How To Speak Money & Econobabble

 I'm not sure why red, black and white seem to be the agreed colours for covers of books about economics, perhaps from being 'in the red' and 'in the black?' I studied Economics in HSC back in the dark ages of the 1980s -- it was my weakest subject. I've never felt very confident, or interested, in money matters, but lately I've decided that wilful ignorance is no longer a reasonable excuse for tuning out economic debates or financial discussions, and these two books seemed like a good place to start.

I've now read three different kinds of books by John Lanchester (his memoir, Family Romance, and two novels, Capital and Fragrant Harbour) and now this non-fiction guide to the language of finance and economics, How to Speak Money. Written in 2014, it's understandably overshadowed by the GFC a few years previously (weirdly, according to Lanchester, it's only Australians who really call it the GFC! Who knew?) and it's also understandably quite Britain-focused. But Lanchester is a smart, engaging writer, and he can make even a dictionary of economic terms into a very entertaining read. Terms that have always confused me, like 'fungible' are clarified, and I was introduced to new words like 'monopsony' (where there are many sellers but only one buyer -- think of giant supermarket chains buying farm produce, or the government purchasing submarines).

Even better is local writer Richard Denniss' Econobabble, a slim, snappy book that briskly debunks all the jargon used to obfuscate and justify why certain things 'can't' be done (like raising the rate of Jobseeker?) and why other things allegedly 'have to' be done (to avoid 'upsetting the markets,' which as Denniss points out, have no feelings -- rich people, however, do feel strongly that they want to hang onto their wealth). Denniss is a lefty and I wanted to cheer on reading almost every page. Originally written in 2016 and revised in 2021 to take account of the COVID pandemic, Econobabble has little patience for right-wing governments: Denniss suggests replacing the phrase 'the economy' in most Coalition statements with 'rich people's yacht money,' and seeing how much sense it still makes. I felt super smug when I happened to hear Alexander Downer on the radio while reading this book and recognised all the tricks he was playing. Highly recommended!


  1. Hear, hear! Why is it always imperative to give tax cuts to the wealthy, but deny an increase to pitifully meagre unemployment benefits?!?!?!?

  2. Couldn't agree more! And re interest rate rises, I can't help feeling the cure is worse than the disease at this point :(