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Tim Harford

The undercover economist

It's sometimes hard to understand why things cost what they do - paying pounds for a coffee which costs pence to make - and why their is such a gap in wealth between different countries. In The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! Tim Harford gives explanations for such puzzles.

The book starts with a look a how scarcity gives value to a commodity, and goes on to describe how businesses increase their profit by charging different prices to different people. Harford explains how problems such as pollution - externalities - can be dealt with by a free market mechanism, and discusses the different ways people in different countries have of paying for their health care. There's also a chapter on the varying success countries have had in auctioning the radio wave spectrum to mobile phone companies. The last few chapters look at the gap between rich and poor countries, and at how it can be bridged.

At the start of the book it did look a bit like it was just going over pretty basic economic concepts, but it does get to deal with more interesting topics. I think it certainly worth reading, especially as it demonstrates to the reader why economists are such fans of free markets.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 288 pages  
ISBN: 0195189779
Salesrank: 355051
Published: 2005 Oxford University Press
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 384 pages  
ISBN: 0349119856
Salesrank: 6224
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2007 Abacus
Amazon price £8.99
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 288 pages  
ISBN: 0385663390
Salesrank: 53899
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2007 Anchor Canada
Amazon price CDN$ 18.90
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 18.90:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description
An economist's version of The Way Things Work, this engaging volume is part field guide to economics and part expose of the economic principles lurking behind daily events, explaining everything from traffic jams to high coffee prices.
The Undercover Economist is for anyone who's wondered why the gap between rich and poor nations is so great, or why they can't seem to find a decent second-hand car, or how to outwit Starbucks. This book offers the hidden story behind these and other questions, as economist Tim Harford ranges from Africa, Asia, Europe, and of course the United States to reveal how supermarkets, airlines, and coffee chains--to name just a few--are vacuuming money from our wallets. Harford punctures the myths surrounding some of today's biggest controversies, including the high cost of health-care; he reveals why certain environmental laws can put a smile on a landlord's face; and he explains why some industries can have high profits for innocent reasons, while in other industries something sinister is going on. Covering an array of economic concepts including scarce resources, market power, efficiency, price gouging, market failure, inside information, and game theory, Harford sheds light on how these forces shape our day-to-day lives, often without our knowing it.
Showing us the world through the eyes of an economist, Tim Harford reveals that everyday events are intricate games of negotiations, contests of strength, and battles of wits. Written with a light touch and sly wit, The Undercover Economist turns "the dismal science" into a true delight.