Economics is a late starter in the popularisation stakes, but there is a growing abundance of popular economics books now, in the wake of science, mathematics and history. About time, in my view, as economists claim such an important role in public policy, making public understanding of what we are saying vital for legitimacy. And there’s still a long way to go. So the new revised issue of David Smith’s Free Lunch: Easily Digestible Economics is very welcome.
It is really clear and accessible, as you would expect from one of the UK’s most distinguished economics journalists. This new edition incorporates issues that have become more pressing since the onset of the financial crisis (although it’s impossible to keep up with events – Libor hasn’t made it in here). I particularly like the ‘Arguing over Coffee’ section, which looks at controversies in economics and is useful to help readers understand the reasons economists so vigorously disagree with each other on issues such as the effects of taxes, or globalisation.
There are now enough popular economics books that the Journal of Economic Methodology has a forthcoming special issue on them. We will all have our favourites. Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist turned my eldest son into an economist – he is being turned loose on the world of economic consultancy in September. It would be remiss of me not to mention my own Sex, Drugs and Economics and The Soulful Science. New additions to the catalogue are always welcome, to spread the word, and keep things up to date. Free Lunch is terrific and as Jeff Randall highlights in his comment on it, it “cuts through the mind-numbing waffle” of much economic commentary. Highly recommended for students and general readers.