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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: Dear Undercover Economist

Dear Undercover Economist is a collection of columns of that name from the Financial Times newspaper. As you might expect, Tim Harford answers questions like an advice columnist, only from the perspective of an economist.

For instance, when a woman writes in to ask if she should propose rather than waiting for her boyfriend to do so, Harford points to a 1962 paper indicating that a world where men propose and women accept or reject is the very worst for women and the best for men. When another person writes in to ask how many different people she should date before settling down, he points to optimal experimentation theory. He similarly explains why grandparents tend to spoil grandkids (as well as providing a way to keep them from doing so).

The answers are mostly written in a flippant advice-columnist style, so reading more than 2-3 at a stretch taxed my patience. That's the main reason this book took me 5 weeks to work through. All in all, while I enjoyed the book, it's definitely not something you would read a second time. Recommended only for economics geeks.

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