Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Naked Economics

Charles Wheelan does a remarkable job in explaining the fundamentals of Economics in his Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.  The purpose of the book is to provide an accessible corridor for the non-specialist to get her dose of ECON 101 without wading through the math that often clouds the big picture of what Economics is intended to do.  Each chapter is devoted to a particular type of economics, from Micro to Macro and everything in between.  

His overriding concern is to get his readers thinking like economists, which can be a disconcerting experience.  He readily admits the shortcomings of Economics.  Like Meteorology or Climatology, Economics deals with complex systems with multiple factors and variables acting upon each other, making understanding and prediction difficult.  Yet Economists plow ahead with a certain hard-headed certainty, providing answers for nearly all human behavior while at the same time conceding that their theories and explanations might not hold water. 

So, readers are left with inconsistent expectations.  As a science, how useful is Economics in theorizing how people behave?  Are its experiments indicative of real scientific procedure?  Can any of its conclusions have real world applications? In many cases, I have my doubts.  But as an Economist, Wheelan will definitely give you the answers.

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