to all the key terms and allow you to bluff your way through an exam. It won't, and that isn't its aim. Rather, it will start to get you THINKING like an economist, which typically involves considering incentives, unintended consequences, equilibria and interesting social patterns arising from seemingly innocuous policy decisions. I understand that Heath's background is in philosophy and has gravitated toward economics and policy. The book does contain the clarity of explanation and frequent use of illuminating metaphor that often accompanies cross-disciplinary work.