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Tim Harford gets better and better, now with a whole thoughtful book exploring the concept of evolution as applied to markets and other complex systems. He is really becoming the UK's Paul Krugman with his colourful analogies that bring to life economic concepts for the lay person - Coco bonds as airbags and 'economic Bulldogs' for the unintended consequences of well intended policy. So why only four stars? Well, most unfortunately, Tim (who, as we all know, is himself a highly competent presenter, well able to read his own book) delegated this task to some actor who decided to deliver various lengthily quoted passages in the supposedly appropriate accent. So Adam Smith appears with a rich scottish burr, and various Americans with a transatlantic drawl. This is irritating and unnecessary (and probably inaccurate) but tolerable. It becomes unbearable when we have third world economists such as Muhammad Yunus (founder of the Grameen bank). The narrator can't actually face the horror of putting on a faux-Bengali accent so he does a sort of 'humble peasant voice' instead. Made me squirm. Tim - read your own books - please.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I think I am in the minority here, as the book has an average of nearly 4 stars from other readers.
I loved the Undercover Economist, which I read, rather than listened to, and I am a big fan of More or Less on Radio 4. But I just can't get through this, I have given up at chapter 4. Perhaps it is unfair to give a book a negative review when I haven't finished it.
First of all, as a previous reviewer said, the narration is awful. He sounds to me like he is narrating the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I keep expecting him to say something like "So long and thanks for all the fish". The accents are annoying, but I could probably live with that. I just think he has the emphasis all wrong and it's changing the meaning. He says things deadpan that sound to me like Tim Harford meant them to be ironic, and then uses what I take to be his ironic voice to say things that sound like they should be serious.
Then, I get the feeling that this book is intended for an American audience. Where the Undercover Economist started with examples of coffee stands on Waterloo Station, this one starts with the variety of products in Walmart, and President Obama. . I've just got up to a discussion of the Haditha massacre in Afghanistan. I really don't think Tim has any authority (in the academic sense) to be writing about this, and I've given up. I might look out a written copy from the library, if they've been allowed any money for new books, so I can flick through and see if improves.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful