But Tim Harford, award-winning journalist and author of the best-seller The Undercover Economist, likes to spring surprises. In this deftly reasoned title, Harford argues that life is logical after all. Under the surface of everyday insanity, hidden incentives are at work, and Harford shows these incentives emerging in the most unlikely places.
Using tools ranging from animal experiments to supercomputer simulations, an ambitious new breed of economist is trying to unlock the secrets of society. The Logic of Life is the first book to map out the astonishing insights and frustrating blind spots of this new economics in a way that anyone can enjoy. It presents an X-ray image of human life, stripping away the surface to show us a picture that is revealing, enthralling, and sometimes disturbing. The stories that emerge are not about data or equations but about people.
©2008 Tim Harford; ©2008 Books on Tape
John Lee does an excellent job of narrating "The Logic of Life." I can't believe the number of complicated topics that Harford explains, and Lee delivers the humor and the unexpected segues without overdoing them. He reads slowly enough that you can follow along without having to rewind too often--though you might want to rewind some, especially on the sections about romance, racism and addiction, because the content gets so interesting. I kept thinking, "So that's why it works that way." This was one of my best purchases in a long while, because I think I'll retain a lot of what I learned, and it was a pleasure to listen to.
The book starts with some startling insights. For example, who would have thought that oral sex was a rational alternative to intercourse for couples who didn't want to become pregnant, except perhaps anyone who has ever had or thought of having sex. And thank goodness we have people with PhD's to explain to us that owners take better care of their properties than renters because they have more invested in them, although I suppose we could have also got that insight from anyone who has ever owned or rented anything.
The first part of the book is full of uninspired insights such as these. If you can make it past them there are some interesting nuggets on "rational" discrimination and how dropping out of school can be seen as a rational response to discrimination in the work place. But, the books central thesis--that our behaviors are best viewed as rational responses to incentives--seems overly simplistic. For example, why am I writing a review of this book? It doesn't seem rational--why do I care if you waste a few hours on a silly book--and I'm sure I will regret writing it in a few minutes when I realize I am going to be late for work. Also, the book basically ignores the research presented in Blink and similar books, which suggest decisions are a mix of rational and instinctive processes. That's unfortunate.
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.
Family on the move.
I listened to Hartford's other book, "The Undercover Economist" before this and absolutely loved it. This was just as interesting.
Hartford explains a lot of why we do some of the seemingly peculiar things we do. It is well presented, clearly written, and will expose most the reader to many of the most currently accepted ideas in economics. I would recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in markets, people, or economics.
Tim Harford has produced a book on economics that informs the reader about everyday life and circumstances. Of particular interest are discussions of equal opportunity and ethinic bias, changing neighborhoods and crime, along with other interesting topics. The reading is very good and the topic easy to follow. A most entertaining and informative read.
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