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on 2 September 2013
According to John Maynard Keynes "The master economist ... must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher-in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician."

So even a very bright fifteen year old is not going to be able to understand macroeconomics - it will need half a lifetime of professional training and experience to get him to a point where he can grasp even the basics. Unless, that is, he has Tim Harford as his guide. Using the Q&A Socratic debate format Tim leads the reader towards an understanding of why macroeconomics is so hard, why no solutions have yet been found and maps out potential sources of hope for future solutions. Along the way we encounter some of the latest thinking on behavioural economics, on why economics growth can continue forever, on why happiness economics is just plain weird and on how the Euro is like Dr Strangelove's doomsday device with Greece playing the role of Major Kong.

Although this book could be read on its own I feel it is better to read The Undercover Economist first so that the reader has a basic understanding of microeconomic concepts before embarking on "The UE-SB". The takeaway from this book is different from his earlier works. Reading it has persuaded me that we need a long term inflation rate of more than 2% to get us out of this depression but I believe that the 4% rate that Tim suggests is too high. Let's see what Mark Carney does over 2014.

Buy it - Read it - Enjoy it
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on 3 September 2013
If you haven't read a Tim Harford book before, the first thing that will strike you is how easy he makes his subject sound. The second thing will be that it is not at all easy, but that like all great teachers he has the knack of communicating a sense of the intellectual curiosity and delight that inspire him.

Plutarch said that the mind is not a vessel to be filled, it is a fire to be lit - and Tim Harford's effortlessly fluent style and range of illuminating examples and thought-experiments certainly achieve that. Macroeconomics is probably not a subject I would normally be interested in learning about, but the author's excitement is infectious and thus, instead of a dry academic text, what you get is an exhilarating page-turner.
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on 18 October 2013
I am a big fan of the original "Undercover Economist" but was not so impressed with "The Logic of Life", which I found a bit same-y (and I'm afraid I didn't bother with "Adapt" at all). However, this book enters new territory - macroeconomics - and does it well. For me as a lay reader, there was a lot of new information, well-explained and backed up by interesting and illustrative examples. I think I will have to re-read it to fully digest everything, but I'm looking forward to it! The only slight sticking point for me was the question and answer format. Harford has clearly come to like writing this way from his columns in the FT but although the format (usually) works well at column length, I wasn't convinced for a whole book. Sometimes the "questions" were so few and far between that he might as well just have written normal prose and even in the parts that were more conversational I didn't think the format added much. Still, it worked for Plato so you can't blame Harford for giving it a go.
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on 21 April 2014
The content of the book is great, as usual, for Tim Harford, but it is incredibly annoying that the Kindle version does not fit properly on a page and words are missing. They reappear if you change the font size, only for other to disappear on another page. Very frustrating indeed!
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on 23 October 2013
Tim Harford brings us some macro. For me, a less interesting topic than those of his previous books. Nevertheless, he's a great writer with a knack for simplifying tricky concepts and, as with his previous books, this is an enjoyable read. Harford only really dips his toe into the complexities of macroeconomics, but I was still able to gain a better perspective on the current debates; the different arguments being stripped - as far as possible - of the politics that envelop them. The book is exhaustively researched and the reader is treated to plenty of interesting factual and historical tidbits throughout.
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on 25 December 2014
Most popular economics books focus on microeconomics, answering questions such as 'Why does popcorn cost so much in cinemas?' These books are fun and accessible because the topics are all really about human nature and how people make choices. In this book, Tim Harford has tried to do something much harder. He has sought to answer the larger questions about recessions, unemployment and poverty.

Although not as immediately entertaining as his other books, this is very thought-provoking. He makes a compelling case for politicians to take a counterintuitive approach to avoid boom and bust. Money should be saved when the economy is strong and spent on pre-planned projects during recessions. However, politicians have no incentive to think ahead because they may not be in power during the next recession.
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on 10 September 2013
This is the second Hartford book I've bought and is, considering the subject matter, an easy read. Executed in the style of a conversational 'question and answer' between reader and author is throws much illumination on the current 'state-of-the-nation'.
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on 20 January 2014
Tim Hartford takes a very pragmatic approach to his subject, which is clearly and entertainingly presented. The question and answer layout of the book works well. It is not an economics text book but a treatise on how to use macroeconomics if you are unfortunate enough to be put in charge of running a country. Clearly he knows his subject but what makes it worthwhile reading is the quality and clarity of the writing. It would be extremely easy to write a boring, academic book on this topic. Hartford makes macroeconomics fun and at times even funny. Hopefully some of our politicians will read it. Highly recommended.
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on 2 June 2016
A brilliant book on the big, governmental-level of economics. It occasionally hints at preferred solutions, but the book is mainly concerned with explaining how things work, how things go work and how economic theorists have struggled to understand the underlying processes. It always tries to be fair-minded, careful to explain both a "Keynesian" and a "Classical" approach to the problems. There are no maths or equations, the book uses quotes and (true) stories to illuminate the author's points.
It covers all the hot topics: recessions, "austerity", when balanced budgets are a good idea and when they are not, how running a government budget isn't like running a household budget, printing money, rising inequality (or not), job protection and so on.
The book is brilliantly written - the tone of it is almost exactly like that he adopts in his radio show "More Or Less", which is simple without being patronizing and with a gently ironic sense of fun. The explanations are very clear - an inquisitive older child could happily follow this book without problems and it is short enough to read in an afternoon, but without leaving you feeling short-changed. I'd recommend this to any reader interested in the subject without qualification.
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on 17 February 2014
Has great examples and case studies to illustrate macroeconomic principles to anyone with an interest in economics. Would recommend to those planning to study economics at uni or just anyone who'd like to know more about economics. Only fault is that I preferred the first to the sequel which I thought was even better.
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