I'm not sure if the title of this book really conveys its coverage. The author shows that a great deal of behavior can be explained by assuming that people take a rational, economic approach to problem solving even though they may not realize it. His first book, Underground Economist, should be read first because it is an incredible introduction to topics in economics for people who hated their first economics course. This book tackles some tougher problems. It is a must read for people with or without prior economics training.
The first half of this book describes research done by other psychologists. It is competently done, although the 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 descriptions become quite annoying after reading Friedman's use of the same system in The World is Flat. The second half attempts to provide a list of do's and don'ts to accomplish everything from running your firm to dealing with your kids. Other than some lab experiments, there is virtually no research that finds that these do's and don'ts actually work in the real world. He even suggests that readers should submit their own ideas to his web site. There are very few examples of how "motivation 3.0" has actually improved performance in the real world outside the software industry. There is no original research. If you are interested in these subjects, then I would skip this book and read Kahneman or Ariely.
If you have already read or listened to "The World is Flat 3.0" and "Hot, Flat and Crowded 2.0", then there is only a small amount of new information in this book. There are new stories that focus on the same themes that are present in the other two books.
This book begins with the theme that there are areas where the United States used to do a good job but now appears to be lagging ("That used to be us"). However, as the book proceeds, these are mixed up with the authors' views about how we "should" be. For example, there is a chapter on the values of having a diverse military. That diversity is a very recent phenomena and the recent changes in the way gays and lesbians are treated are largely in their infancy. As another example, there are several chapters related to how workers must train and work in order to be competitive in the modern global economy. The authors might be right about their suggestions, but these suggestions are not drawn from how we once were.
As might be expected, a fairly large amount of the material concerns the problems in our schools. Again, however, none of the proposals really are generated by looking at how we once taught students in the United States. Previous generations were taught all about the explorers of North America and these explorers were largely treated as heroes. There was no mention of the Vikings or of the slaughter of Native Americans. Cowboys were the heroes and Indians were the enemies. Students were "tracked" so that the best students got the best teachers. Students with handicaps were not main streamed. Students ate at home. There were no social workers in the schools and certainly no police. That used to be us. Should we go back to the agenda to make our schools more competitive?
When you try to solve very difficult problems by picking out certain things from the past while ignoring other important things, then you end up with a book that presents the political views of the authors. If you are 100% behind the choice of antidotes that authors choose, then you will like this book. If you haven't read the two previous books, then there is good information that you should not ignore. If you have read the two previous books and you are skeptical about Friedman's political ideology, then I consider this book a waste of time.
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