Professional Reader

@duffythewriter review of 50 things that made the modern economy

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?  Your refrigerator? Your iPhone? Your Laptop? Your Car?

There are new advances in technology and inventions taking the world by storm every year.  Look how Pokemon Go instantly became a phenomenon, how Apple, as a brand, now runs our lives and how simple items such as the plough changed the way we ate, farmed and distributed food.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to take this book as I’m no aspiring economist. However, Tim Harford brings life, humour and a lot of interesting reading to Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy.  Each ‘thing’ is carefully chosen, not for its popularity, but for its extraordinary impact on the world.  Things such as the gramophone which enabled music to be copied and distributed on thick, fragile discs and played in wealthy homes during evening soirees.  But, the popularity of the gramophone meant that the old music halls and musicians fell on hard times and lost work.  Why would you trek out to a music hall with no air conditioning (it hadn’t been invented yet), when you could entertain in your home and listen to your favourite songs?

Is Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy worth a read?

This is the message that Harford wants to impart in this book.  That for every winner, there is inevitably a loser.  Uber is driving the trusty cab out of business, the department store is struggling due to the advent of online shopping. As we change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, there are businesses, and people that are left behind.

What thing can you not live without and who lost along the way for you to have it?

A thoroughly interesting read and if you love Freakanomics, you’ll enjoy this one.

4 out of 5 stars – you can’t fail to find something interesting here.

Buy Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy from Booktopia from July 11th!

50 things that made the modern economy book review

Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy Book Blurb

Who thought up paper money? How did the contraceptive pill change the face of the legal profession? Why was the horse collar as important for human progress as the steam engine? How did the humble spreadsheet turn the world of finance upside-down?

The world economy defies comprehension. A continuously-changing system of immense complexity, it offers over ten billion distinct products and services, doubles in size every fifteen years, and links almost every one of the planet’s seven billion people. It delivers astonishing luxury to hundreds of millions. It also leaves hundreds of millions behind, puts tremendous strains on the ecosystem, and has an alarming habit of stalling. Nobody is in charge of it. Indeed, no individual understands more than a fraction of what’s going on.
How can we make sense of this bewildering system on which our lives depend?
From the tally-stick to Bitcoin, the canal lock to the jumbo jet, each invention in Tim Harford’s fascinating new book has its own curious, surprising and memorable story, a vignette against a grand backdrop. Step by step, readers will start to understand where we are, how we got here, and where we might be going next.
Hidden connections will be laid bare: how the barcode undermined family corner shops; why the gramophone widened inequality; how barbed wire shaped America. We’ll meet the characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them, or were ruined by them. We’ll trace the economic principles that help to explain their transformative effects. And we’ll ask what lessons we can learn to make wise use of future inventions, in a world where the pace of innovation will only accelerate.

About the Author

Tim Harford is a senior columnist for the Financial Times and the presenter of Radio 4’s More or Less. He was the winner of the Bastiat Prize for economic journalism in 2006, and More or Less was commended for excellence in journalism by the Royal Statistical Society in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Harford lives in Oxford with his wife and three children, and is a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. His other books include The Undercover Economist, The Logic of Life and Adapt.