I’ve read (or listened to) a number of books on economics, from the more tale-like Freakonomics to the idiot’s guides. The Undercover Economist is different to them and makes the subject more relatable.
The book covers topics like coffee shop locations, how companies get customers to want to pay more, using money to drive businesses to be greener and he even addresses African poverty. It’s a fairly broad spectrum, but largely covered in a way anyone can understand.
The references to economists and their cornerstone theories are related back to the topics at hand, which is useful (and makes it easier to grasp). I’m still not sure I understand externality charges though.
Having said that, you’re taking his word and assuming he’s right, that China really did grow because of this or that Cameron doesn’t for the reasons stated. One thing I have learned from the other books I’ve read is that economics is hard, with so many factors, it’s difficult to determine cause and effect, so difficult few have got more than basic theories right.
The problem is you can write entire series on any one of these topics, detailing the possible reasons for each, and probably spend a lifetime researching them, but very few people would want to read it. So perhaps take what the book states as fact with a pinch of salt and hope the author does know what he’s talking about (much of it passes the common sense test, which I’ve found some books don’t).
All in all an enjoyable and insightful read. Economics is a big subject that impacts much of our daily lives, in fact it has become central to it. While I’m still only scratching the surface, this book did provide a guiding, and thought-provoking, light.
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Audiobook copy of the book
Reviewed: 5th August 2013