Understanding some basic economics is crucial to understanding the world we live in, which in turn enables us to be better consumers, producers, and voters. Ha-Joon Chang’s Economics: The User’s Guide offers much of what people need in order to achieve this understanding in a way that is noticeably different from what a traditional introductory textbook looks like.
In Economics: The User’s Guide, Chang covers topics that span both the fields of microeconomics, the study of individual economic actors and markets, and macroeconomics, the study of the aggregate economy as a whole, though more focus is placed on the latter. Topics explored include happiness, production, unemployment, inequality, and the role of the government in markets. And Chang also presents a concise history of the origins of economic thought, as well as the development of the capitalistic societies that economists strive to comprehend and model accurately. In his discussion Chang is mindful to present and explain different schools of economic thought as opposed to adopting and promoting one particular viewpoint, which is indispensable for readers who are looking to put the economic debates that they see in politics and the media into a useful context.
Chang’s treatment differs from traditional textbook economics in that it doesn’t cover the finer details of the economic models and concepts, and doesn’t come loaded with practice problems for review, of course. This is not a large concern for the non-academic reader, however, since much of the intuition and most of the conclusions can be properly conveyed without getting ensnared in the intricacies of the models or the data. In addition, Chang uses a voice that is clearly aimed at intellectually mature readers, preferring meaningful and substantial applications to illustrate concepts rather than “toy” examples designed primarily to pique younger students’ interest. Overall, Economics: A User’s Guide is a helpful basic introduction to economics for the casual reader-citizen.