> Skip to content
  • Published: 2 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847942746
  • Imprint: Random House Business
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $35.00

Free Lunch Thinking

8 Economic Myths and Why Politicians Fall for Them

Why most economic assumptions made by governments are wrong

Economic theories and models shape our everyday lives. They are relied on by politicians when tax rises or cuts are being considered. They inform debates about everything from bonuses for CEOs to minimum wage rates to the level of job protection enshrined in law. They determine what levels of tobacco or petrol duty are charged, and influence government approaches to issues as diverse as obesity and climate change.

The question is: are policy makers right to be so slavishly reliant on them? Tom Bergin is sceptical, and in Free Lunch Thinking he subjects eight of the most prevalent economic mantras to close scrutiny, assessing how they play out in practice. Again and again, he shows how individuals, companies and markets fail to respond to policy changes as theory predicts. He exposes the missed opportunities and wasted resources that result. And by tracing the development of key economic tenets, he demonstrates how their champions' tendency to believe in phenomena for which they have little hard evidence leaves accepted economic wisdom frequently being more about faith than facts.

His book both exposes and challenges lazy thinking. It also sets out a path for more considered future.

  • Published: 2 February 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847942746
  • Imprint: Random House Business
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $35.00

About the author

Tom Bergin

Tom Bergin has reported on the energy industry for over twelve years, having previously worked as an oil broker. He is in charge of Reuters's coverage of the oil industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and his work has been published in The New York Times, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, The Globe and Mail andthe Shanghai Daily, as well as in dozens of newspapers and magazines around the world. He is a regular television and radio commentator, appearing on CNBC, ITV, the BBC and other outlets as far away as New Zealand. In 2013, he was named Business Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards.

Apart from the oil industry, Tom has reported on financial scandals, including the rise and fall of Enron, environmental issues, EU politics and terrorist attacks. He lives in London with his wife, a former Reuters reporter turned investment banker, and two young sons.

Also by Tom Bergin

See all

Praise for Free Lunch Thinking

I couldn't put it down. A thorough and nuanced examination of the evolution of supply side economics and the debates we had around how to put the theory into practice. I loved it.

Arthur Laffer, creator of the Laffer Curve

An essential read if you want to know how economics has erred - and how it can do better.

Gabriel Zucman, author of 'The Hidden Wealth of Nations'

A brilliant tour de force exposing the limitations of economic theories. Bergin punctures many accepted myths and - with care and rigour - demonstrates how much accepted economic orthodoxy is based on ideology and not reality. A very readable and well-researched book that we all should read.

Margaret Hodge, former chair of the UK parliament's Public Accounts Committee

An entertaining and thought-provoking exploration of economic theories that have been both widely accepted and largely wrong . . . I devoured it in a couple of sittings.

Reuters Breakingviews

Fantastically provocative book . . . a really great read.

David McWilliams, economist and author

Wonderful book . . . A very lively read.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce)

A fine book . . . The quality of public policy should be all the better for it.

Wealth Briefing

Superb . . . Bergin brings his sharp eye and insights to in this elegant narrative.

Daily Maverick, South Africa

He has written a thoughtful, fairminded, and intellectually honest critique of free-market economics, which raises some interesting challenges for free-marketeers. He combines that with an insightful account of the recent history of economic thought. If you are looking for a book which challenges you without being annoying - make it this one.

Institute of Economic Affairs

Related titles