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The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  823 ratings  ·  102 reviews
A provocative and lively exploration of the increasingly important world of macroeconomics, by the author of the bestselling The Undercover Economist.

Thanks to the worldwide financial upheaval, economics is no longer a topic we can ignore. From politicians to hedge-fund managers to middle-class IRA holders, everyone must pay attention to how and why the global economy wor
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 16th 2014 by Riverhead Books (first published 2013)
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Not nearly as flat out interesting as The Undercover Economist, more of an interesting (fake) conversation about how the big tectonic plates of economies shift. Although, in offering a guide to improving the economy I found it disappointingly heterodox and vanilla, in that there was no suggestion that a different structure to lightly regulated international free markets was available or possible, whereas he was able to offer plenty of fresh insight into small scale economic phenomena in the orig ...more
Daniel Taylor
In his latest Undercover Economist book, Tim Harford puts you – the reader – in charge of an economy and shows you how to make it work.

Harford is a microeconomist, meaning he looks at the impact of individuals and firms on an economy. This time round he tackles macroeconomics, which looks at the broader issues in an economy and their possible causes.

He introduces problems one after the other that affect an economy, and just as you think you’ve got his point and the required solution; he introduc
Josh Friedlander
Perfectly balanced guide to understanding the world's economic shambles (includes up-to-date insights on Bitcoin and the Euro crisis) pitched at amateurs but still covering a lot of the essentials. I learned a lot and it never felt like homework. The jokes are awful; Harford is an unapologetic free-market wonk. Still highly recommended for anyone with the relevant interests.
Kressel Housman
I’m a fan of Tim Harford a/k/a “the Undercover Economist.” He’s an academic who has thrown his hat into the pop economics genre, but while he does use a conversational tone and give real life examples, he doesn’t dumb the concepts down. Unfortunately, that means that I don’t always understand what he’s talking about. That was especially true of this book, the fourth of his that I’ve read so far. It’s the shortest and written in a Q&A style that anticipated my questions and threw in jokes her ...more
Henna Pääkkönen
This was the first book i read by Tim Harford, a columnist of the FT. I saw this at an airport and thought id give it a try since it talks about macroeconomics, a subject i love, and studied at uni. I found the writer humouristic, and i guess he was targeting a reader who had no background in economics at all...Harford spells out practical examples to explain key economic concepts such as inflation, deflation, recession, unemployment, inequality etc etc For sure the author is an expert on the su ...more
I have to admit that, unfortunately, I didn' like this book as much as the first, nor did I find it likewise interesting. I found it all too theoretical and impractical, except for the example of the nanny clearly, because it concerns us, but it is as if, in the wave of the success of the first book, the author had wanted to repeat but he was sensationally short of ideas .....

Devo ammettere che purtroppo, questo libro non mi é piaciuto tanto quanto il primo, né mi ha parimenti interessato. Ho tr
Dave Morris
Full disclosure: Tim Harford is a very good friend of mine. And yet I think I can objectively explain why you might like this book. A basis of our friendship is that we are both curious, discursively argumentative, enthusiastic Gedankenexperiment types. One of the things I look forward to is a lively discussion with Tim over coffees, and that's exactly what reading this book is like. Ah, you may say, but surely there is no discussion here as you don't get to talk back? Well, Tim has that covered ...more
Teresa Fung
It definitely is not as good as the first undercover economist. The dialogue between a supposed reader and the writer was just silly and the concepts explored and explained were difficult to understand even for someone who had studied first year uni of economics and years of business. However, on the positive side, there are a good source of reference material provided from the footnotes for those that are more interested in areas covered which is good and informative. There were indeed some poi ...more
Dennis Mitton
It’s odd in economic writing but Hartford makes a genuine attempt to understand and explain economics based on numbers without political bias. In a sea of books purporting to explain why the other guy is wrong and the writer is correct it’s nice, I think, to find an accessible writer focusing on what is provable. Well, arguable.

Hartford has the enjoyable skill for making the difficult sound a little less so. His writing is accessible and his explanations easy to digest. Compared to his other boo
Very enjoyable pop-science book on macroeconomics. While there are loads of books on micro/behavioral econ, macro is rarely tackled. I follow Tim Harford's blog so I was familiar with some of these essays, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. He really worked hard and mastered popular science writing.

But obviously one has to take it for what it is - a pop-sci book, albeit a very well written one. This doesn't even attempt to be cover some of the major topics of macro. Those areas that are covered,
It's hard to believe that a book about macroeconomics could be such an easy - but also informative - read.

The main conceit of the book is that Harford, the economist, writes it as if he is having a conversation with you, the reader, answering your questions (only written by him) and engaging in a discussion about macroeconomic topics. I found this style both different and effective, because it is the opposite of a textbook or lecture format.

The interesting style was matched with interesting cont
I am already a fan of this economist's work. In this book he details how complex an economy is. He weighs the risks and rewards of various forms of government action to temper the swings of cyclical and catastrophic influences. It is rich with examples of economic crises all over the world, but most of the focus is on Britain and the US.

It would seem he leans somewhat left if you only read this, but combined with his other books I consider him appropriately centrist. Best of all, he has plenty o
The breeziest, most engaging discussion of GDP and Keynesian economics you could ever hope to read.

I was a bit annoyed that the book raised some interesting questions and then... ended. But I suppose that's life. We don't have all the answers. Tim Harford is literally asking the questions, though. The whole book is written in the style of a Q&A with an imaginary reader. While this could easily have become annoying or cutesy it's done quite well.

Anyway I now feel like I could discuss 'stimul
Matt Kelly
Ok, so while this was a really good book the structure of the book wasn't great. The question form of each new idea was just plain annoying. In saying that, the content was great, I think he presented both sides of the argument pretty well, even though he pushed his point of view most of the time. Great starter for anyone interested in macroeconomics.
Rafael Alves
When it comes to a country's economy, everyone is on rapid fire - "the govn. should create more jobs", "they can't take away our rights (a.k.a. govn. incentives and checks)", " govenments ever cut on taxes?" - and since that's all we see, we assume they can't be 'all' wrong. This book will teach you to wield the sword of non-judgement to those coffee talkers in a language that isn't too academic to be far from coffee talk, although more fun and easy than quick on the trigger. You'll s ...more
Michael Lockwood
The Undercover Economist Strikes Back is about macroeconomics aimed for the average easy to understand overview of the study of the economy of taken as a whole. This description may make it seem like boring difficult read, but text brims with Tim Harford's wit and skill at explaining complex subjects in regular english. It's a followup to Harford's earlier book The Undercover Economist which was about the subject of microeconomics and follows much the same formula. Written to be a po ...more
Marvin Jared
In listening to the audio version for the book on Overdrive platform partnered with Seattle Public Library, I found that I had a better chance of retaining the amount of nuanced information in this book. The details are as interesting, yet not as dense, as Chomsky's 'Manufacturing Consent' in terms of how the "world goes round the merry go round". With less focus from the way Chomsky's book detailed how there is manipulation of information when it is presented to ordinary folks. More so with how ...more
Ignacio Moncada
Desde que escribió 'El Economista Camuflado', Tim Harford siempre ha sido uno de mis escritores favoritos sobre asuntos económicos, no tanto por su teoría económica sino por su forma de exponer sus ideas, su uso de los ejemplos y su frescura. En 'The Undercover Economist Strikes Back', Harford realiza una defensa férrea (aunque encubierta por un estilo aparentemente imparcial) de teorías macroeconómicas que sobradamente se han demostrado falsas y han sido ampliamente refutadas. Una por una, va r ...more
In this book, Tim Harford has a change in style, writing as a dialogue. He also has a change in content, no longer regaling us with tales of odd and interesting ways in which economic researchers have been viewing and reporting the world, but looking more at what might be involved in running an economy; moving from the worlds of behavioural and microeconomics to the much vaguer world of macroeconomics. No concrete conclusions, no definite 'things to do' or 'things to watch' when running an econo ...more
For non-economist, great in dept manual of macro economics. The author superbly touched the contemporary issues & changes related to macro economics and how the different crises are impacting this field. Very objective view of macro economics policies and how those are implemented in real life (structural changes as well as during crisis). This book try to clear lot of misconception related to economics, different buzzwords you hear during coffee table talks and the shouting crowd of TV.
Nick Campbell
First, this book is odd to adjust too because of the format. The fake conversation is a bit awkward at first, but once you get into it, it works well for delivering the information he's trying to pass off onto someone interested in economics, but without the sufficient background. If you treat it like the extended letter that someone would send to the Undercover Economist column at the FT, it makes the adjustment easier.

Many of the topics don't delve too deeply into the concepts. They are more
Scott Haraburda
Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Book.


An excellent book on macro-economics, written for non-economists. The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy isn’t a book about microeconomics, which involves what an individual does. Instead, it’s about the larger system, such as a country’s Gross Domestic Product.

A very engaging book with entertaining wit, the author was very clear in explaining the dry topics of macroeconomics, such as recessions
Paul McNeil
In a post-Freakonomics world, I think we can mostly agree that it seems microeconomics is just sexier than macroeconomics. On one hand, you have things like why I suck at saving money and how to catch cheating sumo wrestlers, and on the other you have annoying things like money multipliers, federal reserves, fiat currency, and a few other things your crazy gold-hoarding uncle keeps telling you about. Of course, macroeconomics is also all about big policy decisions that affect nations and global ...more
Chris Aylott
Harford's style and logic have gotten stronger since the first Undercover Economist, which is not to surprising since he's written a few other books in between. This outing isn't as colorful, since there isn't much in the way of travel or personal stories, but it's an excellent basic textbook of macroeconomics.

Harford's dialogue format keeps the issues clear and reduces the impact of his own inevitable biases. It also leads to some good jokes, and there's nothing better than a meaty economics b
Keynes famously remarked, "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists, that would be splendid!" It's a good joke, but it's not just a joke; you don't expect your dentist to be able to forecast the pattern of tooth decay, but you expect that she will be able to give you good practical advice on dental health and to intervene to fix problems when they occur. That is what we should demand from economists: useful advice about how to ...more
Doug Cornelius
Financial Times columnist and bestselling author Tim Harford tries to show us that macroeconomics is not that hard in The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.

In order to fix the economy, we need to understand the economy. The book is a "practically minded poke-around under the hood of our economic system." It's a sequel to The Undercover Economist , which looked at microeconomics. The first book looked at the cost of coffee and other focused topics that affect an individual's behavior.

The Under
The Undercover Economist Strikes Back (2013) by Tim Harford is another excellent book from a superb economics writer. This book covers macroeconomics and presents a Socratic dialogue where Harford discusses how to run a modern economy. This sort of dialogue is often contrite. However Harford manages through his mastery of the subject and by being reasonable, skeptical and carefully presenting both sides of an argument to make it highly informative and enjoyable.
Sadly the cover of the edition I h
Tony Parsons
Global macroeconomics (incentives, prices, productivity) is something everyone should keep tabs on. It includes subject matter such as: unemployment, money, inflation, stimulus, GNI & GDP (global poverty).

It also shows the effects of poor management practices & what that does to the labor market buying power (income inequality, lack of educational, or lack of technological knowledge). Last but not least what happens when the government increases deficits during a recession? Another econ
Trey Jones
I came to be a fan of Tim Harford through his podcasts, "More or Less: Behind the Stats" and "Pop Up Ideas". I was eager to read this book, because I am a big fan of the way the podcasts explore ideas and make sense of numbers in the news, and I've recently developed an amateur interest in economics. I was not disappointed.

One word of advice to the reader: throughout the book, Harford explicitly uses the conceit that he is speaking directly to you (who have been chosen to run a world economy) an
Pranjal Bhatia
This guy can explain Economics without the use of an equation or a diagram. Certainly lived upto my expectations after I fell upon his first book 'The Undercover Economist'. The book covers a large portion on Macroeconomics and its use & effects in national policies etc.

Surely recommended as a quick read and especially the portion on Monetary Policies, Fiscal Stimulus & Keynesian/ Classical Schools of Economics.

Will make a point to read his other novels sometime next year.

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Tim Harford is a member of the Financial Times editorial board. His column, “The Undercover Economist”, which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences, is published in the Financial Times and syndicated around the world. He is also the only economist in the world to run a problem page, “Dear Economist”, in which FT readers’ personal problems are answered tongue-in-cheek with the late ...more
More about Tim Harford...
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