Joel Naroff, the nationally prominent economist who has a vacation home in Margate, has written a book to help people improve their economic understanding and make better decisions.

“Big Picture Economics: How to Navigate the New Global Economy,” was written with journalist Ron Scherer and published this month by Wiley (that’s John Wiley & Sons to us old-timers).

There are plenty of reasons to listen to Naroff about the economy.

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He has twice won the annual forecasting contest of the National Association for Business Economics, and been named top economic forecaster by both Bloomberg and MSNBC.

He’s also president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., and advises big banks and corporations. And news services frequently seek his views on economic topics and issues.

Co-author Scherer worked 37 years for The Christian Science Monitor newspaper, during which he covered Wall Street and the economy.

Naroff says the book enables readers to put the confusing, often seemingly unrelated pieces of the global economic picture into context, forming frameworks that can be the basis for decision-making.

Scherer says the advice and insights in the book are used by wealthy people, corporations and governments, and ordinary people can use them to plan and make financial decisions.

“Big Picture Economics” is probably also helpful in understanding the contentious issues of macroeconomic policy, judging by some of the chapter titles, such as:

* “The Federal Reserve, Congress, and the Use of Context in Economic Policy”

* “Tax Policy: Does Cutting Taxes Cure All Ills?”

* “Monetary Policy: Money, or Maybe the Federal Reserve, Makes the World Go ’Round”

Readers fearful (and rightly so) that a book about economics is probably dry and impenetrable can relax. Naroff and Scherer have delivered their ideas in richly readable stories, such as the tales of a trucker and a Tex-Mex restaurant that enliven the first chapter (available on the Wiley website,

Rules assure future of e-cigarettes

The federal regulations proposed for e-cigarettes this week should remove any doubts about the future of this new form of “smoking.”

Requirements to limit sales to adults, list ingredients and warn about addiction will not slow the consumer rush to vaporize a fluid with nicotine instead of burning a dried leaf with nicotine.

Being addicted to nicotine is bad enough. Given the option, presumably most smokers will choose to get it without having to inhale tar-filled smoke and suffer the smoke’s adverse health effects.

I see the announcement by the Food and Drug Administration as a warning to the many entrepreneurs who have opened e-cigarette shops: Prepare now, during your good years, for the e-cigarettes’ future dominated by the same companies in the tobacco trade today. I expect that within five years, maybe much sooner, appealing e-cigarette brands from the big tobacco companies will be available at competitive prices at convenience stores everywhere.

Current sellers may have to find a niche market or another business idea.

Flat and cold

Business activity in the region fell flat in the first quarter, according to the South Jersey Business Survey released this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Let’s hope it’s another negative indicator we can blame on the exceptionally cold winter.

Asked to assess the level of business activity at their establishments, barely more South Jersey businesses said it was higher than lower, 36 percent to 33 percent.

Forty-two percent judged economic activity overall in the region to be diminished, compared with just 25 percent who thought things were picking up.

The same percentage of firms added employees as reduced employees — 14 percent.

Many are being squeezed by prices, with 36 percent reporting paying more for raw materials, but only 17 percent saying they were able to charge more for their goods and services.

Federal and state regulations have gotten worse the past year, too.

Responding to this quarter’s special questions, 25 percent said the state regulatory climate was more unfavorable, with just 6 percent calling it more favorable.

On federal regulation the divide was bigger: 28 percent calling it more unfavorable vs. just 3 percent deeming it more favorable.

The Philly Fed conducts the South Jersey Business Survey quarterly and bases it on responses from members of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey.

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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