Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Reading: Thomas Sowell

One of the lovely benefits of selling the shop is that I get to read, at least a little.  This is my summertime reading right now:

I am a political junkie but lately feel like I've reached the end of my knowledge on some things.  I am looking for a firm foundation in basic principles.  My husband read this book about a year ago and highly recommended it.  It is exactly what it says, a primer on economics, meant to be used as I am, or even as a college-level textbook.  (Light reading!)

I've just completed the first part, a section on Prices and Markets. Here are some quotes from the book that I've highlighted during my reading:

Life does not ask us what we want.  It presents us with options.  Economics is one of the ways of trying to make the most of these options.

(Discussing profits and losses)...losses are equally important for the efficiency of the economy, because losses tell producers what to stop producing.

Knowledge is the most scarce of all resources.

(In discussing fluctuating price levels) However, the fact that water seeks its own level does not mean that the Atlantic Ociean has a smooth, glassy surface.  Waves and tides are among the ways in which water seeks its own level.  (In other words, just because prices fluctuate doesn't mean the prices are wrong or the markets bad.)
People tend to do more for their own benefit than the benefit of others.

And one of my favorites so far:

Economic policies need to be analyzed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspired them.

That last one is crucial.  Way too many programs are started with the best of intentions ("hopes") but create incentives that actually work against the original purposes.

I wish I could list all of the very interesting things I've read about:  price supports for food in ancient Rome; rent control all over the world; the evolution of the grocery industry in America.  This is good food for thought.

Here is the first in a set of videos with Dr. Sowell.  It is a nice change of pace to see a person interviewed in a calm, intelligent way, with no "gotcha" moments.  If you've never heard him, this is worth a watch:

I'm also well aware of Dr. Sowell's conservative political leanings.  So far, though, his conservatism looks to me to be rooted in his rational view of economics, rather than having his political views give flower to his economic ideas.  I'll be looking for something other views soon, just to round out my education.  Suggestions welcome!

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