The Undercover Economist

I just finished Tim Harford’s “The Undercover Economist,” something I picked up on a whim but couldn’t put down. It’s essentially the highlights of an intro economics course in one short, very readable book. The last couple chapters focus on the developing world, with some insightful/depressing thoughts. (Especially depressing to a PCV was the idea that corrupt governments are probably responsible for the large majority of poverty in the developing world…have I mentioned Cambodia’s Transparency International ranking?)

Maybe especially relevant to Cambodia, here’s the Undercover Economist’s take on sweatshops:

…In developing countries, workers endure terrible working conditions. Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. But sweatshops are the symptom, not the cause, of shocking global poverty. Workers go there voluntarily, which means – hard as it is to believe – that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse.

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2 Responses to The Undercover Economist

  1. I’ll have to check that out. I think I mentioned him to you before but you should also check out Ha-Joon Chang, who wroteKicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective particularly Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. He takes a different approach I think from Harford but he definitely has a useful critique of free trade capitalism with regards to developing countries. He also discusses the impacts of corruption from a different perspective in that, while certainly bad, is perhaps not ultimately as damaging to a country as trade policies.

  2. Heck yeah BP, I’d like to read both. Are there any copies floating around the PCV pool? I can also save you the book I was talking about if you want. See ya soon!

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