Economics Takes a Holiday by Holley Hewitt Ulbrich

Economics Takes a Holiday

Celebrations from the Dismal Science
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A series of lighthearted essays exploring how holidays reflect our economic system and society.

Ulbrich (Economics/Clemson Univ., Public Finance in Theory and Practice, 2011, etc.) acknowledges a lifelong fascination with holidays, noting that her given name, Holley, derives from a Celtic goddess, Mother Holle, who left gifts for good people and lumps of coal for those less virtuous. The author uses the term “holiday” in its broadest sense; few people consider Income Tax Day (April 15) or the solstices and equinoxes as true holidays, but she includes them among 28 observances to help explain economic theories to lay readers. Along the way, she connects economic behavior with nature, society and psychology. Ulbrich has unearthed obscure facts about the origins and histories of many holidays, so even readers well-versed in economics are likely to learn something new. Chapter headings such as “Valentine’s Day: Heartless Capitalism” and “National Volunteer Day: Working for Nothing” give a sense of the sometimes-playful approach she employs to humanize the “dismal science.” She uses Labor Day to focus on wages, Columbus Day to discuss immigration, Halloween to ponder risk-taking, Mother’s Day to salute working moms and Grandparent’s Day to examine Social Security. Even in “August—The Month with No Holidays,” she manages to find a credible topic: vacations. Along with her doctorate in economics, Ulbrich also holds a master’s degree in theological studies—an interest which becomes clearer as she traces the rise of behavioral and neoinstitutional economic models, which take into account cooperation, altruism and other behaviors. The author introduces arcane terms such as “opportunity cost,” “path-dependent state” and “tax expenditures” so smoothly that they go down like warm apple cider at a fall festival. Readers looking for meatier economic discussions may want to search elsewhere, but as a starter course, this book of bite-size treats satisfies.

An excellent, easy-to-read introduction to modern economic thinking.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1458207623
Page count: 138pp
Publisher: AbbottPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2013


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