cover image The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run—Or Ruin—an Economy

The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run—Or Ruin—an Economy

Tim Harford. Riverhead, $27.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-59463-140-5

In his follow-up to The Undercover Economist, Financial Times columnist Harford brings vigor and even humor to otherwise dry topics such as the difference between GDP and GDP per capita. Presented as a Socratic dialogue between Harford and the reader, with questions that can veer cutesy and answers that become arch, the reader is treated nonetheless to a thorough happily concise explanation of economic policies and issues. After discussing microeconomics and the Keynesian approach, which Harford openly supports, the last third of the book focuses on macroeconomics, an analysis that takes into account more outside influences. By Harford’s own admission, the complex nature of culture and populations makes the outcome of any economic policy virtually impossible to forecast, which makes the book’s title disappointingly inaccurate. The economist not only doesn’t strike back, he doesn’t strike at all. By presenting explanations of, but no opinions on, the efficacy of economic responses, Harford leaves it to readers to form their own conclusions as to why the microeconomic stimulus plan in the U.S. was neither more nor less effective than the more macroeconomic austerity measures in Europe. However, by remaining noncommittal and demystifying the topic, Harford brings clarity to what has often been comprehensible to only a select few. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. (Jan.)