Cover image for Basic economics : a citizen's guide to the economy
Basic economics : a citizen's guide to the economy
Sowell, Thomas, 1930-
Personal Author:
Revised and expanded edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 438 pages ; 25 cm
What is economics? -- Prices and markets -- Industry and commerce -- Work and pay -- Time and risk -- The national economy -- The international economy -- Special economic issues.
Reading Level:
1480 Lexile.
Subject Term:
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HB171 .S73 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This is the revised and enlarged edition of a new kind of introduction to economics for the general public-without graphs, statistics, or jargon. In addition to being updated, Basic Economics has also become more internationalized by including economic problems from more countries around the world, because the basic principles of economics are not confined by national borders. While most chapter titles remain the same, their contents have changed considerably, reflecting the experiences of many different peoples and cultures.

Author Notes

Thomas Sowell has taught economics at a number of colleges and universities, including Cornell, University of California Los Angeles, and Amherst. He has published both scholarly and popular articles and books on economics, and is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Sowell, an economist and academic, tells us that the target audience for this introduction to economics includes highly intelligent people who want to understand the workings of their country's economy, as well as students and economists who need to learn how to express themselves in plain English. He reviews such topics as prices, industry, labor, investment and speculation, and both the national and international economies. To make informed decisions, the voting public needs an understanding of basic economics, which will provide the tools for evaluating political policies and proposals in terms of logical implications and empirical evidence. Innumerable tragedies could be avoided if people stop and think instead of being swept along by emotions, rhetoric, or political pressure. The author cites examples, such as the profound problem of homelessness in Manhattan in spite of having more boarded-up housing than they would need for shelter, and the Russian people going hungry in spite of having incredibly rich farmland. Valuable information and insight. --Mary Whaley

Publisher's Weekly Review

A well-known conservative columnist, author and economist, Sowell (A Personal Odyssey, etc.) presents an introductory course in economics with an emphasis on public policy. Forgoing jargon, equations, graphs and complicated exposition, he's produced a book that's easy to read and understand, though it tends to be superficial and is written in an angry tone, often accusing others of economic ignorance, as if that is the only possible explanation for disagreement with the author's views. Sowell is at his best discussing microeconomics in the first two-thirds of the book. Unlike most accounts, which cover the subject from the point of view of business or investment, Sowell concentrates on government action, in an effort to prepare the reader for civic participation. He addresses price controls and subsidies in detail, both as important political issues in their own right and to demonstrate how prices work by showing what happens when they are constrained. In the final third of the book, he wades into more complex and controversial territory--macroeconomics, international economics and popular fallacies--and his effort to cover them at the elementary level results in a muddled treatment. Overall, his defense of certain conservative tenets is wielded with a sledgehammer rather than a rapier. Agent, Carol Mann. (Feb. 15)Forecast: Sowell's many fans will appreciate this book (which is supported by a radio satellite tour), though it is probably most appropriate as a gift to junior high school relatives, accompanied by a bribe to read it. General readers can--and some of them will--find better written, more sophisticated introductions to economics, including such middle-of-the-road overviews as From Here to Economy: A Short Cut to Economic Literacy by Todd G. Buchholz or New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought by Todd G. Buchholz and Martin Feldstein. For a conservative viewpoint, Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman has yet to be topped. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Syndicated columnist Sowell (economics, Hoover Inst.) is the author of 31 books and monographs on a broad range of topics, including race, culture, education, social policy, philosophy, and economics. In this groundbreaking work, he explains the basics of economics without resorting to the graphs, equations, and jargon that typically fill the textbooks and literature in the field. Along the way, he explains exactly what economics is and what its guiding principles are. Sowell covers a broad range of topics, from scarcity, the balance of trade, and price controls to minimum-wage laws, competition, profits and losses, and the role of government. Intended as a primer for the citizen not trained in the basics of economic theory, this book is flawed only in a somewhat confusing organization that leads to repetition. Recommended for public libraries. Norm Hutcherson, California State Univ., Bakersfield (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In a revised edition (1st ed., CH, Jun'01), Sowell, a well-known economist and author of many books, monographs, and newspaper articles, presents an exposition of principles of economics and related public policies in a simple, witty, and understandable fashion--absent the technical jargon, graphs, equations, or statistical tables usually found in standard introductory textbooks. Included are analyses of how the market-price system works in the allocation of resources; determinants of returns to labor and capital; the role of government; the absolute and comparative advantages of international trade; and a critique of several popular fallacies, e.g., trickle-down theory, greed in private enterprises, and so-called predatory pricing. The book is entertaining and easy to read, but remains best used as a supplement to the breadth and depth contained within standard principles of economics textbooks. Other popularly written works include Todd G. Buchholz's From Here to Economy: A Shortcut to Economic Literacy (CH, Nov'95) and Charles Wheelan's Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (CH, Dec'02). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduate students. H. I. Liebling emeritus, Lafayette College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xi
1 What Is Economics?p. 1
Part I Prices
2 The Role of Pricesp. 7
3 Price Controlsp. 21
4 An Overviewp. 39
Part II Industry and Commerce
5 The Rise and Fall of Businessp. 59
6 The Role of Profits--and Lossesp. 73
7 Big Business and Governmentp. 89
8 An Overviewp. 105
Part III Work and Pay
9 Productivity and Payp. 127
10 Controlled Labor Marketsp. 149
11 An Overviewp. 167
Part IV Time and Risk
12 Investment and Speculationp. 175
13 Risks and Insurancep. 193
14 An Overviewp. 207
Part V The National Economy
15 National Outputp. 215
16 Money and the Banking Systemp. 223
17 The Role of Governmentp. 237
18 An Overviewp. 261
Part VI The International Economy
19 International Tradep. 269
20 International Transfers of Wealthp. 283
21 An Overviewp. 297
Part VII Popular Economic Fallacies
22 "Non-Economic" Valuesp. 305
23 Prices and Purchasing Powerp. 315
24 Business and Laborp. 329
25 An Overviewp. 343
Sourcesp. 347
Indexp. 359