The book focuses on the core ideas and principles in economics and their applications. This makes it easy to see how economics works in real life.
I have worked in Washington, DC, and I have worked in remote villages in Asia and Africa. Not alone. As a part of a team of professionals from various disciplines. Here I learned how to discuss economic concepts in jargon-free language, and they taught me how things work in the real world.
And, then I went back to university teaching. With a difference. Instead of teaching mathematical courses in the Economics Department, I asked to teach students who were not going to be economists.
I felt that standard economics textbooks were not suitable for these students. So, I wrote my own lectures from scratch to suit their needs. The look and feel of my lectures were quite different from that of any standard economics textbook. I truly enjoyed this experience. More importantly, I became fully convinced that it was not a good idea to use standard economics textbooks to teach economics to students who were not interested in becoming economists.
I thought about turning my lectures into a book. But, instead of doing this, I went back to applied work. It was an exciting assignment!
In 2019, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies’ Energy, Resources and Environment group selected me to teach a course, beginning in January 2020. I was thrilled. I cleared my work plan for January-May 2020so that I could concentrate on my students.
But the course was canceled just a few days before it was to begin. That opened up a big gap in my work schedule.
So, I thought of writing the book I had been thinking about for many years. How long could it take to convert the lecture notes I had written into a book?
Not so fast. When I looked at my notes, I saw that they were designed to be delivered in a classroom for a conventional degree course.
By now, I no longer wanted to focus on college courses. Instead, I wanted to take the first step in formulating a new learning/teaching paradigm aimed at people outside the classroom.
I knew there had been a huge increase in online teaching. Good, but I never found it to be a new learning paradigm. Apart from logistical adjustments, the online courses were being taught in the same way as the established classroom courses. This way, the students would feel that they were getting the same hallowed course.
This online approach did work for some students. Good. We need to reach as many students as possible.
However, it could not reach people who wanted to learn without becoming students. I felt that there was an increasing number of people worldwide who had already finished their formal education, but wanted to learn some more outside their field.
I had been writing on economic issues on various online professional crowd-sourcing sites. The people who read me did so because they wanted to learn more about the economic world. So, I decided to write a book for them. This book.
I wrote a couple of chapters and posted them online. I liked the reaction I got. So, I decided to write this book. It’s not a textbook. Not even close. It has none of the formalisms of a textbook. Instead, the book is a bit like a chat with my readers.
What the book has is the core ideas and principles in economics. With plenty of real-world examples and applications so that people can see how economics works in real life.
I responded to the coronavirus stay-at-home restrictions by spending more and more of my time writing this book. When I had written about 65,000 words (around 200 pages), I had not yet reached the halfway point. Some of my advisers felt that I had already covered a lot of ground, and I should publish it.
How could I publish half a book? No conventional publisher would take it. But, thanks to new technology, we don’t have to follow the old rules. Instead, I decided to call it Volume I and distribute it as an e-book. And keep writing the rest in Volume II.
I was able to find a convenient dividing point between Volume I and Volume II. There’s more than enough in Volume I to give a reader a good idea of what economics is about, and how economists analyze the economy.
So here we are. You are reading Volume I. It has three sections. Section I, consisting of Chapters 1-3, is a broad introduction to economics. Section II, consisting of Chapters 4 and 5, covers financial markets. In particular, this section covers the bond market, which rarely makes it into economics textbooks, even though it now has a prominent role in the economy. Section III, consisting of Chapter 6-9, covers unemployment, inflation, GDP, poverty, and inequality. The focus is on what these variables mean in the real world.
The book has plenty of charts based on real-world data. These charts have not been produced by graphics professionals. Instead, they are straight out of commonly used spreadsheet software. Nor have the fonts and formats been designed by experts. All of this takes time, but I didn’t want to delay the book. And all of this takes money, which increases the book’s price. I didn’t want this either.
I decided to focus hard on the content and speed of delivery. If you are reading this, the delivery part has been fulfilled. I hope you enjoy reading this book and learn from it.
Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments. And, let me know if you find any typos or other mistakes. I will write them up on the Errata section of this companion website http://www.profmathur.com/.
Amit Shah, formerly an executive with the publishing industry, has known Subodh Mathur since the author’s very first economics class at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, over fifty years ago, when they were both undergraduates. Mr. Shah has been a champion for this book’s publication for a larger, diversified audience.
Mathur’s Core Economics is a book for these very times — when understanding the impact of public policy on economics and vice versa is in our best interests. Economics has, unfortunately, been tagged as the “dismal science” because of its particular vocabulary, specific logic, and at times mystifying calculations. However, in recent years eminent economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Frank have written about our society and world and the interplay of human decisions and actions on the economy through the prism of economic thought and analyses in daily newspapers and through newsletters. Subodh Mathur joins this select group — making the dry material vivid and dynamic through real-world examples and applications underscored with clear-thinking economics theory and understanding.
Having known Subodh for over half a century, I have witnessed his growth from a motivated undergraduate to a scholar and researcher at one of the best economics departments in the world, at MIT, and then teaching at American University and consulting for developing countries and at the World Bank. I always look forward to his analyses and opinions on the economic impact of everything — from measuring and accessing power productivity in regions of Africa to the economic models behind ride-sharing in the US and in India to the red-hot topic of poverty and inequality, brought to the bright light of day by COVID-19 impact on economies the world over. Readable, knowledgeable and with real-world examples are the hallmarks of his writing.
If there’s one book I’ll recommend to my entire network of colleagues and friends, it’s this one.
Sten Bergman, an electrical engineer, has worldwide working experience. In Sweden he has had several energy and transportation assignments. In Japan, he was Sweden’s Science and Technology Attaché. In the US, he was a Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank, with a focus on Africa.
I had the great opportunity to work with Subodh Mathur during a few years in the World Bank. We travelled around many poor countries developing a new paradigm for rural Electrification in sub-Sahara Africa. I was very much impressed by Subodh’s skill in explaining economy for anybody who was not an economist by profession.
Reading this textbook, I am happy to find an easily accessible guide to the core of economics, that was presented to various stakeholders. From poor farmers to well-educated Ministers. Even I, an electrical engineer, can now grasp the most essential parts of economic science and math, previously hidden behind acronyms and for me not so commonly used terms.
Dr. Maithili Daphtary is a multidisciplinary biomedical engineer with experience in human space flight, osteoporosis, and clinical research.
Subodh’s book is a great introduction to economics written in a conversational style. I have known him as a friend for 20 years and hear him telling me about economics while anticipating questions and answering them. I am an impatient reader and would like to know more about very term he introduces at that instance but credit to him, he does say when he will explain it so a reader could move ahead to read about it. I enjoyed learning about concepts and economic terms that one hears in a book that is easy to read and understand.
Nikki Perez, a hand surgeon, runs a utilization and clinical documentation consulting firm. A neighbor of the Mathur family, she has known Subodh Mathur for nearly 25 years. Dr. Perez has spent many years studying but this is her first foray into learning about economics.
Economics is a topic that I honestly never bothered to understand. I always presumed it would be over my head and I resigned to never try to learn. Core Economics by Subodh Mathur has completed changed my mind. I have known Dr. Mathur for a greater part of 30 years and assumed he was just too smart and too knowledgeable for me to ask any questions as not to embarrass myself.
To my surprise this book was anything but the complicated and convoluted explanations that I was expecting from a book on economics. It builds on terminology and principals to guide you through the concepts rather than just a staccato of facts. The way each theory and topic is presented is manageable and concise.
The book is straightforward and explains difficult terminology and details its relevance. Effortlessly, it brings together historical references and modern day examples. As Dr. Mathur’s neighbor, the explanation of externality was particularly poignant. I often find myself enamored with his beautiful garden.
By no means is this a textbook that I would turn to for a comprehensive reference, but definitely a great resource to kickstart your understanding. While I began to get palpitations at the mention of calculus, the equations were easy to follow and actually made sense. I highly recommend Core Economics to anyone who is looking to grasp the basics of economics without following a set curriculum. My newfound knowledge gives me a solid foundation that I could potentially build on.
Albert Woodward, a health economist, served on President Clinton’s Task Force on Health Care Reform. He has worked as a health research leader for several health research agencies. He has a Ph.D. in economics (with distinction in mathematical economics) from American University, an M.B.A. from the Wharton School, and a B.A. from Haverford College.
This book sets out to address a void in the field of economics texts: to provide a simply written book for those who wish to know economics but don’t want to become specialists on the subject. The author, Dr. Subodh Mathur, who served as my dissertation advisor and has remained my friend since then, has taught many public policy students who had a scant understanding of economics. This served as the impetus for his writing this book.
Core Economics is written in a straightforward, informal manner. It is pragmatic in its approach to the analytics and issues in the field. It admirably eschews any particular economics perspective, instead providing the reader with the tools to analyze economic issues pragmatically.
John Maynard Keynes, perhaps the greatest economist of the last century, noted, “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
In an era when everyone has to know economics, this book meets the need very well. It cannot cover every detail of the subject, of course, but it will help the reader understand those issues that are of paramount importance.
T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan started work in 1975 as an Economics Editor at Macmillan India. In 1980, he switched to journalism, and worked for various newspapers. He has recently co-authored a book on the constraints on India’s economic growth. He currently writes for the Business Standard on economics, politics and books.
I have known Subodh Mathur for over 50 years, ever since our undergraduate days in Delhi University when he would take it upon himself to explain some arcane point in mathematical economics to us when all we wanted was to look at the girls. I am glad that he has not lost that key attribute which defines him: a very clear intellect and a disdain for the non-essential. This book is excellent evidence of that.
In this book Mathur lays bare the essentials of economics with the precision of a forensic surgeon. Moreover, his austere style helps the reader retain focus on the central ideas and concepts. Mathur has been very ungenerous with himself in sticking to his main message that technical economics can be interesting and even economics for the lay person can be technical. Mathur shows how simplicity and complexity can complement each other perfectly.
Mathur has covered, in a very short space and in an allegro mode, a very wide range of topics in the theories and practices of both micro and macroeconomics. Given their long history and depth, this could not have been easy in as few as just seven chapters. It is thus the perfect combination that one looks for in such books: to serve as an introductory text book as also a quick reference book for practitioners who need a quick clarification.
What I found of particular interest was the chapter on the history of ideas in economics. For the last few decades these have been neglected in curricula, as a result of which the discipline has lost gravitas. Mathur anchors modern economics in the wisdom of the past.
Mathur’s treatment of the three markets that constitute the core of economics, namely, for products, labor, and money, and how they combine in domestic and international economics to create value and prosperity, are simple and complete. They should be compulsory reading for all those who are involved in public policy, as well as firm and industry level strategy.
I can only repeat what Paul Samuelson once wrote in the foreword for a book: Bon aperitif!
Robert (“Bob”) Smith graduated with a Ph.D. in political science from Australian National University in 1970. He has worked in Australia in universities, the public service and as a consultant in public sector management. He was until recently an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University (School of Management).
This is a book for non-economists who need to get to grips with analysis based on conventional economics. If terms like ‘comparative advantage’ and ‘opportunity cost’ seem to twist in the wind this is the book for you.
Aditya Balasubramanian is a Lecturer in Economic History at Australian National University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in 2018 on the history of economic conservatism in India. His book project, ‘Partisans on the Free Economy: Democracy and Opposition Politics in India’, is under contract with Princeton University Press, and his research is forthcoming or published in ‘Past and Present’ and the ‘Journal of World History’.
Ever meant to self-educate on economics but never found the time? Were the intro textbooks a bore? For non-specialists looking to grasp the fundamentals of the discipline and a broad overview of relevant policy issues, I highly recommend Core Economics. Written in simple prose, it is worth reading and re-reading.
Rakshat Hooja is a post-graduate in sociology. He loves watching sports, reading about and discussing politics, playing with his dogs, and admiring greenery.
‘It's the economy, stupid.’ This phrase, made famous in the 1992 US presidential elections, hits the nail on its head. In the modern world, the economy matters.
James Carville, who coined these words, was not an economist. Subodh Mathur is an economist. He has experience in policymaking, teaching and project delivery across continents, and a Ph.D. from MIT.
On the economy, everyone has an opinion. Most of us, many without formal economics training, also love playing amateur economists. This is where Subodh's book Core Economics Vol. 1, comes in and plays an important role. Subodh writes with the common man as the target audience.
In simple, easy to understand, and conversational language, Subodh decodes the language of economists for those who are not economists.
The nine chapters of Core Economics Vol. 1 start off with the very basic question, ‘What is economics?’ The book further looks at key concepts, explores models and ideas developed by famous economists, explains the functioning of financial markets (including the currency, money and wealth conundrum), lays out methods of calculating inflation and national income, etc. Real world data, events and examples are used throughout. I feel the book does justice to its subtitle ‘Concepts and Applications’.
My favourite chapter is the third one. It has the best elucidation of the concept of externalities that I have read till date. It also looks at the economics of pollution, including methods used to address issues arising out of it. Do get the book to discover your favourite chapter. I believe there is something for everyone in the volume.
Subodh and I have known each other for over forty years. We disagree on many things; for economic predictions, we disagree on almost everything. He is the expert; I like putting money on the best odds. But I believe we will both agree that this book fills a void in the introductory economics literature. I recommend the book for everyone and am willing to bet that the reader won't be disappointed.
Charles (“Chas”) Feinstein, an electrical engineer who later trained in economics, went on to become the director of the global energy practice at the World Bank. He has admired Subodh's work as an economist and innovator for over 25 years.
Know well: This is not "Economics for Dummies." Dr. Mathur's new book has a rigor and a sophistication that outclasses nominally similar texts that attempt to introduce the principles of economics to non-economists. By aiming higher, Subodh has done a service for all those who aspire to understand the economic underpinnings of many of today's most topical public policy issues, including employment, income, wealth, poverty and inequality.
The book's strength is that it is numerically literate without being mathematical. Economics is as prone as any field to succumb to the half-truths and distortions encapsulated by the old saw, "Lies, damn lies and statistics."
The author's gift is in giving the reader the tools to understand the meaning and the subtleties behind the summary economic figures reported in the popular press. Yet he manages to convey these learnings in a manner that is clear, straightforward and, to coin a word, "de-complexifying." He does this in a lighthearted style of writing, occasionally poking fun at the profession and economists' seeming proclivity to surround principles with jargon, and adding his personal experiences as a student, practitioner and teacher of economics for illustration. The result is a text that is highly readable and, considering the density of the underlying subject matter, quite painless.
Originally trained in electrical engineering before switching to economics, I know firsthand the frustrations of trying to grasp the theory and culture of "the dismal science." After applying economic principles in my work for over three decades, perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay is that I learned a lot from this book.
Raj Melville is the Executive Director, Deshpande Foundation. He drives the Foundation’s strategy to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in Canada, India and the US that has launched over 500 startups. He has a Ph.D. in engineering from MIT, an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a Bachelor’s degree from IIT Bombay.
“Yet another book on Economics?”, was a natural reaction when reviewing the first volume of Subodh Mathur’s proposed two-part effort to simply explain the intricacies of the “dismal science”.
How pleasantly surprised was I to find out that it was an eminently readable series of essays that lead the reader with simple language, clear examples, and bite-sized morsels through the various aspects of economic theory and practice. Subodh has drawn on his years of teaching experience to highlight those terms and topics that everyday folks struggle with and organized them in a manner that entices the reader with lively examples that slowly draws the reader into the meat of the subject.
Addressing today’s generation so used to digesting social media sized capsules of information, the chapters are thoughtfully designed to cover each topic in a page or two with plenty of graphics and clarifying explanations. Equations are kept to a minimum and only used when required to make a point.
The span of topics will help anyone curious about how economic and financial frameworks impact our day to day lives and will provide them with a firm grasp of the fundamental features and how they come together.
It is a must read for those curious about the economy but thought it too daunting a subject in the past, and also serves well as a rapid refresher for others who might need a quick update.
Anil Deolalikar, an economist, is currently the Founding Dean of the School of Public Policy, University of California, Riverside. He taught previously at the University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University. Professor Deolalikar has known Subodh Mathur in a personal and professional capacity for the last four decades.
This is an unusual textbook in that it isn't geared for the student planning to major in economics at college or the student wishing to fulfill a general education breadth requirement. As such, it doesn't follow a standard, prescribed curriculum. Of course, it still covers all the important principles of economics, but in an easily-accessible, conversational style.
The book will be invaluable to practitioners in fields other than economics who are interested in understanding and interpreting the economic variables and trends that are affecting their own industries and careers. It is also meant for the intellectually-curious reader who just wishes to follow, interpret and better understand, through an economics prism, the major issues and events of our time.
The breadth of topics covered is impressive -- climate change, schooling quality, poverty and inequality, and negative interest rates. In addressing these societal "grand challenges," Dr. Mathur brings in key principles of economics and shows how these can shed light on the root causes of these problems as well as the policy solutions to addressing these societal challenges.
T. Singaravelan, co-founder of EverComm Singapore, is an IT veteran with two decades of digitalization experience across Asia Pacific. He has been instrumental in the implementation of policies like Industry Transformation Maps in Singapore. He has conducted Artificial Intelligence Governance Audits to assess human involvement in AI-Augmented Decision-Making. He has served UNDP as a Digital Innovation Consultant in Philippines.
Economist Vision should be:
Look at the “World has One Human Body” different parts of the body are nothing but different countries in the world with their unique characteristics and features. Just like human body needs all the parts to work harmoniously, all the countries are needed to make this world work harmoniously.
As some human are there with special needs, some countries also will be there with special needs and it is the responsibility of the others to take care of the people/ countries with special needs.
The other day, as I was walking on the streets of Bangkok, I struck up a conversation with a street vendor who was selling mango slices. Wow! Interesting insights and I learned a lot from him. This is my conversation with him.
Me: “How is the business doing?“
Street Vendor: “Sawadee Ka, Business is down because economy is down!“
Me: “Wow, why economy is down?“
Street Vendor: “Very High competition, Poor management by government“
Me: “Ah! this gets more interesting. How do you say this?“
Street Vendor: “25 Yrs. back all the western/European tourists come to Thailand and there were few street vendors. so good money, but now tourists go to Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Philippines etc. and so less customers and more street vendors, competition increased we need to reduce mango price less profit.“
Me: “Hmmmm… What do you think government needs to do?“
Street Vendor: “They should spend lots of money to protect Agriculture and solve city traffic problem.“
Me: “OK, if they do that how it will help you?“
Street Vendor: “If Agriculture business flourish, then farmers will not migrate to urban (Bangkok) to earn living, so competition goes to down. Good quality mango will come, so the price can be increased. If Traffic in Bangkok will reduce, so more tourists will come. More customers, more revenue.“
a) Author followed the simplistic way of presenting the complex economic concepts
b) He has explained the economic theories with real-world problems and situations
c) Cross countries examples and references helps the understanding deeper, better.
d) Application of economics like policy formulation is explained to appreciates the usage of economics in real-world situations like Pandemic etc.
e) Author’s frankness and openness in certain places demonstrates his sincerity in his opinions.
In some situations, the content flow is not structured because of the author’s sincere attempt to explain by combining economics concepts and its application (policy formulation) in a simplistic way. In this digital era, digitization’s impact on economics were not discussed in detail.
Recommendations for author
Author can pick-up some of the following areas in his next version of the book.
a) Details on how Foundational Industries like Agriculture and Infrastructure and its economics will impact the overall economy.
b) Simplified economics metrics like Job creation, Interest rates, Inflation and its impact to day-to day life.
c) Policy formulation to optimize the Capitalism management Vs Natural resource mgmt. (Five Boothas - Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Sky)
d) Harness the power digitization and data for policy making and policy implementation
Irrespective of all the complex graphs and mathematical equations, economics is actually “Common Sense” and “Structured Logical thinking”. If the economists can move out of these complex theories and started thinking in a street vendor perspective and help governments to formulate the policies that can be implementable and benefit the common man, then we can make this world a better place to live and we as privileged professionals have the satisfaction of the “purpose in our own Lives”.
Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist, is currently a University Professor of Economics, Law, and International Relations at Columbia University, New York. He previously taught at MIT and Delhi School of Economics. In his academic work, he has made pioneering contributions to the study of economic development, international trade, foreign aid, and immigration.
Subodh Mathur, a brilliant economist, has also a rare gift: writing about economic policy in a way that is accessible to non-economists. Given the enormous interest in economic policy today, Mathur's book is timely and makes an important contribution that will improve debates on public policy.
This book is Volume I. It has three sections:
Volume II, in the works, will cover macroeconomic schools of thoughts, microeconomics and its application to various sectors, international economics, and econometrics.
Read excerpts from each chapter:
Corrections to the published text will be listed here.
Book author: Subodh Mathur, Ph.D.
Phone: (301) 538-4363