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Easy Economics: A Visual Guide to What You Need to Know

Anyone with much experience with economics is not surprised it’s often derided as “the dismal science.” While the recent rise in popularity in behavioral economics, like Freakonomics and Predictably Irrational, has probably breathed a breath of fresh air into economics, much of it is still pretty dismal. Now mix in a little reality and it goes from being dismal to confusing. Fortunately, there’s a new book that seeks to explain a lot about economics and our economy in a way that is easy and, dare I say it, a little fun. It’s titled Easy Economics [3] and it’s written by Leonard Wolfe, Lee Smith, and Stephen Buckles. It has fun illustrations (that’s the fun part) by Roy Doty.

Wolfe and Smith worked together at Fortune Magazine with Wolfe was an art director and Smith was a senior writer and editor. Buckles was the economics consultant and is currently teaches economics at Vanderbilt. Doty [4] is an acclaimed cartoonist who has appeared in about a million different things.

The book is structured like a Q&A and separated into seven chapters:

  1. Money
  2. Booms & Busts
  3. Taxing & Spending
  4. Getting Into Debt
  5. The Fed
  6. High-Flying Finance
  7. Globalization

Each section has about a dozen questions, each with an illustration that does a good job of helping you visualize the idea, and each answer is fairly brief.

What’s nice about the book isn’t that it covers economics, it’s that it covers economics in the context of our financial system. For example, it goes into detail as to what the Federal Reserve does, why it does it, and what impact it has. While you could replace Federal Reserve with “central bank” and talk about it in more abstract terms, using the Federal Reserve puts things into context. I think that helps people understand things better.

If you’re curious about it, Amazon [3] has a preview of some of the questions that you can check out to see if it’s your type of book.