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Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  7,764 ratings  ·  702 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)
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Mr. Brightside Market is simply the people who are transacting with each other.

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Trevor
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
Toe
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
...more
JP
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
...more
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
Stephen
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
Carli
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
...more
Gavin
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
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
...more
Brian
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
...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
Erik
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
...more
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
...more
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
Douglas Wilson
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Really good, filled in a lot of cracks for me.
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
...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
...more
Douglas
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.
Hannah
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
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
Joseph
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
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
...more
Mary
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.
Ken  Van Allen
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who can read should read this book - otherwise, get the audiobook.
Bernie
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
...more
Brian
Oct 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Kelly
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 -
...more
Leo Lakpa
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"For those who are willing to stop and think, basic economics provides some tools for evaluating policies and proposals in terms of their logical implications and empirical consequences"
-Thomas Sowell

Honestly I couldn't have summed up this book any better than that. Dr. Sowell has a way of plainly and concisely presenting economic principals. In this book he solely (no pun intended) used words to illustrate economic concepts. I feel like this book is a perfect introduction to economics and it ha
...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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“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.” 79 likes
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