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Essential Economics (Essential Series) [Paperback]

Matthew Bishop
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Essential Economics: An A-Z Guide (Economist Books) Essential Economics: An A-Z Guide (Economist Books) 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

19 Feb 2004 Essential Series (Book 67)
Everything you need to know about economics in a strikingly attractive paperback format with flaps. Following an introduction entitled the "Joy of Economics", which explains what economics is about, its strengths and shortcomings and the challenges facing economists today, the bulk of the book is an expansive A-Z with several hundred entries that explain with the essentials of economics - as well as some of its more arcane aspects. Entries include: Absolute advantage, Adverse selection, Animal spirits, Asymmetric shock, Backwardation, Bounded rationality, Capital flight, Deflation, Development economics, Diminishing returns, Elasticity, Endogenous, Exogenous, Free rising, Giffen goods, Gini coefficient, Hysteresis, Invisible hand, Liquidity trap, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Opportunity cost, Pareto efficiency, Queuing, Random walk, Say's law, Transaction costs, Utility, Velocity of circulation, Weightless economy, Yield Gap and Zero sum game.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Economist Books (19 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861975805
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861975805
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Matthew Bishop is a specialist writer on economics for The Economist currently based in New York.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Gold Standard 6 Dec 2013
Bought this book to assist in my first year of economics at Strathclyde University. Has full definitions of key terms and arrived extremely fast! Great condition for a second hand copy
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy, accessible, readable 19 April 2004
By Dennis Littrell - Published on Amazon.com
Economics is not an exact science. Neither is it the "dismal science" that Thomas Carlyle claimed it was back in the days when Britannica still ruled the waves. Economics is a social science, a "historical" science, a science that can seldom rely on experiment to test its theories but must make do with observation. We do not know whether a tax cut for the rich, for example, will be good for the economy as a whole. It can be tried and when the results are in some years or decades down the road, we may come to some conclusion; but because we could not also see what would have happened had there been no tax cut or a different sort of tax cut, we really cannot be sure that it was the tax cut for the rich that led to economic growth or (as the case may be) revolution.
Nonetheless, while the knowledge we receive from a rigorous and disciplined observation of facts and events gives us nothing like certainty, it does lead us to know how to place our bets. And in an uncertain world that is really all we can expect. Even in closed systems like mathematics there are things unknown and not fully understood; and even in the most rigorous of the sciences such as physics, there is no presumption to absolute knowledge.
This attractive pint-sized publication from The Economist includes an opening essay entitled "The Joy of Economics" by Matthew Bishop that summarizes the current thinking of economists and presents a report on the state of the art. Unlike many essays written by economists, it is easy to read and directed at a general (but, of course, educated) readership. It serves admirably not only as an introduction to this volume but to current economic thought as well. I especially like his point that "better measures of economic success or failure" than "a purely monetary measure" such as GDP are needed, most clearly some measure that takes "environmental and other non-monetary factors into account." (pp. 8-9) Also good is his question about what effect the information explosion will have on economic thought and practice.
After Bishop's essay there follows hundreds of mini-essays and definitions arranged alphabetically on matters economic. If one compares these entries to those in the similar, but larger Dictionary of Economics also put out by The Economist, one quickly sees that there are fewer entries here but they are presented in a more readable fashion. This is then a less technical publication and not as inclusive; yet for most readers I would say it makes the ideas of economics more accessible.
Furthermore, Matthew Bishop, who wrote the entries has a slightly different slant on some economic ideas than those of the editors of the Dictionary of Economics. For example, on "adverse selection" Bishop concentrates on the market failure likely to be experienced by insurance companies selling insurance to, e.g., "55-year-old male smokers" while the Dictionary of Economics zeroes in on what it calls "the lemon problem." In both cases the problem is that one side of the transaction has an advantage that results in an adverse selection for the other side. In the former case, the insurance company that sells insurance to someone who is in poor health is at a disadvantage; and in the latter case the buyer of the poorly-made or maintained car is at a disadvantage.
In another example, the "prisoner's dilemma" of game theory is explained and related to the problem experienced by oligopoly (that of setting prices) in perhaps two hundred words. In the Dictionary of Economics twice as many words are used and a table is included. How to choose between the two explanations? The answer is the same for choosing between the two books: simply how technical do you want your explanations, and how readable?
Clearly this is the handier book. The type is a little larger. It takes up less space, and it does not cover the more esoteric ideas of economics that the non-specialists may profitably skip over. Furthermore, this quality paperback book has built-in front and end flaps that work as book marks for keeping your place. Cross references are in capital letters, which I think is the most straightforward way of pointing to them.
Bottom line: handy, accessible and just right for those of us who have degrees in something other than economics.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a PURE List from A to Z 18 Jun 2007
By Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a very avid reader of the Economist magazine. I bought this book to give me a deeper understanding of economic theory, but the list format makes this book rather useless aside as a pure reference "dictionary". It covers topics on a cursory level. It's too brief for the novice and likely too basic for the expert.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good quality and easy to read 3 Feb 2007
By Claire Mbeki - Published on Amazon.com
This book delivers what it promises: a brief overview of the essential economic expressions of our time. Most interesting are its style and format. It certainly delivers on The Economist's guarantee of quality writing and the encyclopedia-like entries make it simple to find what you want, jump from one topic to another (even easier thanks to the cross references are in capital letters) or simply skip around the book.

I would say that this is a non-technical publication, perfectly accessible for the interested layman. Not as comprehensive as the bulkier Dictionary of Economics also published by The Economist, but a great reference title on its own. It covers basic topics but also some more unusual ones like positional goods or the tragedy of the commons.

A good companion would be The Economist Guide to Economic Indicators that goes more into depth on several subjects. Also interesting is that you can find a shorter online version of this book at The Economist's website, called Economics A-Z. It is not as comprehensive but certainly quite handy.

Unlike other reviewers, I did not like so much the author's introduction on the dismal science... In any case, throughout the volume, the author's style is brilliant and most effective when covering complicated terms, as he beautifully summarizes the essentials of each expression. I believe it to be a very useful volume in our global environment, as understanding economics has become more important than ever.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ROI 17 Sep 2006
By David A. Baer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This badly named but invaluable book is vintage Economist style, method, and theory. If it is not what its title leads one to believe, this is pardonable on the grounds that it is perhaps better than that.

ESSENTIAL ECONOMICS is comprised of a lively and informative essay by Matthew Bishop that plays upon the oft-cited designation of economics as 'the dismal' science, followed by brief encyclopedia-style entries written with the Economist's trademark brevity of style and commitment to ideological restraint within a market framework.

Bishop's 'The Joy of Economics' (!) should be required reading for high school and college students. This delightful essay explains almost as much about what (free-market) economists *don't* say about reality as about what they affirm. These ten careful pages constitute a virtual primer on economic discussion in broad historical outline and the state of the question today.

Entries from A ('Absolute advantage') to Z ('Zero-sum game') then fill out this handbook-sized volume with intelligent summary and effective cross-referencing.

Brilliant, concise, unapologetic, sized for the desk, shelf or briefcase, ESSENTIAL ECONOMICS is worth its modest price, which should prove no 'barrier to entry' to dismal scientists and lay enthusiasts in virtually any 'optimal currency area'.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Reference for Economic Terms and Ideas 29 Mar 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Economics is often, for better or for worse, referred to as "dismal science." Over the years I have come across numerous explanations of the origin of that phrase, but have never been able to ascertain for sure what was the original grievance that provoked such a bleak view of economics. It is fair to say, however, that most people don't have much of an appreciation for economics, and this extends even to some highly educated individuals. There are a few good reasons for such a view, but for the most part economics is unfairly singled out amongst the various academic fields. In fact, there are very few disciplines that can compete with economics for the usefulness in everyday life. When you properly understand what economics is all about you start to realize how many of the daily events - personal, national, and global - have at least some economic underpinnings. In the light of that, having a basic grasp of the essential economic ideas and terms is at the very least a sign of well-rounded education.

There are numerous resources on economics today, and with the Internet within almost everyone's reach, it seems unnecessary to get a hard-copy desk reference book on this subject. Nonetheless, "Essential Economics" is a very well presented and designed handy reference work that you may want to acquire for those moments when you don't feel like going online to check up a basic economic term. This book is not written as a textbook, but as dictionary of essential economic terms. Thus the aim of the book is not to present a unified overarching explanation of economics, but rather to inform the reader about those economic terms and ideas that he may find useful or relevant at any particular point. Nonetheless, the book is written in a very crisp, legible style and it could be read cover-to-cover. Most terms are cross-referenced and this makes it easy to find connections between various concepts. Economics is a rapidly evolving field, and the book is a bit dated because of that, but it can still be used for basic information. The format of this book is also very compact and accessible, and it can be used as a quick first reference.
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