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on 29 March 1999
I understand the disappointment of that reader in Chicago expecting Krugman to be another Feynmann. I am glad he is not. Feynmann was certainly a great storyteller, but usually he (or someone else) wrote popular books about his LIFE, not exactly about physics. Krugman is writing about economics, and not exactly about his life. And that is quite different.
I also understand Brian Dewey when he says he doesn't have "a better understanding of economic fundamentals" after reading Krugman's book. Certainly this book is useful to make people aware of the good (and sometimes bad) things economics theory has to offer (especially to debunk myths), and to motivate further reading on the subject.
Unfortunately, there is no other way to learn economics-indeed, any other analytical subject-than the hard way. And if you are motivated to learn what REAL economics is about, you should get an introductory textbook.
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on 5 August 2002
As the title suggests, this is a simple read, but dont get discouraged if you have conquered those formulas of Foreign Exchange Markets or studied those depressing Classical Economists, because this book is a fun read.
The book is a collection of columns and articles he has written over the years (not in boring economic journals filled with equations). The book is a fast read, and I recommend it to anyone, no matter the depth of their economic knowledge.
-Student in Scotland
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on 31 July 1999
As someone new to Krugman's writing, I was enthused by his ability to explain complex ideas and economic policy dilemmas with such a sure touch and accessible style.
The mini essays that form the core of this book range widely in scope. From his much used story of the Congress Hill Baby-Sitting Co-op to a candid assessment of the political realities of controlling car congestion and providing health care, Krugman sets out to de-mystify some of the jargon of economics and lambasts supply-side economists in fine style.
Krugman should be read by all aspiring university economic students and I will be recommending this book to my own students for their A Level courses.
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on 12 June 2016
This is a collection of short essays and articles written by Paul Krugman in the late 90s. A lot of it relates to what was contemporary debate in US politics surrounding economics and policy. It is not technical at all, thus proving to be a nice read for a layperson. Nothing mind-blowing, but if you like other books in the style of "Freakonomics" you will probably enjoy this little selection from a great economic mind. Krugman also has quite an engaging writing style. I bought it pre-owned for very cheap, so I cannot complain at all, it was a nice afternoon read.
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on 30 September 2015
I found the book very interesting and clear. Although Krugman tends to oversimplify everything I agree with most of the concepts expressed in the book. We really need more brilliant economists like him!
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on 3 June 1999
This book is a collection of 27 essays originally published between 1995 and 1997. Most of them ran in Slate, an on-line magazine, others in the New York Times, Washington Monthly and Foreign Affairs -one was written for the book. "Economics is a difficult and technical subject but nobody will believe it" is the Keynes' quote that Krugman uses to raise his main point: many people make big mistakes by not following sound economics theory. There are a lot of writers and politicians that misuse or not use economics scientific principles when they express their points of view or proposals. Economics is a science without popularizers -writers that in plain and enjoyable language use correct concepts to explain current issues. There is no Carl Sagan equivalent in Economics. Paul Krugman is trying to fill this gap. He has tried in his articles "to explode some plausible-sounding idea that happens to be false or to promote some implausible, disturbing idea that happens to be true". He also has the "purpose of demonstrating what it means to think, really think, about economics." Economics science, according to Krugman, is based on the "proposition that people will usually take advantage of opportunities, plus the observation that my opportunities often depend on your actions and vice versa". The book's essays use this foundation to cover issues in almost every economics field. Its key points or generalizations are: Jobs. Krugman argues that productivity gains do not imply loss of jobs. It implies reallocation of jobs among different economic sectors and an increase in the total jobs of the economy. This has happened in the US -less manufacturing and more service jobs. Extreme right economists. Supply side economists are wrong mainly because for them only supply matters. Tax-cuts as the only way to stimulate growth is wrong because ignores that monetary policy can also foster growth. A fact that right wing economists do not acknowledge is that income distribution in the US worsened in the eighties. Other concepts downplayed by Krugman are the return to the golden standard and the need to less government. Globalization. These essays argue against those who see increase in international trade as a problem for the US. In addition to comparative advantage arguments Krugman makes us think about all the levers of domestic policy that countries have. Against the fears that emerging economies could induce a global glut -exporting too much- the book explains that those economies will consume and import more as they grow. Economic Growth. The business cycle theory (GDP potential vs. actual GDP dynamic) is not dead as many authors declare. The problem is that they forget how powerful monetary policy is to unemployment and GDP levels. Japan problems could have been avoided by an aggressive monetary policy. Speculators and Foreign Exchange. A free-floating regime is better. It gives the country power over its monetary policy -the main tool for economic policy. However, foreign exchange markets cannot be trusted because of speculators. Beyond the Market. Many items have misalignment between price and value. Externalities can be fixed through taxes. New taxes should be traded off against current taxes (income taxes, etc.). Long term forecasts (one century): Soaring resources prices, increasing environmental costs, rebirth of the big city, devaluation of higher education, creation of a celebrity economy. The essays are very enjoyable and very well written. The issues covered are important and current. As a layman, I could not find any economic flaws in any of the articles. Krugman uses the concepts and frameworks that economic academia favors today. He also explains very well the mistakes of many writers and politicians. However, Krugman is too confident in his science. For him economics has all the answers. It reminds me of the outlook that practitioners had for physics and chemistry in the middle of the last century: everything had been discovered. The book skillfully explained why many people have been wrong. Through this we get a flavor of how to think using economic science. However, Krugman does not elaborate enough when he makes his points. He assumes that the reader is proficient in economics. In this regard the book fails in his goal of educating laymen in the science of economics. Paul Krugman is not Carl Sagan .. yet! Laymen encourage him to keep trying.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 July 2012
`The Accidental Theorist' written by economics heavy weight and Noble Memorial Prize winner , Paul Krugman is a collection of witty and incisive essays revolving around such issues as international trade, the failure of supply-side economics (e.g.: trickle done theory a.k.a: tax cuts for the rich) and how to use market forces to protect the environment. `The Accidental Theorist' assumes a little knowledge of Economics and American politics, but even if you are slightly lacking in both departments, there is much to be gleaned from Krugman's work. His writing style aligns pace with thoughtful analysis and the ability to explain sometimes complex ideas in a way that the non-specialist reader can readily grasp and appreciate. Where Krugman really scores is on the chapters relating to correcting market failure to resolve environmental problems, economics and it's impact on democracy globalisation and welfare and a brilliant section on economic trends we didn't spot, but should have done.

The author bases his ideas around two central themes: firstly that Economics is about modelling society and secondly, that if you want something to happen, provide incentives. These incentives essentially mean getting the price right! Krugman is generally a fan of free markets, but only in so far as provide welfare benefits for all and not just some. He makes the worthwhile distinction between free markets and `free lunches'.

On Economic modelling, it is plain that many politicians and often -time voters fail to realise that the economy is essentially a series of transactions and relationships: consumers and producers, voters and government, Imports and exports, savings and investment to name but a few. When the price of a good or service changes or is expected to change - through perhaps a tax rise, some of sort prohibition or expansion in demand or supply then there will resulting consequences, some anticipated, others not.
As a society he says, we have come to expect that the economy can be manipulated to suit our own short term concerns. Want to increase employment? Cut taxes to the rich and so increase consumption and demand for labour. Worried about cheap foreign imports? Whack up tariffs and quotas to make our inefficient industries more price competitive. Think that inflation will kill faltering economic growth? Raise interest rates and cut money supply. It's easy. Except that it isn't. The problem is , is that markets be they national or international are increasing hard to `control `by governments, hence our concerns with currency speculators, global transfers of jobs and the shifts in World trading patterns. The economy can not be closed off from outside influences nor can we necessarily expect to turn the tide of trends that originate far from our shores. Modelling is necessary because the economy is a complex place; our only hope is in trying to understand the limits of particular policies in order not to make things worse.

All policy instruments and the ideas on which they are based, involve benefits and costs, winners and losers. One man's tax cut is another man's tax rise. Another good example of this is the trade off between personal liberty and being stuck in traffic. This links with the authors ideas on incentives. I want to be free to use my car when ever I want. Using my car puts costs on other road users in the form of longer journey times and petrol wasted idling in traffic. What I need in Krugman's words is to be `able to make a deal'. By setting some sort of price for my journey that covers my impact on the environment , as a consumer of transport and a free citizen I can make a decision to use my car or not. So the creation of markets as much as the regulation of markets is what makes the economy and society function.

Taken as a whole, `The Accidental Theorist' is an entertaining and bracing read. I have the feeling that Krugman is not quite the controversialist that he would have us believe. His message is a simple one: don't get carried away by someone else's half-baked idea of what they think economics is all about. Politician's and other special interest groups are far too keen to adopt and distort particular economic ideas, turn them into some sort of self-serving dictum and when it all goes wrong, blame the economists: as with Christ and some of his followers, so too in a similar but lesser way with Malthus, Keynes, and Friedman.

Highly recommended
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on 6 January 2000
This collection of essays is the perfect introduction to economics for any non-specialist. It explains the subject in a way that keeps it fresh, which is so rare. Speaking form the viewpoint of a final year undergrad in the subject, I can certainly say that it has helped me "keep the faith" since it reminds us what the point of our study is, to enlighten rather than to obscure. Simply fantastic!
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on 26 May 1998
I don't know much about economics. I want to change this; I bought this book because of Krugman's reputation for solid thinking and clear writing.
The book is amazingly well written--I tip my hat to anybody who can cover technical topics with clarity. Krugman viciously attacks pop economics (the number of ad hominem attacks surprised me, actually), and the book reinforced my desire to understand economics so I can filter the chatter of politicians, policy wonks, and pundits.
However, that's also where the book falls short. After reading it, I *don't* have a better understanding of economic fundamentals. Krugman's increased my wariness, but not my knowledge. Krugman wants to be a popularizer of economics; he wants to be a Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould. However, he doesn't accomplish that in this book. He needs to do more than point out that the Emporer (or the President, or Congress, etc.) has no clothes. He needs to tell people what the emporer should be wearing.
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on 14 October 2000
Krugman manages to make economics enjoyable. He has rekindled my desire to become more knowledgeable about current affairs and economic issues. An easy and pleasurable read. Highly recomended for students of economics or those like me, with just a curiosity on the subject.
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