The Armchair Economist Book Summary - The Armchair Economist Book explained in key points

The Armchair Economist summary

Steven E. Landsburg

Brief summary

The Armchair Economist by Steven E. Landsburg is a thought-provoking book that explains economic principles in a humorous and easy-to-understand manner. It offers a fresh perspective on everyday economic issues and challenges traditional thinking.

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Table of Contents

    The Armchair Economist
    Summary of key ideas

    The Basics of Economics

    In The Armchair Economist, Steven E. Landsburg introduces us to the world of economics, explaining that it is the study of how people make choices under conditions of scarcity. He uses the example of a family deciding between a vacation and a new car to illustrate the concept of opportunity cost, the value of the next best alternative foregone. Landsburg also introduces the idea of the 'invisible hand' - the notion that individuals pursuing their own self-interest can lead to the best outcome for society as a whole.

    He then delves into the concept of supply and demand, explaining how prices are determined in a market economy. He uses the example of the diamond-water paradox to illustrate that prices are determined by scarcity and utility, not just usefulness. Landsburg also discusses the role of competition in driving down prices and improving quality, and the impact of government intervention in markets.

    Unintended Consequences and Rational Behavior

    Landsburg explores the concept of unintended consequences, explaining that actions often have effects that were not anticipated. He uses the example of rent control, showing how it can lead to housing shortages and reduced maintenance. He also discusses the concept of rational behavior, explaining that people generally act in their own self-interest, and that understanding this behavior is crucial to understanding economic outcomes.

    He then moves on to discuss the concept of externalities, or the side effects of economic activities that affect people who are not directly involved. He uses the example of pollution to illustrate how externalities can lead to market failure, and discusses potential solutions such as taxes and tradable pollution permits.

    Controversial Economic Issues

    Landsburg tackles several controversial economic issues in The Armchair Economist. He discusses the economics of discrimination, arguing that in a competitive market, discrimination is costly and therefore unlikely to persist. He also explores the economics of crime, arguing that harsher punishments may not necessarily deter crime, and that the best way to reduce crime is to increase the likelihood of getting caught.

    He also discusses the economics of sex, arguing that the market for sex is not so different from other markets, and that many of the same economic principles apply. He also explores the economics of charity, arguing that people often give to charity not out of altruism, but because it makes them feel good.

    Globalization and Trade

    Landsburg then turns his attention to the topic of globalization and trade. He argues that free trade benefits all parties involved, as it allows countries to specialize in what they do best and trade for the rest. He uses the example of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to illustrate the benefits of free trade, and argues that protectionist policies, such as tariffs and quotas, are generally harmful.

    He also discusses the economics of immigration, arguing that immigrants generally benefit the economy by increasing the supply of labor and contributing to economic growth. He uses the example of the Mariel boatlift to illustrate that immigration does not necessarily lead to higher unemployment or lower wages for native workers.


    In conclusion, The Armchair Economist provides a fascinating and accessible introduction to the world of economics. Landsburg uses a wide range of examples and anecdotes to illustrate economic principles, making the subject matter engaging and relatable. He also challenges many common assumptions and provides a fresh perspective on a wide range of economic issues. Whether you're a student of economics or simply interested in how the world works, The Armchair Economist is a thought-provoking and enjoyable read.

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    What is The Armchair Economist about?

    The Armchair Economist by Steven E. Landsburg challenges conventional economic wisdom and offers thought-provoking insights into everyday decisions and behaviors. Through engaging examples and clear explanations, the book explores various economic concepts and their real-world implications, making it a fascinating read for both economics enthusiasts and casual readers.

    The Armchair Economist Review

    The Armchair Economist (1993) is a thought-provoking exploration of economics that challenges readers to look at the world through a different lens. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents fascinating economic concepts in a way that is accessible and relatable, allowing readers to see how economics influences various aspects of our lives.
    • The author uses real-world examples to illustrate economic principles, making the content engaging and applicable to everyday situations.
    • By addressing controversial topics and offering fresh perspectives, the book stimulates critical thinking and encourages readers to question conventional wisdom.

    Who should read The Armchair Economist?

    • Individuals curious about applying economic principles to everyday life
    • Readers interested in understanding human behavior through an economic lens
    • Those who want to challenge their assumptions and thought processes about decision-making and incentives

    About the Author

    Steven E. Landsburg is an American economist and author. He has written several books on economics and is known for his ability to explain complex economic concepts in an engaging and accessible way. In addition to The Armchair Economist, some of his other notable works include More Sex is Safer Sex and The Big Questions. Landsburg has also contributed to publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

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    The Armchair Economist FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Armchair Economist?

    The main message of The Armchair Economist is that economics can be applied to everyday life and reveal surprising insights.

    How long does it take to read The Armchair Economist?

    The reading time for The Armchair Economist varies based on the reader. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Armchair Economist a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Armchair Economist is a worthwhile read as it provides a fresh perspective on economic principles and their impact on our daily decisions.

    Who is the author of The Armchair Economist?

    The author of The Armchair Economist is Steven E. Landsburg.

    What to read after The Armchair Economist?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Armchair Economist, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson
    • The Big Short by Michael Lewis
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Civilization by Niall Ferguson
    • No Logo by Naomi Klein
    • The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich August von Hayek
    • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma
    • The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson
    • Free to Choose by Milton Friedman