“The Undercover Economist” Book Review

“The Undercover Economist”, published by Little, Brown, is the bestselling book by author Tim Harford. Harford is an English economist, journalist and broadcaster living in London. Having gained his Masters of Philosophy of Economics at Oxford University, he has become a distinguished economist who is now a senior columnist for The Financial Times.

The main focus of the book is taking ordinary, everyday situations, such as buying a coffee or health insurance, and revealing the truth behind them from an economists perspective. Harford delivers his views in a light-hearted tone without the heavy use of complicated terminology, making his book easy-to-read and engaging while still being highly informative. By breaking down each problem into a simplified example, no matter was ever too complicated to understand. I personally enjoyed exploring economics from a social level and seeing the huge influence economics has on everyday life; particularly Harford’s theories about solving the issues of having private health insurance in comparison to free healthcare (Chapter 5 – The Inside Story) and seeing the extraordinary results of the extremely cleverly-designed UK 3G auctions (Chapter 7 – The Man Who Knew The Value of Nothing).

In my opinion, I think this book could be improved by making fewer assumptions and fictional scenarios in order to explain theories. By making too many assumptions about certain scenarios in order to simplify them creates questions about how realistic the theories really are.

Overall, I would rate this book a 4/5; I enjoyed the wide variety of economic topics explored and I’m sure that every reader will find something in the book that is of particular interest to them. From reading this book I have learned that economics is all around us and the best way to solve a problem is by finding the cause of the problem instead of just finding a solution to it.


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