Thursday, January 18, 2007

Catching Up on the Basics

A reader e-mails with the following question:

I'm not sure I ever realized what interesting things happened at the intersection of economics and politics -- now I'm starting to wish I had taken some econ courses as an undergrad! Could you give me an idea of where I could start reading to play catch-up on some of the terminology and the basic principles of economics?
I think there are two places to start, outside of the textbook market. The classic answer to this question is Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. I remembering reading this one as I was taking undergraduate economics courses and feeling like it did a very good job of clarifying what economics was about.

A more recent book that has also been praised for its clarity and accessibility is Naked Economics by Charlie Wheelan. Charlie is an instructor at the Harris School at the University of Chicago and an alumnus and occasional visitor here at Dartmouth. He also writes a column, by the same name as the book, for Yahoo, which I also recommend.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another possibility: Charles L. Schultze's Memos to the President gives the substance of macroeconomics with a minimum of formulae. After reading it, you'll probably know more than someone who took a semester-long intro macro course five years ago.

Anonymous said...

Along the same lines as your post...

Where would one college graduate begin if she wants to begin a career in economics/finance without much prior exposure?

Andrew Samwick said...

That depends on what you mean by career. If you are interested in knowing more about what's going on in finance, I think that your short list for reading includes:

1) Warren Buffett's annual reports, nicely collected for you here.

2) Then I think you read Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance.

3) On an ongoing basis, read The Big Picture by Barry Ritholz. Ever since I did an Econoblog with him a while back, I've noticed him to be the most astute observer of financial markets.

If you are interested in working in finance, then you've got to figure out if you are going to learn in school or learn on the job. The most natural track is to work a few years and then go to business school. To get that first job, you should probably be able to show some proficiency in basic accounting, economics, and finance. So it's a bit of a chicken and egg problem, until we know more about your particular background and goals.

But I hope that's helpful.