The Undercover Economist – Tim Harford

I have been working in Catalunya as an English Language Assistant in a school for the past 6 months, obviously this involved transporting a number of books from my home in England to Terrassa. I recently finished this mini-library, but luckily I work with a couple of other English speakers; a South African (Lana) and a Pole from London (Weronika). Both of these colleagues do the same job as me, and both are avid readers! Having finished my last book I sent an SOS to our WhatsApp group; Weronika came to school with a selection of books for me to choose from, and that is the story of how I came to read this book. Economics is not a subject I would ordinarily consider reading about but, this caught my eye as something that my help me understand the world of economics. The Undercover Economist

I’m in no way an economist, I barely manage my own finances so I doubt it would be a good idea for me to have any influence on the world of finance, yet this book has given me an good outline of how economics work. Harford’s main aim for this book is to make economics accessible to everyone, he uses examples from everyday life to explain the finer points of economics. Whilst explaining why your morning cup of coffee costs the price it does he manages to be funny, engaging and accessible. One chapter may be about your coffee, or the supermarket you go to, but the next will be about China, or why some countries stay poor. Luckily the more meaty chapters are often sandwiched between two that bring you back to a beginners level of economics.

I do think that Harford has an agenda; he talks about the advantages of globalisation and of free-market economics, but he does not force it onto you. Harford merely expresses his thoughts on the subjects and presents what he thinks would be the advantage; one example being his response to the suggestion that an economist should work in a sweatshop. In a nutshell, Harford’s response is ‘Yes, a sweatshop is not a nice place to work, but what is the alternative – poverty’. He is a convincing writer in this respect, and he is in a better position to make these arguments than I am, after all it is his job to consider different aspects of globalisation and free-markets.

Whilst being a very easy book to understand this is entertaining, and I think that is the beauty of Harford’s writing. Harford does away with much of the economic jargon that may put people off from reading a normal economics book and replaces this with language that every person can understand. As he writes about quite important economic ideas he makes jokes, and always links the subject to a situation that most people would have an experience of, whether this is ordering a coffee, or buying a second hand car. I feel that everyone should read this book so they have a basic understanding of economics, and how economics is not just something that should be talked about by politicians, but is something that can effect our own lives.


One thought on “The Undercover Economist – Tim Harford

  1. Hi Jack,

    Economics is known as The Dismal Science. Beware the lure if the free-marketeer. They predicate their philosophy of money on The Good Times, but have no answers to recession and the business cycle when it dips. For that you need state intervention and community actions not motivated on personal profit, but the well-being of the many.

    Your writing is a pleasure to read btw


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s