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Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy
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Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  3,219 ratings  ·  289 reviews
In addition to being updated, Basic Economics has also become more international with the inclusion of economic problems from more countries around the world, because the basic principles of economics are not confined by national borders. While most chapter titles remain the same, their contents have changed considerably, reflecting the experiences of many different people ...more
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Published 2010 by Basic Books (first published 2000)
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Trevor
You are, of course, familiar with the German word schadenfreude – the malicious joy one gets on hearing of the misfortune suffered by others. I can’t deny that there were times while listening to this book this week – a week in which the US decided to pour $700 billion into the black hole that is the ‘credit crunch’ – that this word popped unbidden to the front of my mind. Listening to the rants of a radical free market economist in the week that the world is forced to pay for the excesses of ma ...more
Jarrod Jenkins
Nov 19, 2008 Jarrod Jenkins rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: nonfiction
Thomas Sowell is a god. I'm a big fan of his writing style because it's clear and concise. Basic Economics is highly informative and easily accessible. This book should be required reading, not just for econ majors or business majors, but everyone.

Big ideas:
1. Economics is about trade-offs, not solutions.
2. Every policy or law has consequences, many of which are negative and unforeseen.
3. Capitalism is the least oppressive or racist system for allocating resources; very few people will refuse
...more
Skylar Burris
I would recommend this introduction to anyone who wants to learn the basics of economics in order to be a better informed citizen. It doesn't use technical jargon, but outlines basic principles clearly and in plain language, without graphs or equations, using real life examples. Sowell is obviously annoyed by the general ignorance of economics experienced by your average person, particularly by journalists and even politicians, and he sets out to make the basics clear. The basic principles he ou ...more
Jean-Philippe
Trevor's views (below) are an extreme version of what I felt while reading this book. I picked Basic Economics up thinking that it would be somewhat similar to Naked Economics, by Charles Wheelan: a guide to a wide range of economic topics that gives both sides of an issue when both sides exist. Thomas Sowell gives a guide to a wide range of economic topics, but unapologetically ignores or misrepresents leftist views in any shape or form. This is detrimental to readers and the general discourse ...more
Carli
Thomas Sowell is a genius. I knew that going into this book, but now I'm completely convinced. In the spirit of refusing to be passively educated by pop culture and the media, I have decided to educate myself on hot topics by reading material from authorities on the subject. Thomas Sowell and this book fit into that profile (and, yes, I am that much of a geek that I'm exclaiming over an economics book!).

Please note that, although this is not written in high academic prose, it is still not happy
...more
Justin Larson
I picked up this book hoping to extend the economics education i got in college. What I got instead was an ideologically charged diatribe of the government and a love-fest of the free market.



Everything is backed up with anecdotal evidence and sweeping statements made with much hand waving. It sells itself on the fact that it has no "equations, graphs [or] jargon," but I find that to be a weakness. While it doesn't need be filled with graphs and such, some proofs would be nice. Instead he simply
...more
Gavin
May 03, 2008 Gavin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: economics
This is one the the most important books I have ever read. It is clear, concise, and very pertinent to modern day politics and public policy. It explains economic thinking without any of the math. What this book will give you is a understanding of how to use scarce resources that have alternative uses within an economy. This book scrutinizes policies that are meant to help people, but actually do more damage than good such as rent control, education subsidies, minimum wages, social security, "fr ...more
Stephen
I listened to the audio version of this book while commuting to and from work. My biggest complaint is that my commute is not long enough. For a subject that I expected to be very dry, Mr Sowell did an excellent job in keeping my attention. It was a relief to hear clarification of many thoughts that I have had in the past. A big one is the whole rent control thing in NYC. I saw this first-hand, never knew anyone of low income to benefit from it, and always felt that it accomplished the exact opp ...more
Elyse
This is an amazing book and absolutely a must-read if you want to understand the basic causes and effects of a free market economy.

Here's a warning. If you have any passion at all about politics, or concern about government intruding into your life, or if you're the least bit cynical about politicians, be prepared to pull your hair right out of your head. I wanted to throw this book across the room several times, but finally promised myself I would write a letter to Dr. Sowell when I finished i
...more
John Brown
4.5 stars. Karl Marx was not a scientist. Nor was Adam Smith before him. They were philosophers. Theorists. Idea men. That’s what all economists in those days were. They had little tested knowledge, and so which economic system was best was all a matter of opinion.

But things are now much different. Nations and local governments tried the various theories. And we’ve seen the results. We now have a whole century of data. Furthermore, economists now are scientists. They use scientific methods and d
...more
Kelly
I wanted a clearer version of the Econ 101 I muddled through in college, and I admired Sowell's work, so I started reading this book. Then I found out it's not about M1 and M2 and how the Fed works. Rather, it's about really meaningful economics -- the kind every adult should understand.

To a large extent, Sowell was preaching to the choir with me. I already understood why rent control is bad and how the minimum wage contributes to unemployment. I knew that cuts in the tax rate tend to increase -
...more
Jesse Schexnayder
Thomas Sowell exposes the fallacies and outright lies the American people have been subjected to in the advancement of progressive entitlement centric economic programs by the modern crop of corrupt politicians. If you take anything from this book, it should be this: The intended goals of any type of economic aid can never be considered separately from the actual economic incentives the policies implemented to ostensibly reach that goal will create, without causing more destruction and more harm ...more
Joseph
A clearly and concisely written analysis of how incentives impact the economic decisions people make. Most notable is the idea that communism fails not only because of people's propensity to cheat in an environment free of incentives, but because of the fact that even in a world full of non-cheaters, a price-control system cannot allocate resources with the same efficiency that a market does automatically. Sheds some light on how a country like the USSR can sit on such expansive natural resource ...more
Mary
Fascinating, edifying, accessible, and insightful. An invaluable book for understanding an important topic. Everyone who intends voting ought to read this book so that they understand economic issues.
Brian
To be fair, the only part of this book I find truly disagreeable is the title. "Basic Economics" implies a presentation of universal principles that would generally be agreed upon by most who study the subject. This book does no such thing, but I'm not sure any book on the topic of economics could. While economics as a subject attempts to use an empirical approach to study human interactions regarding available resources in varying levels of scarcity, at it's heart it is social science. As such ...more
Bernie
A must-read for any intelligent voter. Sowell clearly explains why the market system is the most efficient method of allocating goods in a world where resources are scarce..... and the negative,and sometimes unintended effects of other methods.

One of my favorite quotes was... "Careful and complex mathematical calculations can make the difference between having an astronaut who is returning to earth crashing in the Himalayas or landing safely in Florida. We have also seen similar social disaster
...more
Tom
This book irrevocably infected me with a basic grasp of economic principles —and considering how often this makes me want to scream in frustration at the world around me, I'm not sure if that's a blessing or a curse.

I've long held a somewhat fuzzy understanding of economics— people buy things they want, companies make things for people to buy, people always want more than they could have, and so forth. What Basic Economics did was lucidly lay out the principles of economic behavior in a way that
...more
Jerry
Wisdom, common sense and brilliance have remade the dismal science. No wonder this book has been translated into six languages (so far). I listened to it on CD, twenty something discs in the car over a few months, courtesy of the library. The sections were short and the prose clear enough to do this without losing the flow. It was so helpful and comprehensive that I got the book to read and reference.

As much as I enjoy learning about economics, I've been purposely working through a pile of book
...more
Henrik Bidstrup
What a life changing book!

This book contains enough knowledge, for an entry-level insight into economics. It is extremely well written, easy to understand and explains just about everything you need to know. It repeats itself slightly but only on major issues, so it has it's fact and point hammered in. It doesn't take side to any kind of political dogma, neither does it belittle the thinking and ideas behind the socialist economies of the former Soviet Union. In the first part of the book, it ev
...more
Bojan Tunguz
Economics is at the same time a fascinating and rather complex subject. It is fascinating since it touches on so many aspects of our lives, and it is complex due to the highly technical analysis that is oftentimes required to be mastered in order for Economics to be fully appreciated. This technical complexity oftentimes obscures rather simple principles that underlie most economic phenomena. The well known relationship between a supply and demand is one of those, and a good example of a simple ...more
Rohan
This book will be perhaps one of the most important books I will read in my life. As I indulge deep into understanding of Economics lately by reading books on number of past economic disasters, role of government policies in economies, Protectionism and what not, I found that it is very easy to get carried away with thoughts and experiences of Authors who might or might not be wrong. But this is where a book like this plays an important role in understanding what an Economy actually is at its co ...more
msondo
May 18, 2007 msondo rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people very aware of political bias and interested in economic theory
This book is extremely biased and seems more and more like an attempt to brainwash people into Sowell's way of thinking. Regardless, it's a great explanation of basic economic theory and is full of interesting examples. I intend on writing an extensive review and researching areas I find biased but the greatest problem I have with the book so far is the lack of context. For example, the book makes great efforts to convince the reader that price controls are always a bad thing and that price free ...more
Noah M.
I found this book to be remarkably uninteresting. Not because the subject of Economics is inherently boring, but because this book is like broken record. Allow me to summarize the contents of every chapter of this book:

"Soviet Russia did not have a free market. They all starved and it sucked. Notice how countries with free markets tend to do better? Notice how Soviet Russia sucked? An unregulated free market is the only way to avoid nuclear holocaust."

EVERY CHAPTER follows that same basic formul
...more
James
Basic Economics is the authoritative text to gain a baseline understanding of the way economic systems work. It is an especially important written work given the context of the looming election season since the Democrats and the Republicans espouse different visions of the economic role of the federal government. The book covers such subjects as: tariffs, outsourcing, subsidies, socialized medicine, international trade, free markets versus command economies, the role of government in economic s ...more
Bruce Reiter
Okay. I agree to disagree. This is a great book for folks who don't like graphs. The author discusses economics by narrative. Much of the information appears anecdotal but the author provides information about sources for each of the chapters at the end. Economics is a system. It has no moral nor social axe to grind. Don't blame the free market system, blame the people who operate within it and screw it up by not allowing it to be a free market. Libertarian in outlook and certain to raise the ha ...more
Douglas
If everyone read this book, the Democratic Party would be out of business, and for good reason. There are certain economic laws; there is economic history; there are economic limits., Liberals ignore this and proceed on good supposedly good intentions. Reality be damned.
Michael Smith
Economics becomes easy to understand when you read this book. The ideas of our current culture are antithetical to good economics. The U.S. System is declining because of the unwillingness of current political leadership to learn from Sowell and others.
Hadrian
Excellent overview of modern economics for the lay person. Covers a wide variety of topics simply and easily. Economics is still a very 'fuzzy' field, especially in comparison to other sciences, and many people profess ignorance of large swaths of it. This books helps, although it is necessary to understand both the free-market stance and the relative lack of terminology.

Be warned - if you are not a supporter of free-market economics, you will disagree with much in this book, as the author ascri
...more
Johnny Rags
Thomas Sowell consummately translates complex economic principles into the language of the common man. The subtitle indicates that this book is a "citizen's guide"; society would benefit tremendously if each citizen were to familiarize himself with the principles that Dr. Sowell addresses.

"For those who are willing to stop and think, basic economics provides the tools for evaluating policies and proposals in terms of logical implications and empirical evidence."--This is the end which the book
...more
Matthew
An excellent book that should be read by everyone. I don't give 5 star ratings to most books, and while this is no phenomenal work of literature, it is none the less a very readable book on economics (not an easy task), and it does a great job explaining the basic principles of economics in a very friendly way. Given the great number of fallacies, and the ever-present misuse/abuse of basic economics by politicians and the media both, the book deserves a prime place in anyone's library... Its goo ...more
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
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“Economics is a study of cause-and-effect relationships in an economy. It's purpose is to discern the consequences of various ways of allocating resources which have alternative uses. It has nothing to say about philosophy or values, anymore than it has to say about music or literature.” 21 likes
“Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force. Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount—and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed.” 18 likes
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