Popular Economics

The book, “Freakonomics”, has become something of a pop icon amongst certain groups. The Stevens (well, Steven and Stephen, Levitt and Dubner respectively) cleverly show how economic analysis can shed light on some interesting everyday (and not so everyday) problems and observations. I thoroughly enjoyed it while not agreeing with each and every word. Entertaining, yes. Insightful, definitely. A work of pure genius, probably not. Overall a worthwhile read for those interesting in either of economics or life (and I’m not tying myself down to admitting that these may be mutually exclusive) would benefit from reading it. If it does tend to get a little slow after a while, persevere through to the end. Even if only to make sure you can laugh and nod in the appropriate places during the next cocktail party with that same certain group.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a reminder of what economics is all about on a slightly more technical note, Tim Harford’s book, “The Undercover Economist” is definitely worth a read. I gather it’s partly derived from articles written for the Financial Times magazine where Mr Harford has a column. I enjoyed Freakonomics enough (and have enough respect for Steven Levitt) that when I read on the front cover “‘Required Reading’ Steven D. Levitt” I picked it off the shelf from Exclusive Books with hardly a glance inside.

The Undercover Economist takes the reader from the basics of economics (allocation of scarce resources) through perfect competition and into the bowls of market failures. Some of the examples that particularly resonated with me were second-hand automobiles and health insurance, one of which is an area I know a fair bit about and it’s not cars.

Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Paperback (B format) – 256 pages (06 April 2006) Penguin Books Ltd
EAN: 9780141019017
Country of publication: UK

The Undercover Economist
Tim Harford
Paperback – 288 pages (06 April 2006) Little, Brown Book Group
EAN: 9780316731164
Country of publication: UK

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.