Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy” as Want to Read:
Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  9,170 ratings  ·  874 reviews
Basic Economics is a citizen's guide to economics-for those who want to understand how the economy works but have no interest in jargon or equations. Sowell reveals the general principles behind any kind of economy-capitalist, socialist, feudal, and so on. In readable language, he shows how to critique economic policies in terms of the incentives they create, rather than t ...more
Hardcover, Revised and Expanded Edition, 448 pages
Published December 24th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Basic Economics, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
TomB312 Well I would say Milton Friedman but chances are if you know Sowell you know Friedman as Sowell studies under him and they both made appearances toget…moreWell I would say Milton Friedman but chances are if you know Sowell you know Friedman as Sowell studies under him and they both made appearances together. Current day I would recommend John Stossel and Reason magazine which he has worked with. (less)
Mr. Brightside Market is simply the people who are transacting with each other.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,170 ratings  ·  874 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy
Oct 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: economics
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
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People who correct advanced economic takes by using entry-level econ
Shelves: economics
Wow. This book is bad and its ideas are bad.

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 in our country (especially as he touts th
Skylar Burris
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
Amit Mishra
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Don't fall in the trap[ of the title the book is n0t basic. The book deals with economic problems without any graphs and statistics that's why the author has coined the term Basic Economics. The book is a general treatise on economics phenomenon that happens around us.
It provides a rudimentary knowledge about economics. It talks about the central problems of economics and some other basic understandings. The book is useful for those who want to step in the world of economics where they will have
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, economics
"Economic policies need to be analysed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspire them." page 45

My first observation about most reviewers is that they condemn an author based mostly on his/her political views (Sowell is conservative) and if the reviewers are somewhat intelligent they will hint at a problem or two, offer a few rants about what their "SYMPATHETIC SOCIALIST" leader would do, which turns out to always place more debt, lose more jobs, create less compe
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Nothing is easier to proclaim than a wonderful goal"
"Much confusion comes from judging economic policies by the goals they proclaim rather than the incentives they create." and by extension, the results they achieve.

This overarching idea, along with numerous examples from history of how government intervention in the economy has almost always led to worse overall outcomes were two strong messages that I took away from this book. I was very disheartened by the discussions in the book about eco
Justin Larson
Jul 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Brown
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Vicky Liu
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Professor Sowell can be quite biased and overly sarcastic at times but I still count this book as one of the most important books I've read in the last few years. Anyone of voting age should seek out a greater understanding of our market economy and this book is a great resource particularly because of the emphasis on how economics affects and is affected by government policy. After reading this book, I am now very interested to find a book that argues against the pro-free markets arguments in t ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Douglas Wilson
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Really good, filled in a lot of cracks for me.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First of all, let me say that economics has always sounded to me like a subject that would be about as interesting as watching the proverbial paint dry. But I made an impulse buy on Audible about 5 years ago when this book was on sale for a couple of bucks (a good economic choice, right?), and it's been sitting in my audio library ever since, glaring at me every time I've gone in search of a new title. So I finally caved and decided to give it a chance, telling myself I didn't have to finish it ...more
Mary Catelli
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-other
Exactly what the title describes. The basics of economics for the general audience. Starting out with the observation that we may think we don't own beachfront property because of its price. The reality is -- we don't own beachfront property because there's a lot more people who'd like to own it than there is property to be owned. Price is just the way to sort things out.

Full of concepts and concrete examples. For instance, in the Soviet Union, they usually used about two and a half more metal t
Todd Woods
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: 2015
This is a book that anyone who works, spends or saves in today's world should read before doing any of those activities.

I also think that it should be mandatory reading for anyone who does or plans to vote.
Jesse Schexnayder
Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
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
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
If a new civilization was just starting up and deciding between Soviet style price controls and capitalism, they should definitely read this book. Or if you are interested in all the ways rent control made NYC and SF the most expensive cities, this is the book for you. Anyone else not living in a world of black and white, should read a less biased economic book. This book does explain some helpful terms and concepts. But I would hate for anyone who's read this book to think that they understand ...more
Michael Smith
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Has its biases but definitely offers a valid way of thinking about economics. I think the Chicago School of economics offers a good framework to work off of and this book is a good introduction to the intricacies of various economic frameworks (with an obvious bias towards the Chicago School).

I found the last 5 or so chapters really insightful (especially the chapter on the international disparity of wealth) so try to make it through the book and you might learn something new irrespective of whi
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
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.
Tom Schwerbrock
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An easily understood, common sense guide to basic economic principles. Should be required reading at all institutions of higher learning.
Sabareesh Sundaravel
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A guide to throw your misconceptions into garbage.
Luisa Knight
Fantastic! Hands down!

I learned so incredibly much and thought Sowell did such a fabulous job of writing each economic concept in a clear, concise, informative and non-condescending manner. And I listened to the audio and still got everything (which for those who know me are already aware, I have a harder time grasping things from audios). Not this listen!

I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn economics from a logical, conservative point of view; and actually think this sh
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 -
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Ken  Van Allen
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who can read should read this book - otherwise, get the audiobook.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please update details 3 20 Mar 14, 2016 03:26PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
  • Capitalism and Freedom
  • Free to Choose: A Personal Statement
  • The Road to Serfdom
  • The Law
  • Anatomy of the State
  • Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life
  • Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
  • Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody
  • The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity
  • The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great
  • What Has Government Done to Our Money? and The Case for a 100 Percent Gold Dollar
  • Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
  • Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science
  • The Theory of Money and Credit
  • The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense
  • A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism: Economics, Politics, and Ethics
  • The Constitution of Liberty
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
28 likes · 6 comments
“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.” 98 likes
“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.” 53 likes
More quotes…