Summary of The Undercover Economist

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The Undercover Economist book summary


9 Overall

8 Applicability

8 Innovation

9 Style


In this brief, cogent book, author Tim Harford provides an accessible, entertaining introduction to economic thinking. This skillfully written report belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in economic matters - and as the author makes clear, everyone has an interest in economic matters. He deftly punctures the balloons of those who advocate fair trade coffee, protectionism, government-underwritten medical care and other such policies. These tactics may seem humane on the surface, but he contends that they often merely advance the selfish goals of the few at the expense of the many. If the book has a weakness, it is Harford’s tendency to take certain points of political opinion for granted and to state them as moral choices without qualification or proof. For instance, he puts forth the admirable - though some would say questionable - notion that governments are obliged to cushion the shock of unemployment. That, however, is a quibble. getAbstract highly recommends this concise, comprehensive book.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How economic thinking works;
  • How to look at everything in economic terms, from your morning coffee to a trip to the supermarket to the great issues of international trade; and
  • Why economics is personally meaningful to you.

About the Author

Tim Harford writes the "Dear Economist" and "Undercover Economist" columns in the Financial Times magazine. He is also the economics editorial writer at the Financial Times.



Morning Coffee and Scarcity
Commuters pay a stiff premium to buy morning cups of coffee from the train station kiosk. The reason is scarcity. Usually only one vendor has a kiosk in the station, although the extra price commuters pay probably does not even go to the vendor. The one who ...

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