The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run--or Ruin--an Economy

In The Undercover Economist Strikes Back, British economist and financial journalist Tim Harford offers "a determined and practically minded poke-around under the hood of our economic system." Focusing on macroeconomics--the study of phenomena like inflation and recession at the societal level--this breezy yet informative work serves as a useful companion to Harford's explorations of individual economic decision making, The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life.

Harford has structured the book as an exchange between the erudite and patient economist of the title and a policy maker to whom he's offering a "user's manual" on "how the economy works, why it misfires and what to do about it." His approach to some of the most heated economic debates, such as how much inflation is good for the economy, is generally evenhanded.

Harford casts a wide net over the topics--fiscal and monetary policy, unemployment, GDP, growth--that fuel modern economists' most heated debates. He introduces a host of frequently abstruse concepts in easy-to-grasp terms, without oversimplifying or condescending to his readers.

In this primer, Harford does an outstanding job explaining why the so-called laws that purportedly govern a complex and ever more interconnected world economy can never be tested in a "robust scientific experiment." It's for that reason, he concludes, economists should be much more open-minded (and certainly more humble) than they are. And it's why we, armed with some of the wisdom gleaned from this book, should greet their categorical pronouncements with a healthy dose of skepticism. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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