Lately, I’m finding economics endlessly fascinating. No, really.
Maybe it’s because I never took a course on it in college, and so never had to memorize index funds and complicated formulas, but “The Financial Page” is quickly becoming one of my favorite sections in the New Yorker magazine. (Here’s a puzzle for them: why do they publish every week when they know that everyone has at least two unread New Yorkers sitting in a pile somewhere at any given time?)
On Slate, I head straight for Tim Harford’s pieces on finding economics in action outside of Wall Street, in which he calls himself “The Undercover Economist.” So I was excited to find that he’s recently written a book with the same title, made just for mathematically-disinterested econ amateurs like me!
I just finished reading it, and I must recommend it to pretty much anyone, except maybe for econ people who already know what they’re talking about when they discuss free trade or why coffee at Starbucks costs so much while coffee growers are paid so little. Harford even almost makes a convincing case of letting economists run the world—maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad idea if people were inherently rational beings.
In any case, Harford is great at explaining the economics behind everyday human interactions, as well as basic questions about the world: why are some poor countries getting much richer than others, why is traffic so terrible in some cities, and why do I buy the most expensive drink on the menu at Starbucks? (He spends a lot of time on Starbucks, and I spend a lot of time in Starbucks.)
So kudos to Tim Harford. Thanks to him, pop economics is quickly becoming the new pop science!