Economic review (of books)

I unexpectedly found myself reading three economics books recently, so a comparison is in order.

> Alan Beattie’s (2010) ‘False Economy – A surprising economic history of the world’.

> Robert Peston’s (2008) ‘Who Runs Britain? ..and who’s to blame for the economic mess we’re in’.

> Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s (2009) ‘Superfreakonomics – Global cooling, patriotic prostitutes and why suicide bombers should buy life insurance’.

My favourite? Alan Beattie’s book I found by far the most engaging as it examines economic policy and trade from a historical point of view, using his understanding of trade to examine the developmental history of the world. What at first glance of the contents page seems to be a loose assemblage of chapters is actually quite well arranged and his story-telling is clear and riveting.

Peston’s account focuses on the recent climate as the title suggests, but he gives a very good account of the build-up of practices in the preceeding two decades that have contributed to the current mess. However Preston’s constant name-dropping becomes quite tedious at times!

Superfreakonomics is the follow-on to Freakonomics, the book that arguably defined the new genre of ‘behavioural economics’, or the use of economic theory to rationalise human beahaviour (eg. Tim Harford’s ‘Undercover Economist’). Like its predecessor, it is packed with unusual case studies and makes for very interesting reading. It should help the casual reader familiarise him/herself with broad economic theories.

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