NAKED ECONOMICS by Charles Wheelan


Undressing the Dismal Science
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In just a few easy lessons, economics journalist Wheelan can teach the most innocent reader to think like an economist.

In an effortless, sprightly manner, Wheelan takes us from basic concepts to the most current economic difficulties. Old Man Malthus was wrong, we now know (there’s plenty to eat), but the once-dismal science still has direct application to our present-day lives. The amoral marketplace is not a zero-sum game, but sometimes the market, like French democracy, doesn’t quite work right. That’s why Honda Civics lose head-on confrontations with Ford Explorers. Can you explain why Israel’s gross domestic product is twice that of Saudi Arabia? Maximizing utility, incentive, and human capital may have something to do with it, and so may public policy, as the author demonstrates. He intelligibly bares consequential concepts like “adverse selection,” “deadweight loss,” “asymmetry of information,” and “purchasing power parity”; he nicely explains the difference between fiscal and monetary policy and the Fed’s job, as well as why it matters. Just how economic depression and virulent inflation wreak havoc is made clear. He tells us why the role of our government is largely helpful. (Are you really able to get bin Laden on your own?) Of course, when it comes to government intervention, there are cons along with the pros. (Health care, for example.) Are you discomfited by the policies of the World Bank or the activities of the IMF? Keep reading. You will probably be convinced that on the whole and in the long run globalization is a good thing. (Whether historical forces will work against it and bring on a worldwide depression is yet to be seen). The workings of the financial markets are made simple. Meanwhile, Wheelan’s investment advice, conforming to the immutable laws of economics, is patently sane: save, invest, diversify for the long run, and eschew get-rich-quick schemes.

A gentle, clear, and accessible hornbook that should crowd out many other general texts.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-393-04982-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2002


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