Monday, July 2, 2012

Two pop economist books

The two books Naked Economics by Chris Whelan and The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford seem to have common elements of the authors discussing coffee, beer, and wine. And let us not forget the condescending I know-it-all-because-I-am-an-economist tone that people like me use when we are talking down to those who just don’t understand. There is nothing more annoying to me than to read a book that sounds like myself. If you can stand being spoken down to because you want to learn how economists think then these books are for you.

Unfortunately these two authors are journalists pretending to be economists even though they do have graduate degrees in economics. One of them - I forget which now and I’m not sure I really care anymore - talks about the evils of certification and how it restricts the supply of services by discussing how electricians need to be certified and how this has increased the price of their services. (I’m not disagreeing with the analysis here and I probably would have used the same tone.) He gloatingly points out that people are literally dying because they are now doing electrical work themselves. Of course this is anecdotal evidence - if he truly were an economist he would have said something like this: “The impact of certification of electricians on accidental electricians has increased by a factor of 16 as a result of certification requirements” or something like that - but then again, they’re journalists after all so they do have to make it intelligible to the lay audience and rely on anecdotes rather than statistics.

No comments: