RELEASED TODAY: My first book, Economics In One Virus, is officially released! It is an introduction to economics through the case study of the pandemic—my attempt to use the dreadful events of the past year to introduce readers to economic ideas.
You can purchase it at the Cato Store:… But, of course, it’s also available at Amazon US:… and Amazon UK:… albeit with a delay due to a printing stoppage. Kindle should be available now.
Why should you buy it? It should be useful for 1) those uninitiated in economics but intrigued by the past year’s events; 2) students of the subject looking to see economics applied during the pandemic; and 3) those seeking answers to the question “what went wrong?”
Don’t take my word for it on why you should be interested. The great @tylercowen read and concluded it was: "A truly excellent book that explains where our pandemic response went wrong, and how we can understand those failings using the tools of economics."
The Grumpy Economist @JohnHCochrane called it "A clear, compelling, and well-written book.” The Undercover Economist @TimHarford said it was a "smart, wide-ranging and admirably clear introduction to the power of economics in the context of the defining crisis of our age.”
My heroine @DeirdreMcClosk called it a “graceful, humane, and page-turning book” that “should be read by every alert citizen.” It has also received nice endorsements from other must-read commentators on the pandemic, such as @SteveDavies365, @joshgans, and @asymmetricinfo.
The book is neither “here’s what perfect policy would have looked like,” nor a full retrospective. Instead it tries to conceptualize certain pandemic decisions in an economic framework, providing readers with the building blocks for their own analysis of this mad year.
To the extent it evaluates policy, then, it does so by highlighting where policymakers erred in their underlying thinking, according to principles economists take for granted. It tries to be fun, talking through lockdowns, sanitizer shortages, mask mandates, FDA regs, and more.
In today’s (UK) Times @dsmitheconomics writes about one section of the book: my analysis of how to think about the costs and benefits of lockdowns and some of the effects of trying to turn an economy off and on:…
Across 16 chapters it uses other examples to introduce readers to economic welfare, externalities, the VSL, moral hazard, endogeneity problems, public choice issues, regulatory trade-offs, the price mechanism, trade and specialization, and much else.
Intrigued? To coincide with its launch we have a great event TOMORROW: Economics in One Virus: What Have We Learned? with me chairing the pandemic all-stars: @asymmetricinfo, @JohnHCochrane and @ATabarrok. Register here:…
You can also get a sense of some of themes from my appearance on @CatoPodcast with the man with the silky voice, @cobrown.… And my pre-recorded appearance with @SteveDavies365 @iealondon: Though there is so much more in the book!
We are going to be running a few giveaway competitions, including on Goodreads:…, here on Twitter, and over on Facebook. Buy it, of course, but also watch out and enter to win a copy too and help spread the word!
Given the sheer pervasiveness of the pandemic, this book is far from the last word on the economic phenomena associated with this crisis. But I am convinced the pandemic is an excellent opportunity to teach economics, and economics is crucial to evaluating the events.
I’m happy to engage with teachers, educators, and academics about the book, auxiliary materials, how we can build other products from it etc. Also will sound off about aspects of it at any time, and if you want to review for a media outlet, reach out to me for copy.
If you do read it, I would love your feedback. Whether you endorse its content, or even if you disagree profoundly, please blog about it, review it, rate it on Amazon or Goodreads, talk about it, tweet about it (#EconInOneVirus) or Facebook about it!
And if you are on @Clubhouse, come to an unofficial, very informal mini-book launch today at 4.30pm Eastern/9.30pm UK time with my chums @s8mb and @ollywiseman!
Opportunity to win a signed copy of the book on Facebook! All you have to do is share the post.…
Things you love to see: “#1 New Release in Political Economy.”

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More from @MrRBourne

1 Mar
Cons party machine in overdrive pressing for higher taxes: but their loud arguments implying inevitability--"the public want it" or "gilt yields have risen"-- are a sign of the weakness of their economic case, not strength.
Overall government receipts, remember, already forecast to rise to highest level since early '80s. National taxes to highest level since 1951. The Tories are trying to make an ideological shift to big govt conservatism seem like mere fiscal prudence.
No economist thinks the govt should be outlining a package of tax rises now. The economy is literally shut down. What it needs is emergency support removed carefully as it reopens to avoid overheating, but incentives to protect and grow supply-side capacity. Investment taxes are
Read 7 tweets
31 Oct 20
In my view, lockdowns again are, more than anything else, a societal and policy failure. A failure to do the marginal things on mask wearing, ventilation, avoiding large indoor gatherings, rapid testing, complying with contact tracing efforts, incentivising compliance etc.
A failure of policies that subsidised activities that brought together networks in indoor places w/o masks, refused to pay carers to live in care homes, ordered people back to the office when they didn’t need to, and sent kids back to a miserable university experience.
A failure to think through the dynamic nature, mistaking short term trade offs for long term (EOTHO to help restaurants but which has contributed to the lockdown that will now close restaurants). The hubris to think regulations could be fine tuned to control a complex economy and
Read 5 tweets
1 Oct 20
NEW THREAD: For the past couple of months, I’ve seen articles that purport to tell us the **real** lessons behind cross-country differences in performance in regard COVID-19—from “state capacity” right through to “inequality” or “austerity” over the past decade.
What unites such articles/books is the conclusion that the pandemic proves the need for the policies that the author has long advocated. Here’s the problem: while some sound theoretically plausible, almost none generalise across countries to explain what's happened.
If it really were the case that, say, state capacity differences explained performances across countries, then (as simplistic as it seems in a multifaceted world), we might expect to see at least some cross-country correlation between state capacity measures and COVID deaths.
Read 20 tweets
22 Sep 20
Does anyone else find the lack of data published on aspects of COVID quite baffling given how long this has been going on? Information on the types of premises where people are becoming infected/sites of superspreader events etc could be really important for a) changing behaviour
b) allowing researchers to rapidly identify things about how the virus spreads that we currently do not know. It seems bizarre to collect and map this type of information and then just not publish it in summary form.
We have a situation where recorded cases are up a lot but with no proportionate lag in hospitalisations. Is anyone collecting data on symptoms or lack of in those infected and comparing them to early symptoms of those ultimately later hospitalised?
Read 4 tweets
14 Sep 20
A lot of conservatives think meritocracy is synonymous with a market economy. It isn't. Markets allocate according to supply and demand, not just ability, talent or hard work. A society shaped towards just rewarding these traits isn't desirable.…
I remember when I first posted this, a lot of people got very annoyed by it, calling it a "diatribe." But as soon as you let the state intervene to eliminate "unfair advantages" to ensure only "ability and talent, not "unearned" privileges" determine your station...well....
you end up in all sorts of weird places. Some on the soft left really do believe this stuff though. They do see parents giving their kids extra tuition as some form of "unfair advantage" on others, as if life is just a big zero-sum competition for who will get on top.
Read 7 tweets
12 Sep 20
The fragility of herd immunity -…
This is basically where I am and the only way I see of reconciling data. Cases and deaths plunged in most places, effectively a degree of herd immunity conditional on given behaviours, as networks of people were limited. The problem is if you use those outcomes as justification
for changing behaviours you get new denser networks and more spread. And it looks like the young are first to make those new connections. It stands to reason that if everyone went back to normal you’d get more cases and deaths, especially if more networks to vulnerable.
Read 5 tweets

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