REVIEW: Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

In brief: Economics explained, in an interesting way that links real life to the science.

The good: Examples that are realistic and understandable help so much!

The not-so-good: There’s a new edition out (2019).

Why I chose it: I like Charles Wheelan’s style and I needed to learn the dismal science.

Year: 2010

Pages: 354

Publisher: W.W. Norton

Rating: 9 out of 10

Economics texts to me are generally really, really wordy and my main thought while reading them is to edit, edit, edit. I love the real world examples but the principles are pretty dull. I needed a refresher in the world of straight economics (where the rules hold rather than break) and who better to turn to than the man who made statistics exciting (see Naked Statistics).

If you’re a fan of Freakonomics, you will enjoy the more in-depth approach by Wheelan. He uses examples that are applicable to real life (and also sometimes hilarious) to explain economic principles and then build on them. Want to know about incentives and how to get people to do what you want? (Or why they won’t do it?) Chapter 3 is your friend and I promise, does not overuse the term ‘maximise utility’. There is also the economics of information, which goes into why health economics bends the rules (reason: you know too much when it comes to health insurance but not enough when it comes to treatments) and two chapters on government and economics. Yes, I know it sounds boring, but government (even flawed) can be helpful in the economic field to ensure your welfare (and to build undercover car parks in really rainy areas). I also liked the chapter on international economics, trade and the Federal Reserve as it helped me to understand the basics of how and why trade makes me better off. (It means I can have my choice of computer, lipstick or phone made by those who know best what they are doing).

Another great thing about Naked Economics is the lack of graphs and equations. No random unlabelled curves or lines or proofs but good examples that make you say when reading the news, ‘Hey! That is completely the wrong thing to do when the economy is in recession!’ or why globalisation is a useful thing or why workers in developing countries choose to work in sweatshops.

If you’re unfamiliar with economics or in need of a refresher in the subject, Wheelan’s book is excellent. It’s interesting, funny and teaches you while you’re not even thinking about it.

One thought on “REVIEW: Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

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  1. I wondered why you would read a book called Naked Economics, but you have made it sound really well worth reading. I always thought Economics was rather a dry subject but it sounds as though this book could change my mind.

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