Economics: The User’s Guide

Economics: The User's Guide

Economics: The User's Guide

  • Bloomsbury Pub Plc USA

In his bestselling 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang brilliantly debunked many of the predominant myths of neoclassical economics. Now, in an entertaining and accessible primer, he explains how the global economy actually works--in real-world terms. Writing with irreverent wit, a deep knowledge of history, and a disregard for conventional economic pieties, Chang offers insights that will never be found in the textbooks.

Unlike many economists, who present only one view of their discipline, Chang introduces a wide range of economic theories, from classical to Keynesian, revealing how each has its strengths and weaknesses, and why there is no one way to explain economic behavior. Instead, by ignoring the received wisdom and exposing the myriad forces that shape our financial world, Chang gives us the tools we need to understand our increasingly global and interconnected world often driven by economics. From the future of the Euro, inequality in China, or the condition of the American manufacturing industry here in the United States--Economics: The User's Guide is a concise and expertly crafted guide to economic fundamentals that offers a clear and accurate picture of the global economy and how and why it affects our daily lives.

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  1. David Zetland 2
    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Not so useful to non-economists (there’s better stuff out there), February 4, 2017
    By 
    David Zetland (Amsterdam) –

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Economics: The User’s Guide (Paperback)

    I’m a fan of Ha-Joon Chang, a “heterodox” economist who has made a name for himself by pointing out the drawbacks to orthodox economics. Chang is not exactly an outsider (he’s a Reader — equivalent to an American associate professor — at Cambridge), but his critique of mainstream economics gives outsiders useful insights that might protect them from over reliance on overly formal (and thus mainly useless) models.

    Peter Boettke claims (with cause) that “mainstream” economics left the path of “mainline” economics after World War II, when mathematical economics rose to dominate the field. This resort to “mathterbation” has, IMO, weakened the discipline by making most research both inaccessible to lay readers and inaccurate in terms of “findings” (read Skidelsky). Such weaknesses explain why experimental, behavioural and institutional economics have grown so quickly in the past 20-30 years — mainstream economics just doesn’t help with important questions or facts.

    I downloaded this book on the prodding of one of my students as well as my own curiosity. I wanted to read a book that “gives us the tools we need to understand our increasingly global and interconnected world often driven by economics.”

    The short answer is that it does not.

    Chang’s book is not going to be helpful to the average reader with little knowledge of economics as Chang’s method of listing many schools of economic thought (before discussing the pros and cons of each school) will leave most readers confused. Worse, in my opinion, is that Chang oversimplifies — often to the point of caricature — complex sets of ideas that few economists buy into 100 percent. Chang, in other words, is battling with paper tigers in front of an audience that may not know what a real tiger looks like, and without the realities that a real tiger-fighter might need to consider.

    In my review of Freakonomics, I say that that book presents a series of entertaining “just so” stories that will be good for cocktail conversation but counterproductive to anyone seeking to understand how economists think. Chang’s book has the same problem but for different reasons. Freakonomics fails because it puts too much weight on case studies. Chang fails (in terms of educating readers) because he puts too much weight on theoretical quibbles.

    My advice here is the same as there, i.e., that readers seeking to understand the economic way of thinking read Economics in One Lesson [free download].

    Putting that heavy remark aside, I DO recommend this book to graduate students in economics seeking a quick and dirty overview of the various schools of thought and how they overlap and contradict with each other. I would advice they read it AFTER reading Heilbronner’s Worldly Philosophers because his “history of economic thought” explains how the current schools emerged. After reading these two books, it makes a lot of sense for those students to read primers or handbooks in each school as a counterpoint to the neoclassical (often more mathematical than useful) perspective they might get from Mas Colell, Whinston and Green — the doorstopper we used in graduate school that was as rigorous as it was useless.

    I would NOT recommend this book for non-economics gradate students because they will walk away with the (mistaken) opinion that “economists can’t agree on anything, so I can ignore economic thinking and make up my own version of human behaviour.” For those students, I would recommend Heilbronner (to see the depth and evolution of economic thinking) in combination with a course in microeconomics (to understand why demand slopes down), with a finisher looking into the economics of non-market goods. (I’ll be reviewing Ostrom et al.’s book on common pool resources soon!)

    For readers looking for more detailed criticisms, I’ll give only a few because I make over 70 notes in the text and don’t want to bore all of us with so many details.

    Early on, Chang notes that Europe’s GDP grew by less between 1000 and 1500 than China’s did between 2002 and 2008, but this measure of “material progress” (growth) misses much of what people care about (development). I doubt that any historian would agree that Europe did less in 500 years as China did in six (read this).

    Chang is a “macro guy” and Keynesian from South Korea, so he’s clearly got a different perspective from me (a micro guy and institutionalist from California), but I found myself constantly amazed by his oversimplified explanations for large scale events (e.g., how declining colonialism lead to World War I or that “Soviet industrialization was a big success… due to its…

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  2. R. S. Holt 1
    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    This book fills in the gaps remarkably nicely, as well as it’s an easy to skim, September 10, 2016
    By 
    R. S. Holt (Melb, FL) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Economics: The User’s Guide (Paperback)
    decades ago I got my economics degree. NEVER was it so well described to me the various aspects of economics as this book by this fellow. Economics professors understand econ, they don’t understand how to teach, routinely. This book fills in the gaps remarkably nicely, as well as it’s an easy to skim, read, read in depth for referrals, etc., very well done. This guy understands how to teach a difficult subject. And! Current!!
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  3. Myself 1
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Our world would be better for it, October 8, 2016
    By 
    Myself

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    I’m not quite finished yet. Maybe I’m done with 85-90%. It is not exactly light reading, as one might
    expect of what is essentially something of an economics text.

    This is the third book by this author I’ve read. Each has been an eye opener. There are simply so so many
    ideas and “facts” we all hold about economics which do not really stand careful scrutiny. In each of the three
    books by Ha-Joon Chang I’ve read he has really stripped away at false assumptions, naive ideas, simplistic
    viewpoints, all with an accessible style of writing.

    Honestly, I wish we could somehow take all of our politicians and force them to read his works. Our world
    would be better for it.

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