Jun 24, 2011

Book Review: Adapt by Tim Harford

I read Harford’s first book, The Undercover Economist, during my masters in economics. I found the book fascinating. It helped me understand my microeconomics class and convinced me that economists had the tools to design a better world. So when I saw that his new book, Adapt, was getting raving reviews, I got excited and ordered it right away.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It felt more like an aggregator of interesting facts, such as a collection of Tyler Cowen blog posts, than a book trying to convince me of anything. And anyway, who really needs to be convinced that, when confronted with failure, adapting is better than being pig headed?

His chapter on development, the one I was looking most forward to, is like a romanced literature review. If you read development blogs, you won’t find much new or exciting here. Also, there is no point in repeating arguments made in other books, such as Nudge, which is quoted excessively. For me, the climate change chapter is the best. His back-of-the-envelope calculations on how much carbon was emitted in the production of a cappuccino remind us how counterproductive good intentions can be. This is where Harford is the undercover economist, once again.

You’ll still end up enlightened after reading Adapt. There are so many inspiring anecdotes you may even feel like trying new things!

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