007-2019 A little history of economics

Book Tile: A little history of Economics

Author: Niall Kishtainy

Read the title of the book, and you know exactly what you will get out of this book. History of Economics.

Even though I had economics in school and then again for two semesters in university, I would still recommend it to anyone that has already been exposed to economics at some point in time to the field of study. It is very reader-friendly, so anyone with no prior teachings in the field won’t get lost in the book at any point.

The book presents exactly what it offers. It offers a very little history of many different topics in this 40 chapter booklet. Each chapter is short so as to give the small piece of history and theory of the principle. And when it says history, it really takes you down memory lane all the way from the Greeks, to the thinking of the middle ages, right until to modern economics as we know it today.

Now, I won’t say you will be an economics guru after this, but you will definitely have a little more around your belt than you started off with, or, you may have enhanced your foundation understanding of what you knew before of some/all of the economics topics.

If you’re like me with that ‘urge to know’ inside of you then this is the book I would recommend as a first reader for other economics books, so you know what you are getting yourself into, and then go for the more in-depth books that I have reviewed before this book.

Also, the economics books you fill find in larger quantities won’t necessarily cover the economics topics from far back into the past, but more on the topics of the last three centuries. Therefore, by reading this book you will also walk down memory lane all the way from its roots. Now that is a bonus with this book!

All in all,

The book keeps it short and simple per chapter, walks you down memory lane and explains the theories in a reader-friendly manner, the book definitely deserves my rating of a 5.2/5.

Happy reading!!!!!

006-2019 Nudge

Book Title: Nudge (Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness)

Author: Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Take a moment and think about the word ‘Nudge’. What would you say is the meaning of the word? Asking for the meaning of the word on Google will give you the meaning of the word used either as a noun or a verb. The definition provided for the verb-use is “…prod (someone) gently with one’s elbow in order to attract attention…”. This is the picture I would like you to keep in mind when reading the book, as someone wanting to attract your attention for something.

Now, the book introduces the reader to a new phrase that you may have heard when used as individual terms, but not together as one term, before. This is ‘libertarian paternalism’. The word libertarian also shares the understood meaning that we (people) should be free to make decisions for ourselves. Whereas the paternalism aspect would suggest more of a guidance aspect to assist with our decision-making. So, how I understood the meaning of the phrase was that we still have the choice to choose as we please, however, there is a guiding force available to us to give us more context of all the available options, and wants us to make a more informed decision (that will make our lives better).

You might be thinking that if we include the guiding hand then we might not be making our choice without having been influenced. And, you are right to say that because if someone gives you advice it could make you choose differently than had you not received that guidance to begin with.

However, when you read the book then it becomes increasingly clearer that when it comes to us human beings, we make many wrong decisions in our lives. One reason for this is that we live in a much more complex world than before, with innovations happening all over, and there being many competing companies out there that try and persuade you that you ‘need’ to have their products instead of someone else’s.

So it makes sense why we all fall for the traps and buy things we don’t need. It happens to all of us, and it sucks, but that’s the best way we learn.

As much as it is important for us to make mistakes and learn from them, there are some decisions in our lives that are costly and should be avoided as best as possible in order to live a healthier and happier life.

That is where the book is trying to get to you. That with some decisions we need to get help (get nudged) by someone/something in order to make a more informed decision, and decide on the alternative that will allow you to live a happier and healthier life.

This book doesn’t only apply to your personal household, or a company, but can also apply to a whole government, as the advice it gives is not something that can only be achieved on a small scale, but can be directed to a larger target audience.

If we make an non-life example on a simple company of 500 people. The staff can choose which package of salary they wish to choose. Either A) take a package where the employer takes portions of the salary and contributes them towards the medical aid and retirement, or B) where the employee takes the full salary and makes them contributions him/her-self to his/her chosen medical aid and pension fund. ……These are the two packages offered to the staff….. Now, the employer informs the staff member that it remains their choice which package they wish to take, however, he lets him/her know that most staff have opted for package A because of the lesser administrative burden it places on the employee. …..Here, the employer nudged one option above the other, however, it was not to persuade the staff for malicious reason, but rather for a happier daily life they could live. The employee still has the choice, however he/she has received more information that will give him/her more to think about.

It is this kind of nudging the authors, in my opinion, want to promote. And I strongly support this because with the vast amount of choices out there for insurance packages, pension funds and medical aids out there (to name a few important areas) it is easy to become overwhelmed and make an ill-informed decision, whilst a broker is an expert and knows more that could have persuaded you to make a better choice.

Not only does the book set out this ideal theory that would be great, but it also gives multiple real-life example out there where this was already implemented, in multiple different industries. (When you bought your phone new and started to set some basic settings, it asked you a few questions, and even gave you options here and there – next to which some had the words “recommended” or “default” next to it). We are not experts in everything because there is just so much, so the seller gives you the choices, with a recommendation how the product can be used for optimal usage.

Rating:

The lesson the book wants to bring to the reader is very valuable, on a small and large scale both, and gives some real examples how it was already implemented effectively across different industries. The book definitely deserves a strong 5/5. 🙂

005-2019 Gigged

Book Title: Gigged (The Gig Economy, the End of the Job and the Future of Work)

Author: Sarah Kessler

The first company I heard about was Uber. I didn’t first understand how that worked about the Gig Economy, but then gave the App a try. It was a great tool that got me from A to B when I didn’t have any alternative transportation available.

It seemed that the whole idea around having new apps in place where someone made their services available at the touch of a button was a terrific. I mean, you would be working flexible hours and would be your boss.

The book gave some great insight (through stories from real Gig-economy players) how some experienced the new economic trend. Some had great experiences, whilst others had not been as fortunate.

Also, the book gave some great understanding what was a challenge that some companies faced as a result of the economic trend.

Rating

Overall, the book is a good read for anyone that wanted to get some greater understanding what the Gig Economy entails, as well as what challenges could be faced if one wished to enter the trend. I thus want to rate it at a 4.5/5.

Discussion title: Where would humanity be today if our species had adopted a different survival approach?

To explain where I am coming from, let me start off with the following scenario below:

With certain animal species only the strongest male, alpha, is permitted to mate with the females of the pack, thus ensuring the line of survivalists comes with the strongest genes.

Now, imagine that our earliest ancestors (if we follow the thinking of Darwinian evolution) had followed the same approach that only the alpha of the tribe were to be allowed to mate with the females of the tribe.

Would we still have been as innovative, and risen in the ranks of the hierarchy of all species on the planet as we have (and where we are now) or would humanity maybe have been on a different level of the same hierarchy?

This is just meant to be an interesting topic for discussion….

004-2019 Unsafe Thinking

Book Title: Unsafe Thinking (How to be creative and bold when you need it most)

Author: Jonah Sachs

I have read this book just over a year ago, but I will definitely try my best to remember as much as is needed to give you a great idea what the book is about, and why I give it the rating that I did.

Before we start, let me throw some words at you, status quo, and creative destruction.

  1. Which of these sounds most familiar to you?
  2. And, which one do you believe is the most appropriate to describe how we have come to our living standards today?

The status quo (for those that are a little blurry with the detail) practically refers to something being done in a certain way for a certain situation. It brings in a sense of stability and certainty that there is a way of doing things, and won’t make us panic when we encounter a situation that we haven’t come across before.

  • To give an example, when you drive and see the traffic light is red it means you need to stop and wait until it becomes green. Then you may proceed. There are rules in place for everyone to follow and when everyone follows those rules then the system should work and no one needs to panic.
  • Whereas if, lets say you as a foreigner, went to an under-developed country where there are no traffic lights and everyone just drives where they find a gap. You automatically might feel less at ease and uncertain to carry on driving.

Now let’s go to creative destruction. It was a term used by the economist Joseph Schumpeter to explain how can we become more innovative than continuing the current system. If we had only done what our parents had done and never deviated from that, then (and this is only where you believe in the Darwinian theory of evolution) we might never have used the fire at all.

Luckily for us, our species always has been motivated to discover new things, and implement them should they prove more useful and assist with our probability of survival.

Now, let’s jump back to the book…

The book actually tries to convince us, rightly so, that we shouldn’t always stick to the status quo, and thus remain within the comfort zone. But actually motivates us to step outside and try something new. It tries to show that we can find a sense of satisfaction (be creative) in having tried new things, even when they didn’t result in success.

What counts is that we tried, and carry on trying to make it better.

However, just a disclaimer, in no way does it promote (and I also don’t promote) that we should break rules that would otherwise result in breaking the rules of law. It is a guide to become more creative within the legal boundaries of society, and should be read as such.

That said, it wishes to unlock the reader’s creativity and bring it back to life. It gives the reader six steps to follow to unlock their creativity in all aspects. The book also provides the reader with some real-life people’s stories and how the author sees them as having lived on the creative edge.

What I took from the book was that we are brought up in a society to conform to rules, and play our part, but we need to learn the skill of trying to always become and remain creative. This, I understood, brings somewhat more happiness or excitement to your life. Even when the creative spark didn’t pen out, at least you tried it and showed it doesn’t work for you. But you tried something new.

Also, I think it would be worthwhile to read the book once again to refresh oneself with the principles/steps as we tend to always fall back into our usual patters of status quo. We’re creatures of habit so it’s not easy to get around that.

In conclusion,

For bringing in some philosophical aspects, some real-life scenarios and a step by step guide that can be easily followed by any reader that becomes committed to the book, I want to give the book a staggering 4.9/5.

003-2019 23 Things they don’t tell you about Capitalism

Book Title: 23 Things they don’t tell you about Capitalism

Author: Ha-Joon Chang

Immediately when you read the title you might think, wow, this person must be someone that doesn’t like the capitalism system, he must be supporting another system.

This is where I want to stop you, tell you to take a deep breath, and take the book back into your hands and start turning to the first page and start reading the book. The phrase properly fits that you shouldn’t ‘judge a book by its cover’.

Just like you feel obligated to protect your university whenever someone wants to badmouth it, we might be inclined to do the same with the system that is applied in our own economy. However, I wish to share that even Churchill (once the prime minister of Britain) said that it was also not a good system, but it was the lesser evil between Capitalism and Communism.

The book doesn’t criticize one system and promote the other system. It actually, in my opinion, just points out that even though the one system may be working better than the other, the ‘best’ system also has its flaws.

For anyone that wishes to get more insight on how Capitalism has its flaws this is definitely a good book to point some of them out to you, because it isn’t only just the other system that has its problems.

As the title suggests, it gives you 23 instances where the capitalism system has its flaws and for which we still need to find a solution.

What I really thought was funny about the book was that the author included a list at the front of the book of ‘7 ways to read ‘ the book. He suggests which of the 23 chapters you should only be looking at if you want one of those 7 questions to be answered. I followed the 7th way and wanted to read the whole thing, because I don’t think I would ever let it go at the back of my head that I never read all the chapters to the book. 🙂

At the start of each chapter he presents the scenario where the system is flawed, gives the reader some background of the theory/principle and then includes a real-life scenario to support the claim. I think it was well structured because he explains what theory he wishes to criticize and then gives the reader a real-life situation, where after then reader can then think about it.

To everyone that is open to accept criticism, this is a good book for you, and I believe that if you are open to learn and improve upon those flaws this can be a valuable tool. Otherwise, it is a good read for anyone that simply wishes to enhance their understanding of economics.

In conclusion,

The book gives valuable insight, and fruit for thought for the everyday professional. But also to the amateur economics enthusiast (like myself) who couldn’t resist to hear someone else’s views on economic theory. The boom does require you to be somewhat acquainted with some jargon, but with a little Googling this can be fixed quickly. I believe for the knowledge it hands out it deserves a strong rating of 4.7/5.

002-2019 The Great Economists

Book Title: The Great Economists – How their ideas can help us today

Author: Linda Yueh

The book may be about economics, but fret not, because the book is not written in the format in which you would publish your thesis for your Masters or Doctoral. On the contrary, it is written in normal English and doesn’t necessarily assume that the reader understands all the jargon before starting off with the book.

Fair warning, it does use some jargon without giving the explanation beforehand, but those include ‘inflation’ and ‘unemployment rate’ which I believe all of us have heard at some stage in our lives. Therefore, don’t let the title scare you off from this great read.

The author includes at least 12 economic thinkers whose theories and principles have shaped the modern world as we know it today. Some of the authors include the notorious Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes which are the most commonly heard names.

What I strongly liked about the book wasn’t that the author was just presenting the theories and principles that each economist has introduced to society, but also a quick biography of where and when and how they lived. This not only gives you some additional context about who the author was, but strongly supports our understanding what circumstances led the author to think of that principle.

To paint a picture, imagine your whole country is struck by poverty. The stock market just crashed, the worst in the century and the unemployment rate has just skyrocketed. What would you as an economist suggest to the president? What John Maynard Keynes suggested somewhere way back in time was that government should perform ‘quantitative easing’ by spending more than it was taking in from taxes so as to grow the economy. It is this background, I believe that adds much more value to the reader than only reading the principle because it provides you with both 1) theory and 2) application.

This was just one theory from the entire book, but the book gives you many more to think about.

The style of the book is written well for the reader to properly UNDERSTAND and not just read through the book. This is my kind of book, where the author invites the reader not just to read the book, follow the context and then check off another book they read, but to present the problem and then provide a solution that another economist presented.

At the end of each chapter the author poses a question of a problem/situation that one country’s economy is facing today, and invites the reader to reflect on what they read to think about the question that was posed. Therefore, have fun, put your Economics Hat on and give your solution to the problem or event. 🙂

In summary,

The book offers the reader an alternative financial solution to acquiring all the big expensive economics books from the authors and gives the reader the opportunity to learn/refresh their understanding of the economic theories/principles that are implemented every day. The book explains the theories well, and gives background so that that can be implemented immediately by the reader in a real-life scenario. The book in my opinion definitely deserves a 5.5/5 for the value it adds to any reader.