Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Economics 101

Trying to bring up a topic like economics at a dinner is like introducing durian to a foreigner. Some love it and healthy debates follow. Some feign interest and nod graciously. Some make a mental note never to invite you for dinner again.

I used to hate economics when I was in college. My lecturer made no effort to make a dull subject interesting. There were 2 economic lecturers teaching my course – a Mr SN and a Miss Rajamani (no kidding!). You can already figure out from the name which lecturer will be a better choice… unfortunately, I got Mr SN.

Mr SN would give us an economics lecture on Monday, and then proceed to give us THE EXACT SAME LECTURE on Tuesday. When we informed him of this, he will say, ‘No, I haven’t done this one with you all before’ and continue. It isn’t surprising that I just barely passed the subject.

It is with all these bad memories running through my head in 2007 when I picked up a copy of ‘The Undercover Economist’ at Borders. I didn’t buy it…oh heck no, not on my first trip. That would be very un-Malaysian. I chose a sofa and started reading. The first paragraph of the introduction began like this.

‘I would like to thank you for buying this book, but if you’re anything like me you haven’t bought it at all. Instead, you’ve carried it into a bookshop café and even now are sipping a cappuccino in comfort while you decide whether it’s worth your money.’

After a couple more trips to Borders, and having read 5 chapters (out of 10), I’ve decided that this is a book that belongs in my collection. So I went over to MPH and bought it since they were having a promotion.

What Tim Harford had succeeded in doing in this book is to make economics fun. If only he were my lecturer back then, one might wonder if I might have ended up on a different career path. A wide range of topics are discussed in the book, supply and demand affecting prices of goods and services, game theory, globalisation, why economies fail in certain countries and so on.

Overall this is a very fun book and it comes highly recommended from me. This book was never meant for the economics buff, but written for lay people like you and me who want to know a little bit more about what economics is and how it affects us in our daily lives. I would even go so far as to say that this is the most memorable book that I’ve read in 2007. Go get it people.

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