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Like Econ 101, but Interesting

Another economics book finished! Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan lays out basic economic principles in an interesting manner. Although the author comes from the Chicago school of economics, he gives many different perspectives on the topics. Some of the topics I've heard discussed before: how to save endangered animals from poachers, adverse selection (relating to used cars and insurance companies), &c. Some of the things the author covered are considered more boring and weren't discussed in The Undercover Economist or Freakonomics, such as how the Fed operates and index funds (although I found these things very helpful). My favorite chapters dealt with globalization and development economics. The book didn't become very thought-provoking until the epilogue, where Wheelan asks several questions about what the world will be like in 2050. The one that I found most interesting was this:

How many minutes of work will a loaf of bread cost? ... If productivity grows at 1 percent a year over the next half century, our standard of living will be some 60 percent higher by 2050. If productivity grows at 2 percent a year, then our standard of living will nearly triple in the same time frame--assuming we continue to work as hard as we do now. Indeed, that leads to a subquestion that I find more interesting: How rich is rich enough?

Americans are richer than most of the developed world; we also work harder, take less vacation, and retire later. Will that change? ... Economic theory predicts that as our wages go up, we will work longer hours--up to a point, and then we will begin to work less...

Assuming Americans continue to grow steadily more productive, will we choose to work sixty hours a week in 2050 and live richly (in a material sense) as a result? Or will there come a time when we decide to work twenty-five hours a week and listen to classical music in the park for the balance?

The book is good for those who want a refresher on their Econ 101 topics, filled with interesting relevant discussions on global warming and trade protectionism.

Naked Economics: B


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