Economics, Libraries, plus another PB win

I don’t remember finding the subject of Economics very interesting at school, or particularly after school, if I’m honest. However, I did enjoy the type of ‘economics’ as found in the Freakonomics books, and one of the ‘you might also like’ suggestions in Amazon came up with The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. This became the final non-fiction book I read in 2017 to achieve one of my goals.

The book occasionally got a bit too much like a school text book but all in all, mostly held my attention.

It was very much educational but in an engaging way; things I learned included the ‘scarcity power’ of retailers pushing up prices,  how and why ‘externality pricing’ works’ (eg congestion charges) and ‘auction theory’, where the example used was the UK’s 2000 telecoms/spectrum auction which became the biggest auction ever (at the time), plus an insight as to why sweatshops might not always be the worst thing for employees.

For those who love their takeaway coffee, there’s a chapter called ‘Who pays for your coffee?’ with interesting examples of how coffees/drinks are priced.

I was interested in the history of how China started its latest revolution to conquer the world, although as the edition of the book I was reading was written in 2006, it doesn’t include China’s explosion in the last 10 years.  However, even 11 years ago, China’s growth was spiralling upwards like a rocket.

Having never heard of Harford previously, I now see him everywhere doing a couple of podcasts (interesting one here about fake news or ‘facts’ which mislead), plus there was even an article by him in the British Airways magazine I was reading on the plane during my recent trip to London! I’ve probably just never noticed him or his work before, but I’ll be paying more attention now.

An interesting read in any case and I would definitely read some of his other books.


I’ve been using my local library since the mid-1990s, when I moved back home to Manchester from uni.  Around 12 years ago, my library was at risk of closure due to council cuts – fortunately, it was saved and I started to use it more often, with a ‘use it or lose it’ view. Borrowing books also helped me reduce my spending as I no longer felt the need to buy new books.

I was extremely relieved to hear that the library once again escaped the ‘chop’ and that it was not to be one of ten libraries (yes 10!) which were closed by the council earlier this month. Very sad times and those communities will be all the more poorer for not having local library facilities.

Although my library has been saved, the hours of opening have been severely reduced and I can only feel for the staff who have worked there for many years and the people who regularly rely on using library facilities.

I wonder if Tim Harford has a theory on how libraries can be saved or run more efficiently?

Another Win

And finally, a good start to the year with my first Premium Bond win of 2018 – just the £25 but it all adds up! I hope to get many more wins over the year.

17 thoughts on “Economics, Libraries, plus another PB win

  1. Thanks for sharing the review of The Undercover Economist. Sounds similar to the Freakonomics series, which I have enjoyed, so I will have to check it out. Of course, I was an Econ major, so I may be naturally inclined to find the topic more interesting than you do!

    Glad to hear that your library is safe for now. They are generally a great resource for communities, but I can see the financial pressures continuing to increase. Hopefully Harford has some ideas!

    • I’m hoping I will have more of an interest now and not shy away from articles on economics so much!

      Incidentally, Harford does have a story about a library in ‘The Undercover Economist’ but it was more about one not being fit for purpose!

    • Hi weenie,

      I read that book on my honeymoon back in 2013 (I really know how to live it up, huh?) And did enjoy it although I think anyone with a more than basic understand of economics will find around the book a little boring/simple. His examples and stories are all really good though. I got half way through writing up a detailed summary/review to post on the blog but it’s remained in my drafts folder ever since unfortunately!

      That’s really sad to hear about the ten libraries closing in your area. Hopefully your one escapes the chop for many years to come!

      Also If you’re down in London again soon give me a shout if you have time for a beer/coffee! 🙂

      • Hey TFS

        This level of economics is my level haha – I think I need it to be a fairly simple level to keep my interest!

        Interestingly enough, I received a leaflet from the local Lib Dems representative and part of his manifesto is to campaign for longer hours at the library (which wasn’t closed down), with the option of volunteers to help out (which the current council won’t consider). I think it’s the only thing I’ve seen in all the local political promises that I’d consider worth backing!

        And yes, if I’m down in the capital, I shall take you up on that offer! 🙂

    • Sorry just remembered I put my comment here to reply to ROMT and say that this particular book isn’t really anything like Freakonomics IMHO but I dare say if you enjoyed one you will probably enjoy the other.

      @weenie again, Harfords blog is really good and yes he does pop up in many places nowadays. Will check out the podcast you linked. Cheers!

  2. The book sounds interesting, I’ll be checking that out. Good news about your local library. They are a fantastic resource. It’s a shame more and more people just aren’t using them. It’s strange because one way of thinking about it is, if the library happens to have the book you want in stock, you’ve already paid for it (via taxes ect..) so why go out an buy it again?

    Congrats on the PB win!

    • I agree, libraries are paid for with our taxes so we may as well use them. Sadly, none of my friends who are big readers borrow from their local libraries, but I continue to mention it (and how it is a money saver) so hopefully, they will listen at some point!

  3. Oh, Weenie, no! Libraries closing is terrible; even a reduction in hours is bad. Libraries build community. I can’t believe this is still an issue. I feel it’s a vested interest, because if it’s happening in the U.K., there’s a good chance that our government will look at it and think it’s a good idea too.

    Yay for ERNIE!

    • I know, Mrs ETT – so sad. I believe the buildings which used to be libraries will still service the communities in some sort of educational way, just not as libraries. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen in Oz.

  4. Hi Weenie,
    Nice to hear you use your local library especially as I am one of those staff members who were made redundant (although not in Manchester) due to cuts. Unfortunately, the future is bleak for libraries. It is no longer seen as a vital service to most councils. Well done on the PB win.

    • Hi Mrs Chai
      I’m sorry to hear that you were made redundant from your library. You’re right, the future is bleak for libraries, I just don’t understand how they cannot be considered a vital service. I will continue to support my local one and petition against any proposed closures. Thanks – let’s hope I get more PB wins!

  5. I agree with you completely regarding libraries, I LOVE them. Thankfully my local ones are still open, they’re doing a fantastic job holding events and encouraging people through the doors, hopefully that will continue. My only problem is I get carried away and often end up with more books than I can possibly read within 3 weeks, forget to renew on time, and face hefty fines….not such a money-saver when that happens! 🙂 Congrats on hitting the reading target and the PB win!

    • Same here – I’ve always loved libraries, big or small. Good to hear your local ones are still open and long may that continue. I guess the fines you’re paying are contributing towards their costs, so money earner for them, though not a money saver for you!

  6. Thanks for the book recommendation, I really enjoy Tim Harford on the podcast More or Less so will have to give this a go.

  7. Hi Weenie,

    another library fan here:) My local one was about to close down so it was turned into a community library instead. It is now run by volunteers (I used to volunteer there too and must say that most people were very appreciative of our work). Moreover, thanks to crowdsourcing, local folks opened a second-hand book and vinyl store to help fund the library costs. Community libraries are becoming more and more common here (London). Maybe this will also happen in Manchester?

    • Hi Maya

      Wow, that’s a great story about your community library – what a fantastic idea! If my local library had ended up being shut down, I would definitely support such an initiative and would (if possible) volunteer my time (and money) to make it work. I’m hoping it will never be closed down but I’m somewhat happy that there are alternatives to consider if the worst happens.

Comments are closed.