The Concise Guide to Economics
By Jim Cox

Synopsis: Originally published in the '90s, this is the third edition to this book, published by the Mises Institute. The book is a brief tour of the subject of economics written from the Austrian perspective. It tackles each subject in very brief chapters, averaging about a page and a half.

Strong Points: This book is an excellent primer into economics. The author does a great job of explaining the concepts so that the layman can readily understand. It covers a breadth of topics, and yet the book is incredibly short and brief. “Concise” is an appropriate description in the book title. Concepts in the book are accompanied by examples to give the reader a better idea of what is being said. The chapters are so brief, quick, yet interesting, that the book is a breeze. This is exactly the kind of book that is called for to give busy people an understanding of the fundamentals. Chapter titles such as "Entrepreneurship," "The Profit/Loss System," "Price Gouging," "Price Controls," "Regulation," "The Federal Reserve System," and "The Great Depression" gladden the eye and display the comprehensive nature of the topics covered. This book would make an excellent gift for a friend who may not have the time or motivation to read a large treatise. It may even be a good book for an ideological opponent, because it’s just brief enough that they might actually read it. It is certainly an excellent book for the interested student to solidify basics, teach things in a new an interesting way, and delight with such an impressive work in such a small package.This book is highly recommended.

Weak Points: Due to the brevity of each chapter, not all of the arguments for each subject were entirely complete. Take, for instance, the chapter on the minimum wage, which I found somewhat strange. The author argued against minimum wage on the basis of the moral problem with denying employees the ability to temporarily earn less so that they can build their skills and earn more later, the same way a doctor in school does. Interesting approach to the matter, but there was no discussion of how minimum wage causes persistent unemployment by forcing businesses to hire fewer people, creating a more difficult job market for the low income earners.

Interesting: 5/5

Must Read: 5/5

Overall: 5/5

Pages: 125

Selected Quotes: “The conventional, but mistaken, understanding of regulation is that consumers or workers need protection from unscrupulous big businesses and that Congress wisely and compassionately responds to those needs to rein in nefarious businesses. Actually, business regulations were and are instigated at the behest of and for the benefit of the businesses so regulated. In effect, regulation is a teaming of business and government to the detriment of potential competitors – which the established businesses prefer not to face – and to the detriment of the consuming public.” (p. 23).

“The irony of so many reformers who agonize over alleged monopolies generated in the free market is that they never complain of the hordes of government monopolies. … One can only conclude that what so upsets these people is not monopolies but private property, businesses, and the free market. For surely the monopoly power the U.S. Postal Service exercises on a daily basis and for decades now is far, far greater than any monopoly power that a business may enjoy from voluntary customer patronage. No market-earned business monopoly (in the sense of one seller) can forcibly eliminate its competitors or forcibly require revenues from its customers the way the United States Post Office and other government-granted monopolies do as a matter of routine.” (p. 27).

“…choice in the market is continual. One can replace unsatisfactory goods at any time. Tired of the car you thought would be so great? Sell it and get a different model. No longer happy with your detergent, buy a different brand. Realize the first brand was good after all? Replace it at your discretion. Now compare this to government. Want to drop out of the Social Security program – go to jail. Tired of the President. Four more years.” (p. 55).

“During the 1990s, the hysteria over this phony trade deficit directed its wrath at Japan. And sure enough, the Japanese had been running a trade surplus with the U.S. What this actually means is that the Japanese were working to produce goods for Americans at a faster total rate than Americans had been working to produce goods for the Japanese. Does that really sound so bad? If so, you are more than welcome to create a massive trade surplus with this author – send the goods on, and I promise not to reciprocate.” (p. 98).


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