Sunday, September 16, 2012

Economics Without Illusions by Joseph Heath

Ever since I've come to Japan, I've started to believe that some books are meant to be bought. Books that are meant to be bought will always be on the shelf when you return - like this book. I didn't know if I wanted to buy the book, but after thinking over it, I really wanted it, and was so happy when I went back a few weeks later and found it on the shelf.

This book aims to show why the favourite views of the Right and Left (the American Right and Left political views that is), are both wrong. For this, I instantly agree with the book. In Singapore too, most of the views held tend to be very extreme, with little to no middle ground. So, it's refreshing to see a book which (implicitly at least) endorses a middle ground.

First, the book looks at fallacies held by the Right. The book tries to show why a completely free market will never work, why welfare policies (like universal health care) can be a good thing, and generally debunks the commonly used arguments.

Just when becoming a Liberal/going to the Left sounds like a good idea, the book goes and shows you why a lot of ideas held by the Left (like equal pay for everyone) is also a terrible idea.

The whole book is very entertaining, and a lot of interesting (and relevant) examples are used. It's shown that there tends to be a huge gap between idea and reality. The book also doesn't try to give a one-size fit all answer, and looks at the external effects of certain policies. This isn't to say the book is all pragmatic, it actually has quite a lot of heart (although you see this more when dealing with policies proposed by the Right rather than Left).

In short, this is an excellent book. It might not be orthodox economics (well, not for say, an introduction to it), but it shows a lot of common sense. And if you're studying economics as a subject, make this part of your required reading so you have a broader view and can list convincing counter-arguments/arguments in your essays.

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