Book Review: Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell

I picked this book up because I enjoy reading Dr. Sowell’s editorial and opinion pieces and thought if they are so good then the book must be good as well.  I was not disappointed.  I will admit that I was at best a lackluster math student in school, hence the reason my degrees are in History and not business.  I have a grasp of economics and economic principles but this book made many things clear to me that I thought I knew but come to find out only dimly understood.

An appeal of this book is it’s clear examples and lack of overwhelming charts, graphs, and formulas.  Dr. Sowell defines economics at its most basic at the beginning of the book and hammers the point home throughout the text. He repeats Lionel Robbins definition of economics and it is: the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.  As he repeatedly demonstrates throughout all 750+ pages, economics really is that simple.

He uses common sense examples of every concept presented in the book and relates those principles back to real historical examples where such principles have been both followed and violated demonstrating their benefits and the consequences of ignoring them.  I have never run across a book that explains such seemingly obscure principles so clearly and in such an easily understood manner.

If you think you know something about economics and are not an economist by trade you probably don’t.  Dr. Sowell illustrates the fallacy of letting ideology replace sound principles that have been shown to be true.  Regardless of political affiliation, this is book for every non-economist layman and I encourage everybody to read it.  It takes an obscure subject and makes it clear, a difficult task with any such subject but doubly so with economics which is wrapped up so deeply in politics that it is easily warped.