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The Undercover Economist (The Undercover Economist #1)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  17,880 Ratings  ·  872 Reviews
Who makes most money from the demand for cappuccinos early in the morning at Waterloo Station? Why is it impossible to get a foot on the property ladder? How does the Mafia make money from laundries when street gangs pushing drugs don’t? Who really benefits from immigration? How can China, in just fifty years, go from the world’s worst famine to one of the greatest economi ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published 2007 by Abacus (first published 2005)
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ahmed  kano
Jan 23, 2013 ahmed kano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
قبل كتابة الريفيو فى ملاحظة بسيطة
اولا الكتاب ده حقق مبيعات عالية فى كذا دولة و مترجم لأكثر من لغة و لما دخلت على صفحة الكتاب لقيت أكثر من 370 صفحة من بين ريفيوهات و تقييمات و لما دخلت على نسخة الكتاب العربية لقيت صفحة واحدة و فيها 3 ريفيوهات .. و إن دل على شىء يدل أننا مجتمع معندوش أى وعى اقتصادى و مش بيحلم أنه يكون عنده وعى اقتصادى
ده مش دليل قوى .. ممكن يكون الناس بتقرا كتب اقتصادية تانية . مع انى أشك الصراحة فى كده
غالبية المثقفين العرب مبيهتموش الا بالروايات اللى بيتكلم عن العالم المثالى ال
Oct 25, 2008 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
There was a point at the start of this book when I thought I wasn’t going to make it to the end – or even past the start. It was when the market economy was described as The World of Truth. ‘Oh god’, I thought, ‘this can only mean one thing…’

But I was wrong. This was a much better book than I thought it was going to end up. It was quite slow at the start when he was talking about Starbucks and pricing policies – but my interest picked up when he discussed two computer printers made by IBM in wh
Jul 29, 2009 Stringy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Harford says he's going to tell you how the world really works, how economics provides insight into our activity. What he really tells you is how awesome the world would be if it was run by economists and everybody always acted rationally, if by 'rationally' you mean the economics jargon of 'assigning a monetary value to every single action/object in life' and not the common usage of 'according to the rules of logic'.

You can also find out how poverty is easy to fix (you just move the starting b
Jun 03, 2007 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for pop books about economics, and this is the best of the breed -- better, even, than that NYT bestseller Freakonomics. Why? Because Harford, unlike Levitt, actually explains the reasoning and the data he used to follow a problem from its formulation through to its conclusions. He also addresses classic economic problems--why is it hard to buy a used car? why do all the restaurants in Times Square suck? etc., as compared to why you should name your child "Tova". His chapter on heal ...more
Sara Alruwaitea
Sep 07, 2012 Sara Alruwaitea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب رائع مليء بمعلومات جديدة ومفيدة، شرح جوانب عديدة من الإقتصاد بطريقة ممتعة نمّت شغفي لعلم الاقتصاد،
جاوب على تساؤلات كثيرة كانت تدور في ذهني.. أظن أنني سأعود لقراءته مرة أخرى..

ترجمة عربية ممتازة!
Dustin Allison
From buying a used car to purchasing health insurance, Harford takes a look at a variety of situations that can have a real pratical impact on how we look at some of our everday activities. His take on health care, and how it is dealt with differently in Britain and the United States, was perhaps the most meaningful topic for me.

Growing up, I constantly heard how poor the health care was in socialized medicine and how we should protect our market system. The problem is that our health care syst
Dec 03, 2007 Cory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone without an economics degree
Shelves: books-i-have
This book was a fantastic overview of (what I think is) basic economic theory, but told in a way that made it incredibly readable. Harford is a great writer and manages to frame his topics in a way that is both highly relevant to real life while being simple enough that anyone can understand. It ranges from the small (the economics of Starbucks and how to prevent traffic jams) to the huge (why poor countries stay poor and how china became rich). I imagine that someone with a serious background i ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Marlowe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The best bits are at the start (price targeting in coffee) and at the end (China's economic success). Best-selling, but not particularly brilliany by any means. The book's success - as it's author might testify - is probably down to the supply and demand ratio for economics books that aren't bloody dull.
Jun 02, 2012 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread2012
Rereading it several years later, and with a bit more background in econ, I still find it informational and entertaining, but it highlights some of the frustrations I have with econ: great for revealing insights, a struggle when it comes to applying it to public policy. Sweatshops are better than the alternative, and given time (decades) lead to prosperity, but people are still suffering today, right now, so how do you address that without throwing off the progress over time? (Note: I don't know ...more
Jarrod Jenkins
Harford offers a decent little introduction to some of the more basic applications of economics. I finished it in two days and I read slowly. The Undercover Economist is a short, easy, but ultimately forgettable read.

Perhaps it's my own fault for reading essentially the same narrowly focused nonfiction book on economics over and over and over again, but I literally received no new information here. Thomas Sowell's "Basic Economics" covers the same ideas in more intellectual depth while Levitt's
Tyler Jones
I know what you are thinking; Am I interested enough in this topic to pay $21.00 for this book? Will the benefits I will enjoy in the pleasure of the reading experience and the knowledge I will gain outweigh the loss of money? Will the benefit to the economy of Canada from my cash injection into publishing industry outweigh the growth to my personal debt levels? Should I borrow a copy from the library?

These are exactly the kinds of questions reading this will help you think your way through.

This book was good. Surprising. It is because it dealt mostly with coffee, beer, poker and game theory - some of the things I'm obsessed with. Tim did a great job revealing about Cameroon, Nepal, India and yeah China's economy. Every pop economics book that I've read have said something about China's rise, here there is a chapter dedicated to it.

A worthy read.
Jan 15, 2009 Joe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like a bad cup of coffee, I'm already struggling to force this down. As a former World Bank employee and Financial Times editor it will come as no surprise that Hardford thinks trade unions and free healthcare are bad, sweatshops are good and the free market will fix everything. There's something to be said for knowing your enemy, but The Undercover Economist's smug, patronising tone and Harford's self-avowed preference for armchair reasoning will have you grinding your teeth in frustration.
Mar 12, 2010 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Following my recent interest in books on the psychology of decision-making and behavioral economics, I thought it might be interesting to read up on some actual economics. I had gotten some of this out of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner, but Tim Harford's Undercover Economist is a little less afraid to throw in actual economic theory and terms. So you get explanations of "perfect" markets, inefficiencies, externalities, and other economic jargon.

Which isn't to say that th
Monthly Book Group
Introducing the book to the Monthly Book Group, the proposer said he had chosen it because his wife was buying a book for a rail journey, and, as there was a two for one offer at the station, he chose this. No, despite the analysis of railway station coffee outlets in Harford’s opening chapter, he had not also succumbed to the temptation to buy an expensive coffee. (He had been brought up to believe that food and drink was something to be consumed at home, not purchased at inflated prices outsid ...more
I gave up on this one. I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn't already read a few books about behavioral economics, Nudge and Predictably Irrational. I'd also heard Dan Ariely interviewed several times. It would have made more sense to read this first, before those others, which, in some ways, debunk many assumptions in Undercover.

I found his cutesy tone annoying as hell. But, bless him, he admirably keeps it up. Well, at least through the first six or so chapters that I read.

Major points for t
Oct 27, 2007 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More entertaining, thoughtful, and relevant than Freakonomics. Freak tended to ramble and explain how economics helped explain random things like drug-dealing cartels and cheating on standardized tests, Undercover has a planned narrative from start to finish and helps explain important things like why things cost what they do and how third world countries grow. It's admittedly a pro-free markets tome, which shows through in the international development chapter, but soundly addresses a number of ...more
Amy Sherman
This book started out strong for the amateur economist (average reader), discussing coffee, cars, and other common transactions. The author did a good job describing the interconnectedness, hidden costs, and the relative value of a product. Sadly, later in the book, the author discusses economies of developing nations, specifically Camaroon and China, without connecting most of it back to the consumer, or average reader. He ends with a strong summary explaining why the economy matters, but I cou ...more
Nov 08, 2014 Devika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is among Steven D. Levitt’s top ten books to read, as well as on the suggested reading list for MPhil. Economics. It was a natural curiosity on my part to order this book just to find out the reason for all the hype.

Frankly, this book started on a disappointing note since it outlines basic economic ideas—scarcity, bargaining, Ricardian comparative advantage. But such disappointment was inevitable for any economics student. One has to give Harford the benefit of doubt as the introducti
Kevin Dary
Jun 09, 2014 Kevin Dary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed a little when i finished the book to realized that the book itself was a way to make me buy the book using its own strategy. In a sense , I meant to say that by putting the topic "coffee" as a first topic it attracted my attention such as raising prices and sugar coating products to sell out to price sensitive customers who was willing to buy what was worth more than price.

Tim harford nether less tackles the basics of economics in his book by showing us the first part of his book in a
Simon Howard
May 03, 2014 Simon Howard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes a special kind of effort to be so behind the times that I’m reviewing The Undercover Economist more than three years after it was published, despite having it on my “must read” list for most of that time. As a fan of Tim Harford’s contributions to the Financial Times and his presentation of More or Less, I had great expectations for this book – and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Undercover Economist seeks to explain the economic theories underpinning everyday life, from buying a coffee to sh
Oct 16, 2012 Luis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay, economics
Bueno y malo a partes iguales.

Tim Harford se dedica a lo largo de varios capítulos a desentrañar la economía detrás de las cosas de cada día. Si uno no tiene unos conocimientos aceptables de economía, como es mi caso, encontrará este libro agradable. Si los tiene, puede que lo encuentre aburrido.

Hay capítulos que sobresalen, especialmente los cotidianos como el del supermercado o el café; y otros que se hacen muy pesados, como el de China o los seguros de salud. Merece mucho la pena por las anéc
Mark Jones
Mar 06, 2012 Mark Jones rated it it was amazing
With humour, and style, Tim Harford introduces the reader to the not-so-esoteric word of economics. The awesome power of the market to not just create wealth and redistribute it, but to also dramatically improve people's lives in ways no other system can manage, whilst simultaneously improving efficiency and delivering information becomes shockingly clear, and surprisingly simple! There's a wealth of optimism and hope riding through these pages, not because Tim is an optimistic chap, but because ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Traci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Dear Undercover Economist, the first collection of his wildly popular Financial Times columns, Tim Harford offers witty, charming, and at times caustic answers to our most pressing concerns - all through the lens of economics. Does money buy happiness? Is "the one" really out there? Can cities be greener than farms? Can you really "dress for success"? When's the best time to settle down? Harford provides brilliant, hilarious, unexpected, and wise answers to these and other questions. Arranged ...more
Dec 10, 2013 Carly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
**edited 12/10/13

Full disclosure--Tim Hartford runs my absolute favourite radio programme ever: BBC Radio 4's More or Less, a topical statistics programme. Yes, you heard me right. Basically, they do fact-checking on audience-recommended bizarre-sounding statistics. It's funny, fun, and relevant, and has the added benefit of actually catching all the zombie statistics that politicians use. Catch NPR ever having anything like that.

Anyway, all that simply goes to note that I was heavily, heavily p
Jan 23, 2010 Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book probably gets about 3.5 stars from me, with a slight rounding up. This book is a collection of advice columns written by the Undercover Economist for the Financial Times over a period of years, essentially attempting to highlight the economist's view of the world (ruthlessly rational, challenging assumptions about social etiquette or common sense) by applying economical reasoning to typical "everyday" problems that people might have. The answers are often couched in somewhat economic j ...more
Septri Lediana
Bagi para penggumul ilmu ekonomi orang-orang biasa merupakan orang-orang istimewa. Semua hal yang disajikan para pelaku ekonomi dengan berbagai trik sistem ekonomi dan melibatkan orang biasa disajikan dengan kompleksitas system yang rumit. Sehingga sebisa mungkin para pelaku ekonomi itu memperoleh keuntungan yang besar dari sistem tersebut. Kebanyakan orang biasa tak mengetahui permainan trik di balik pilihan dan sikap konsumtif mereka.

Tim Harford menulis buku yang tergolong The Sunday Times Bes
Theerasak Maneeneim
Apr 22, 2013 Theerasak Maneeneim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
เดิมทีผมซือหนังสือเลมนีมาเพราะคิดวามันคงเปนแนวๆ Edutainment อานงายๆ เบาหัวแตไมเลย ผมใชเวลาอานหนังสือเลมนีมากกวาเลมอืนหลายเทานัก อานไมจบซักทีเพราะอานทีไรเปนหลับตลอด

ทิม อธิบายหลักการทางเศรษฐศาสตร บอกถึงเหตุและผลของสิงตางๆ ทีเราเจอกันอยูในชีวิตวาทำไมมันถึงเปนเชนนัน เชน

- ทำไมรานปอปคอรนทีโรงหนังถึงแพงกวาของปามุยหนาศาล
- ทำไมเราถึงหารถยนตมือสองดีๆ ไมคอยได
- ทำไมราคาเขาชมเมืองโบราณ ถึงมักจะเกบคาเขาชมชาวตางชาติ แพงกวาคนทองถิน
- คุณคิดวาการทีเรา boycott ไมซือสินคาจากบริษัททีผลิตโดยโรงงานทีมีการกดขีแรงงานนัน
Grant Schweppe
Apr 06, 2015 Grant Schweppe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book left me disappointed, built off the interest of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything I thought that this seemed interesting. As I started to read through the "chapters" I was getting less interested in what the book had to offer. Given the format of a 200 word response to each question, the amount of economics was very limited. Although it did mention a general theory of why something happens, I would not even feel satisfied if I had personally wrote t ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so it's no Freakonomics. It's not nearly as readable or as wowing. However, I learned a lot and I've found myself reporting on things from this book in conversation a lot lately. Ask me about my "comparative advantage" and see for yourself. There's a lot of food for thought here.
I'm not an economist and I don't get a LOT of what this guy is talking about a lot of the time - but I got it some of the time, so his efforts at creating an accessible piece of economic writing are not in vain. I
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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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“There is much more to life than what gets measured in accounts. Even economists know that.” 9 likes
“Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. But sweatshops are the symptom, not the cause, of shocking global poverty. Workers go there voluntarily, which means—hard as it is to believe—that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse. They stay there, too; turnover rates of multinational-owned factories are low, because conditions and pay, while bad, are better than those in factories run by local firms. And even a local company is likely to pay better than trying to earn money without a job: running an illegal street stall, working as a prostitute, or combing reeking landfills in cities like Manila to find recyclable goods.” 7 likes
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