Book on economics for discussing stuff in the news
February 4, 2019 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Difficulty level: I am not an idiot but I don't understand economics and have found superficial forays daunting.

It seems like discussions of current affairs often involving economics. I'm not even clear on the exact field I would need to know to participate better: macroeconomics? Finance? What I'm basically looking for is to understand enough not to tune out when I read stuff about, say, the Federal Reserve or trade wars or the value of one currency against another. It may not be one subject area. I simply don't know enough to know what I don't know.

I've tried reading this and that. One book was in very clear language and not too long but turned out to have a libertarian bent I couldn't deal with. (My own politics are sort of standard left, probably not especially radical despite my best efforts.) I don't want something so technical I'd need a class to follow along, but I don't want something with a yellow cover informing me I'm an idiot or a dummy.

Got anything?
posted by Smearcase to Law & Government (12 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Further to difficulty level/purpose: watching debates without shruggily tuning out. "Well, they're both just bullshitting now so it's fine that I don't understand."
posted by Smearcase at 12:13 PM on February 4


Ha-Joon Chang is the author you're looking for. Immensely readable.
posted by jacobean at 12:26 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist is both a good read (enough to become an international best-seller) and covers most major economic principles. It is structured as "Here are some stories about the world and here are the concepts that explain them," which is a nice reversal of "Here are the rules of economics with a few examples." Read the opening pages to get a sense of whether it's what you're looking for.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:37 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Try Joseph Stiglitz, specifically Freefall, The Great Divide, and The Price of Inequality.

Also Paul Krugman, especially The Conscience of a Liberal.

And Nouriel Roubini, Crisis Economics.

For a somewhat historical standpoint, check into the works of John Kenneth Galbraith, and for a more contemporary take the works of his son James K. Galbraith.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:43 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


My usual recommendation here would be to take the Economist for six months or a year. They're quite libertarian in the softer and less Mad Max-ey European sense but they're so straightforward and up-front about it that it's not as annoying as almost-hidden preaching. As an added bonus, they are *ruthlessly* internationalist in perspective.

What I'm basically looking for is to understand enough not to tune out when I read stuff about, say, the Federal Reserve or trade wars or the value of one currency against another.

FWIW, this is all pretty much macroeconomics. The problem is that micro and macro get all mixed up.

Further to difficulty level/purpose: watching debates without shruggily tuning out. "Well, they're both just bullshitting now so it's fine that I don't understand."

The only reason to watch the Democratic primary debates are (1) the off-chance that someone will really fuck up and (b) to see which of them give you the inexplicable willies and which ones don't. You aren't going to learn anything meaningful from the primary debates about their policy positions and suchlike that you can't learn in 1/10 the time by glancing at their webpages.

There isn't any good reason to watch the general election debates unless you happen to find that sort of thing entertaining.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:00 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I also find that the Planet Money podcast is really, really good a de-mystifying this kind of stuff. So add it to you playlist, if you're a podcast kinda person.
posted by dbmcd at 1:12 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


I loved Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism. It is especially great at looking at looking at what are some things libertarians get wrong, and what are some things people on the left get wrong. Non-technical, very tied to things like how economic issues get talked about in the newspaper. (The title makes it sound like it's a leftist critique of capicalism, but it's not. It's about myths from both the left and the right)
posted by ManInSuit at 2:17 PM on February 4


Economics for Everyone has been my go to recommendation (on metafilter and in general) for a number of years!
posted by eviemath at 5:13 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I started out with JK Galbraith, famous old progressive Keynesian, he's great but Cold War dated. (Things have changed since then, but hey maybe we need some more Keynes now, despite a bunch of right wing propaganda dedicated to forgetting him; Paul Krugman carries the torch).

T Piketty's tome is dry. D Graeber's book on debt is okay, I think he might have borrowed some ideas from non-economist M Atwood's intresting book: 'Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth'.

I liked J Suroweicki's old articles in The New Yorker, he clearly predicted the 2008 crash. I haven't read his book on The Wisdom of Crowds.

regarding the magazine The Economist, I'd reiterate that it should be read critically, the value of the essays varies greatly depending upon the credibility of the author.

(sorry for not answering the question)
posted by ovvl at 6:25 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Seconding Joseph Heath's Economics Without Illusions.

I'd also recommend Paul Krugman's Age of Diminished Expectations.
posted by russilwvong at 7:52 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I recommend "Money, Banking, and Financial Markets" by Cecchetti and Shoenholtz. It's a textbook, but I found it very accessible without taking a class. It will teach you all the core concepts from the ground up.
posted by Arctic Circle at 9:16 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I am taking an economics class this semester for my MBA and teacher has been using https://www.mruniversity.com/ for many concepts. It has videos that are very accessible and show real world impact. Its been very helpful and I can point to specific videos depending on your needs.
posted by radsqd at 12:30 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


« Older Creative uses for land   |   Linux Bash - Write array contents to middle of... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments