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The Leading Indicators

A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World

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How did we come by the “leading indicators” we place such stock in? We allocate trillions of dollars and make public policy and personal decisions based upon them, but what do they really tell us?

“The leading indicators” shape our lives intimately, but few of us know where these numbers come from, what they mean, or why they rule the world. GDP, inflation, unemployment, trade, and a host of averages determine whether we feel optimistic or pessimistic about the country’s future and our own. They dictate whether businesses hire and invest, or fire and hunker down, whether governments spend trillions or try to reduce debt, whether individuals marry, buy a car, get a mortgage, or look for a job.

Zachary Karabell tackles the history and the limitations of each of our leading indicators. The solution is not to invent new indicators, but to become less dependent on a few simple figures and tap into the data revolution. We have unparalleled power to find the information we need, but only if we let go of the outdated indicators that lead and mislead us.

Publishers Weekly Review

Mar 10, 2014 – How did we get to the era of Big Data? Karabell, president of River Twice Research, a political and economic analysis firm, mines little known tidbits in the history of economics to explain how individuals, companies, and countries came to rely on statistics like unemployment, inflation, and gross domestic product to describe the wealth of nations—and why these traditional concepts may no longer be up to the task. Statistics about working people during Industrial Revolution fueled the labor movement, while Great Depression put terms like "unemployment" into the everyday lexicon of Americans. Yet these one-size-fits-all indicators can't really handle the intricacies the 21st century global economy. A low national unemployment rate means little to jobless people in states where higher rates prevail, nor can it predict events like the reelection of a president. Karabell proposes crafting "bespoke indicators" that harness unique data sets that users can deploy to answer questions about economic life. This slim, entertaining volume also unpacks the contributions of a host of colorful, if obscure, individuals who contributed to the field. In Karabell's hands economics is no longer "the dismal science." More storyteller than analyst here, he succeeds in livening up how "the economy" came to be for the general reader, minus the complex jargon and blizzards of numbers that can mar such books.

Customer Reviews

Historical & current look at economic indicators

A well written book looking at the history, strengths, & weaknesses of economic indicators. I have a better understanding of the indicators but bought the book to learn more about all of the indicators & economic factors seen in lay press. This book focused on a few key indicators.

The Leading Indicators
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Economics
  • Published: Feb 11, 2014
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Seller: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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