A Beginner's Guide to the World Economy

A Beginner's Guide to the World Economy by Randy Charles Epping is a series of essays which go into a variety of financially based topics. You learn what a Hedge Fund is. You learn why people incorporate. You learn about the history of money. The aim here is to give an overview on a variety of topics to a fairly new reader. Yes, sometimes you might hit one area you're experienced in. You might understand how the stock exchange works. But you might be completely baffled by how trade barriers work (or don't work). Someone else might be quite familiar with IPOs but not so sure about how to compare wealth across nations. The beauty of the book is that you can go through and read the essays which best help you expand your own knowledge.

A Beginner's Guide to the World Economy It's probably fair to say that every person in the finance realm has their own particular feelings about what systems work and what don't. Epping is fairly clearly on the pro-world-trade side. If you're staunchly anti-world-trade, you'll probably find his essays to be riling. It's not that he's as cheerleading about it as many other books are, but the slant is definitely there.

For example, you read that in some cultures it makes sense that children, after school, have a safe job in a local corporation. That the culture is that kids have to work to feed the family, and if that safe job didn't exist they would be doing something far more dangerous. This type of message might greatly upset some readers. For other readers, it might seem a sad but honest evaluation of the current state of the world. As much as we might dream of an age where no child has to work at all until they are 18, we are just not there yet. By removing safe options, we often leave only the unsafe ones behind.

As you might guess, I generally agree with Epping's point of view. He states many times that we should always make sure the work is safe and in line with local monetary balances. That is, there should not be slave labor. Work should be paid a fair value for that area. But if everyone in country X tends to be paid $1/hr and that provides a good living wage, we shouldn't damage the country's economy by insisting that people be paid $20/hr because it's what a worker in San Francisco would be paid. Different regions have different salary ranges, and that needs to be handled mindfully.

Epping is careful to say that that all workers should be treated respectfully, and have conditions which support their growth. He strongly advocates schooling for girls, for example. He is simply saying that an office worker in Boston can't impose their values on a rural landscape in Asia and assume the two are exactly equal.

I enjoy that the essays are written in down-to-earth language that even people new to finance can get a handle on. He talks in terms of Big Macs, of the game Monopoly, of sneakers and loaves of bread. You don't need arcane knowledge to get the sense of what he's explaining.

It's worth noting that the book was first written in 1992 and my version here is from 2001. So some of the material he discusses, for example about the "current" state of the EU, feels a bit dated. But that's OK. Much of what he's covering here are basics, and the basics of how wealth is compared and how stocks work still read the same.

Well recommended, unless you're someone who is firmly against globalization in the economy. If you are, you probably would do better with a book more in line with your point of view.

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