Book Review: Naked Economics

Posted on July 26, 2010

The full title of Charles Wheelan’s book is “Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.” I’m pretty sure in this day and age that economics is the last thing you want to read about. But man this book makes it easy as Lindsay Lohan. The critical factor here is that Wheelan is not a professional economist. He is a writer who really likes economics. He understands the subject and he understands why his readers should know the basics.

There are no graphs. No equations. You never have to do any math. By the end of it, you will hate hippies more than ever. Wheeler goes through several situations and explains nearly every angle of economic theory. Economics is the study of how people achieve their maximum ‘utility’. Don’t worry, that phrase will be explained.

What I think this books greatest strength is that it puts a human edge on what is often seen to be a mechanical, inhuman science. The phrase ‘human capital’ will take on a new and more profound meaning. Compare this to the idea that the North won the Civil War through superiour ‘human capital’. One of its main theses is that the subject is so complicated because we all want different things. While one person’s incentive might be to get lots of money, another’s highest goal might be to live a green lifestyle.

If you are skeptical of the Fed, read this book. If you think that you are saving the world by protesting sweatshops, read this book. If you think that conservative economic policy is remotely sound, read this book.

Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who reads economics blogs for fun, but man was this book entertaining. I started in the middle, and was reading about the ‘Economics of information’ in the bookstore. After 5 minutes I decided I HAD to have the book. It was talking about why Clinton’s HOPE scholarship was doomed to fail.

This is a fantastic book for those people who say, ‘I really want to know more about economics, but I don’t like math’. Let me reiterate, no math here. Just easy to read words. Plus, it’s pretty doggone funny. Wheeler is a great writer, and it really makes the subject more accessible.

You will learn all sorts of awesome stuff like why poor countries are poor. How the weakness of the dollar affects the prices of cars. On that subject, Wheeler makes the point that buying a Japanese car is just as American as buying a Ford or a Mercury. Counterintuitive, yes, but so is most of economics.

Naked Economics


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One Response to “Book Review: Naked Economics”

  1. Tom on July 27th, 2010 2:24 am

    This was the first book I read on economics, and the subject has been a huge interest of mine ever since. Seriously good book on the subject.

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