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Customer Review

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Economics is the New Rock 'n Roll, 5 April 2008
This review is from: The Undercover Economist (Paperback)
With the release, and runaway success, of Freakonomics publishers were faced with an interesting new phenomenon: The possibility that a book on economics could be interesting and could connect with the "common man" and as a result that it could sell in large numbers. Overlooking that Freakonomics was a book about statistical analysis, the hunt was on for other accessible economic texts.

As a result, a book as tedious and confused as Tim Harford's Undercover Economist has been allowed to reach the public.

To be sure, the book starts well - the opening chapters make for an interesting and informing introduction to economics, and form a promising introduction to the book. But pretty soon things begin to go awry. The chapter that explains why it is impossible to purchase a good second-hand car seems to ignore the likelihood that very many readers will have purchased perfectly good second-hand cars. From here on, Harford's credibility is damaged, and when he goes on to explain why countries are poor, and why globalisation is good without any of the earlier chapters credible and transparent economical theory to back up these assertions, he becomes trite and boring.

The Undercover Economist has its moments, Harford is a likeable and easy-to-read author, and the section on the 3G Wavelength Spectrum auctions is fascinating, and goes some way to explaining what seemed like an impenetrably confusing fit of behaviour on the part of these companies. But overall, after the first 25% or so, the book begins to drag, and fails poorly to live up to the promise of the early chapters, or to the marketing blurb on the cover.

The heartless survival-of-the-fittest neo-cons among reviewers find his book insufferably 'leftist' while the socialists find its claims that unrestricted capitalism is good for everyone intolerable. I just found it increasingly dull, and quite prescriptive. It didn't educate me and leave me to draw my own conclusions, it harangued me and expected me to share its conclusions without explaining adequately to me why I should.
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