Undercover Economist

Scarce tactics

Let others worry about the oil price or China’s current account surplus. On this page, I am celebrating a vintage summer for the economist as personal improvement guru. The “Dear Economist” column, first penned by Alan Beattie and Chris Giles (now FT trade and economics editors, respectively), has celebrated its fourth anniversary. Then Esquire magazine, of all places, was persuaded to publish my full-length feature on what economics could teach its readers about getting a date.

Now Tyler Cowen, an economics professor and prolific blogger at marginalrevolution.com, has published a self-help book called Discover Your Inner Economist.

I have myself long harboured a shameful desire to write a self-help book based on the basic principles of economics, but Cowen got there first. (One of those basic principles is that money doesn’t get left lying in the street for long.) I recommend his book very highly to anyone who enjoys reading this page: it’s relentlessly creative and I loved reading it.

Still, the economics of self-help is a difficult business. This is not for the obvious reason, which is that economics appears to be a narrow subject focused only on money. Economics is far broader than that: two decent definitions of the subject are that it is the study of scarcity (and what could be scarcer than Mr Right?) or that it is the study of rational behaviour.

It’s this second definition that hints at trouble…

Continued at ft.com, subscription free.