Randy Charles Epping | The 21st-Century Economy: A Beginner’s Guide

book_21st-century.jpgIf you want to get wise to how the economy works in the modern world, a good place to start is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

336 pages. New York: Vintage, 2008. $14.95 (paperback)

I used to be one of those people who never thought about economics; I figured that was the business of the economists, just as my business was biostatistics and yours might be medicine or law or playing the guitar. That was before half my retirement savings disappeared in the space of a few short months and I found out that I (along with all the other taxpayers of our fair land) would be assuming the risk of the banking system without sharing in the profits. And those would be the same bankers who paid themselves so well while driving real estate prices in New York so high that I can’t even think about moving back there.

OK, I’m done venting now. But my point is that if recent events prove anything at all, it’s that you remain ignorant of economics at your own peril. But there’s not much point in trying to get the information you need from standard textbooks: academic economists (Paul Krugman aside) haven’t had much useful to say about our current situation because their models don’t work in a crisis. Isn’t that like a physician who can only treat patients while they are in good health?

Oops, I’m venting again. Anyway, if you want to get wise to how the economy works in the modern world, a good place to start is The 21st-Century Economy: A Beginner’s Guide by Randy Charles Epping. Mr. Epping worked in international finance for over 25 years and holds degrees from Notre Dame, Yale and the Sorbonne. But don’t hold it against him; he writes in a clear, jargon-free style while illuminating how the world economy functions. In addition, The 21st Century Economy is salted with short sidebars, or "Informational Tools," which define important terms that you’ve probably heard on the news without knowing what they really mean. So if you don’t know what is meant by foreign direct investment or venture capital or the difference between a black market and a gray market, this is the book for you. And if you are wondering about how the world economy influences issues like health, poverty and pollution, this book is a good place to begin.

Mr. Epping earns a nice living working within the world economy as he describes it, and for my taste, he sometimes gives it too much credit and not enough blame. But everyone has a point of view and you can learn a lot from this book without needing to buy into all its assumptions. A detailed glossary is particularly useful for the beginner, and the many sidebars make it enjoyable to browse, as well. | Sarah Boslaugh

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