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?
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.