Books: Independent choice
Economics for everyone, by Diane Coyle
Saturday 13 June 1998
One new title that rises above this is a collection of essays by a star of the profession. The Accidental Theorist (Norton, pounds 16.95) by Paul Krugman, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a model of wit, clarity and insight. The essays, many first published on the Internet, address some of the biggest issues in public policy and make them funny or, at worst, understandable. As if that were not enough, the professor avoids the howlers about economic theory that scar lesser books. Many economists criticise Krugman for his arrogance, and he's pretty confident he is right. But then, he often is right. More important for a reader unscarred by a formal training in economics, the essays make plain the distinctions between hard facts, necessities of economic logic and political opinions.
This merit is not shared by the other two offerings. Though they leave you in no doubt about the political leanings of their authors, they never make it clear where the economics end and the politics begin. The Age of Insecurity (Verso, pounds 17) by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson, two Guardian journalists, is an enjoyable rant about what's wrong with modern Britain. Both left-wingers of a certain age, they are among the handful of people who look back on the economic events - as well as the flares and pop music - of the 1970s with fondness. They hate the 1980s, Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. They also hate the 1990s, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. They hate the US, but they hate the EU, too. It's a jolly good read for Old Labour types, tapping their feet in time to their vintage Clash albums playing in the background (vinyl only - Elliott and Atkinson hate CDs), but short on the hard analysis needed to back up their prejudices.
This makes it easier going for the casual reader than Public Spending (Penguin, pounds 8.99) by Evan Davis, a BBC journalist. While extremely well written, this demands great attention to detail and concentration. The basic question Davis addresses is central to public policy: why are public services so much worse run than private ones? Why aren't councils as good at running schools as Tesco or Sainsbury is at running supermarkets? He presents his solutions as a third way between right-wing cutters and old- left supporters of increased government spending.
But make no mistake: this book is as deeply and inextricably ideological as the Elliott-Atkinson volume. The author is an ardent free marketeer. He wants to have the private sector spending public money, and the abolition of all "old-style public monopolies". This won't stop his book becoming a bible to students who need to get their minds around the intricacies of public finance. But it is a pity that it is so clear in its facts and explanations, yet so coy about where its politics intrude.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...