A better use for economics

Tim Harford is rational, as one would expect of an economist, but rarely boring.

I’ve noticed that the talents of our local economists are wasted on mainly giving their opinions on interest rates and the property market. Wouldn't you rather know how to pick the quickest queue at the supermarket checkout, the cost benefit of paying for street parking, or the correct way the toilet seat should be left?

If you live in a house where women are present, you probably already know the answer to the last question. What makes it fun though, is having an economist to back you up. (The answer is down and yes, I am not even trying to hide my bias.)

Tim Harford's third book, Dear Undercover Economist, is a 'best of' from his popular column in the Financial Times. Readers write in with a range of eclectic problems—ranging from sex and love to wining and dining—to which he replies in earnest.

Harford is rational, as one would expect of an economist, but rarely boring. Citing the studies of everyone from John Keynes to Dan Ariely, he weaves philosophies of the dismal science with some wit when explaining, say, how you have a drawer full of odd socks. The solutions he offers may not be popular, but you’ll appreciate the even-handedness of his approach.

I can relate to many of these letters and picked up good need-to-know advice for future reference. There is plenty of interesting bits and pieces that should provide fodder for many dinner party conversations (and will let you move the conversation from the boring property market—making it as essential purchase for the home entertainer, too).

Fans of pop economics will not need convincing but for anyone who has never been brave enough to embrace economics, this book is a great place to start.

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