For the past few years, many experts have predicted an economic recession by 2020. A 2018 article on WorldFinancialReview.com stated that “it appears that there is a foregone conclusion that 2020 is the date that crash 2.0 will wreak havoc once again”. In the same year, The Independent magazine wrote, “Next global financial crisis will strike in 2020, warns investment bank, JP Morgan – sparked by an automated trading system.” And Forbes magazine wrote, “2020 might be the worst decade in US history – triggered by contagion from a global credit crisis.” These statements were made 2 years ago. And there are many other sources supporting this.
For many people actively following the trend for some time, an economic downturn seemed inevitable in 2020. There seemed to be data, statistics and speculations to support this claim. But no one anticipated it would happen the way we are seeing it today.
Today, we are experiencing a pandemic and economic downturn or even worse. There are many speculations in the news about how long this pandemic is going to last, the resultant economic effect and the financial crisis that will follow. Few people alive today have ever experienced anything like this before on a global scale. And no one knows how or when this is going to end and what the world will look like afterwards.
So here we are today, with many unanswered questions. When will this end? How will it end? What would be the repercussion? What will change after this?
Although no one has the answers, two subjects can help point us in the right direction to at least have an idea of what’s going on or at best give us a glimpse of what could follow.
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Those who devote to studying these two subjects are most likely to find some answers and make better decisions.
Economics is a study of how people make choices under conditions of scarcity, and of the results of those choices for society. It enquires how people get the income and how they use it.
Since the corona virus pandemic, thousands of lives have been lost and thousands more daily around the world. Billions of people have been forced to stay at home. Governments are borrowing money, some seeking relief funds to help fight the corona virus. Governments are printing more money to bail out businesses from failing and to provide stimulus to citizens. Oil price sunk to a negative value. Businesses closed down; some never to reopen again. Millions of people are losing their jobs. What is the economic and financial implication of all of these events? What should we expect in the next 6 to 12 months, 1 to 5 years? How will all of these affect employment, taxes, businesses and income?
A level of understanding of economics will help you understand how money works and how it affects your pocket. It could even help you better prepare for what’s to come. To get you started with understanding economics, here are some recommendations.
Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
If you’ve ever wondered why drug dealers tend to live with their mothers, and which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool, then this book will enlighten your perspective. Freakonomics adeptly presents the fascinating and often counter-intuitive findings from microeconomic studies for a general audience. The insights from these studies introduce the reader to the role of incentives, among other aspects of microeconomics. This book manages to both amuse you and make you start seeing the world from an economics perspective!
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky
Written by Nobel Prize winner, and mathematical psychologist, this is an incredibly insightful book, which challenges the classical economic assumption that people always act rationally. For example, this book explains why it is that we are more likely to believe something written in bold type, and why we are more likely to believe that attractive people are more competent. It’s a book that helps us understand both the decisions we make ourselves, as well as the decisions made by those around us. Not only does reading this help you make better decisions, but it gives an excellent insight into behavioural economics.
The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford
This is a book that shows you that economics plays a massive part in every section of your life, and how knowing about the economics behind these everyday things can help you understand the world slightly better.
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
This book takes the biggest myths in society today and turns them upside down and inside out. For example, it explains why the washing machine has changed lives more than the internet. Chang explains at the start of the book that despite the name, the book is by no means anti-capitalist and aims not to take sides but to explain the realities. This one will have you questioning everything you know.
The second subject you should study during this period is history. No! This is not like the history class you too in school. Rather it’s about asking questions like; Has a pandemic like the COVID-19 of today happened before? How did people live through it? Have there been national lockdowns like we are seeing today? How did the event affect the economy? The great depression, the great financial recession and several other economic downturns in the past; what lead to them? How long did it take to recover? What kinds of businesses survive a recession? How is prosperity created through a recession? You will find answers to some of these questions in the history of economies? Here is a list of books and movies to start with.
Why Nations Fall – The origin of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and j/James Robinson
Why have some countries prospered and created great living conditions for their citizens, while others have not? Why Nations Fail is easy to read, with lots of interesting historical stories about different countries. It makes a simple argument: countries with “inclusive” (rather than “extractive”) political and economic institutions are the ones that succeed and survive over the long term.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nissim Nocholas Taleb
The central idea in the book is that even if an event is extremely improbable, such as a pandemic happening when no one had ever experienced one, it doesn’t mean the event is impossible. The book goes on to explain how a significant unexpected event can have massive consequences.
Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin (book and movie)
“Too Big to Fail” is a compelling narrative that tells the story of how the United States largest and most prestigious financial institutions came to the brink of collapse – and almost took the entire economy with them – in the great economic crisis of 2008. According to the book, the financial downturn that occurred in the summer of 2008 was actually years in the making due to the financial recklessness of financial institutions and investment banks in mortgages. The book makes highly complex financial matters easy to understand by explaining them with a minimum of technical jargon. The 2008 crash was avoidable, but it happened anyway. There is also a movie version of the book with the same name.
The Big Short (movie)
This is another movie that tells the story of how a few finance experts observe the instability in the US housing market and predict its collapse. Through their research, they discover the flaws and corruption in the system. The film consists of three separate but concurrent stories, loosely connected by their actions in the years leading up to the housing market crash. The film employs unconventional techniques to explain complex financial instruments.
What we are facing today is not like what the world has faced in the past. You will not automatically predict the future by studying economics and history. But you will be better informed to control your emotions and make smarter decisions through this time.
There are many other books and movies out there that will help you learn. But you can start with these ones. Which of these books or movies are you going to start consuming? Share with us in the comment section below.
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The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé