Friday, February 17, 2006

Economics and Us

Two books that in the media recently have caught my attention and are going up high on the list of books I wish to read.

One of them is The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen ( a good review on the BBC )and the other is The Undercover Economist. The Undercover Economist seems like an interesting read. Freakonomics has caught attention all over, thanks to the accessibility of its content, and the popstar-styled title. I've read that, but as this review states (via India Uncut) , The Undercover... probably has more in terms of learning value. It definitely seems to have some interesting points to make.

In a related thought, there was a great joint interview with the two richest men in the world in Fortune a few months back. One of the most pertinent points Bill Gates made in the interview was (I'm paraphrasing here) that normal people were genuinely lacking in economic education, which made debates related to jobs, outsourcing and the economy emotional and not well thought-out.

I personally find this extremely relevant. While one course does not an armchair economist make, I've seen my thinking on many aspects of business and the economy shaped considerably by the one "Managerial Economics" course I was required to take during my Masters. The concentration of the course was on demand-supply and pricing related theories (mainly macro-economic theory as it were), but it opened up a fresh insight into a whole new area of thought.

In the US, a common complaint is about the scientific temper being lost. With strident protests against teaching evolution in schools, and an impressively insidious campaign raising skepticism about global warming, there is definitely a greater need for debate to take place in scientific terms, and for these to be accepted by the mainstream.

India, of course has a greater challenge of educating a large proportion of people who are still uneducated. However, even among educated people in India, there is a genuine need for a greater economic temper as well.

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