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The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do | [Eduardo Porter]

The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do

Many of the prices we pay seem to make little sense. We shell out $2.29 for a coffee at Starbucks when a nearly identical brew can be had at the corner deli for less than a dollar. We may be less willing to give blood for $25 than to donate it for free. Americans hire the cheap labor of illegal immigrants to fix the roof or mow the lawn and vote for politicians who promise to spend billions to keep them out of the country.
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Publisher's Summary

Many of the prices we pay seem to make little sense. We shell out $2.29 for a coffee at Starbucks when a nearly identical brew can be had at the corner deli for less than a dollar. We may be less willing to give blood for $25 than to donate it for free. Americans hire the cheap labor of illegal immigrants to fix the roof or mow the lawn and vote for politicians who promise to spend billions to keep them out of the country. And citizens of the industrialized West pay hundreds of dollars a year in taxes or cash for someone to cart away trash that would be a valuable commodity in poorer parts of the world.

The Price of Everything starts with a simple premise: there is a price behind each choice that we make, whether we're deciding to have a baby, drive a car, or buy a book. Eduardo Porter uncovers the true story behind the prices we pay and reveals what those prices are actually telling us. He takes us on a global economic adventure, from comparing the relative prices of a vote in corrupt São Tomé and in the ostensibly aboveboard United States to assessing the cost of happiness in Bhutan to deducing the dollar value we assign to human life. His unique approach helps explain:

  • Why polygamous societies actually place a higher value on women than monogamous ones
  • Why someone may find more value in a $14-million license plate than in the standard-issue $95 one
  • Why some government agencies believe one year of life for a senior citizen is four times more valuable than that of a younger person

Porter weaves together the constant - and often unconscious - cost and value assessments we all make every day. While exploring the fascinating story behind the price of everything from marriage and death to mattresses and horsemeat, Porter draws unexpected connections that bridge a wide range of disciplines and cultures. The result is a cogent and insightful narrative about how the world really works.

©2011 Eduardo Porter (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

What Members Say

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  •  
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 10-27-12
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 10-27-12 Member Since 2006

    k11923

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    29
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    "Very interesting and enlightning"
    What made the experience of listening to The Price of Everything the most enjoyable?

    Interesting facts explained. He made interesting connections between different influents. Connections that I had never considerer myself.


    What does Walter Dixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Nothing special, but his voice is very adequate for this type op book.


    Any additional comments?

    The book seemed lenghty now and then but I kept listening and waiting for the next interesting thing. No disappointment but sometimes it needed a bit of patience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2005

    mostly nonfiction listener

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Higher Ed and 'The Price of Everything'"

    What is it about economics (behavioral and classical) and psychology that generates great books for non-academic readers? Where is the sociology? (although I guess Venkatesh did okay). Where is the demography? Where is the educational technology?

    According to Porter, the reason we have more popular books about economic research is that people are willing to pay for popular books on economic research. The higher "price" (or demand), drives the supply of these books.

    The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do, by Eduardo Porter, synthesizes a large body both classical and experimental (behavioral) economics research. Porter strikes a good balance between illustrating economic concepts around prices with stories about people and stories about events. We learn about when prices fail, such as the housing bubble, as well as when they succeed (such as the incredible growth of prosperity in Asia that came with market reforms).

    This is another one of those books that would work for an intro econ course, something to give some life to the textbooks and the supply and demand curves. However, The Price of Everything should be read more widely than by economists and their students.

    We could probably use an opportunity to think more critically about prices throughout campus.

    Why is it, for instance, that we usually fail to put a price on our time - resulting in the "meeting culture" that dominates so much of higher ed?

    When selecting a new ed tech platform or service to bring to campus do we think hard enough about opportunity costs, what we are not able to do with our resources (dollars and time) when making our selections?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PHIL San Diego, CA, United States 11-03-12
    PHIL San Diego, CA, United States 11-03-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A wide-ranging tour of trade-offs"

    This book extends the basic economics ideas of "opportunity costs" (trade-offs) and market thinking in many directions, looking at various societies, customs, etc. It spends some time in the financial services world but also illuminates, for example, choices surrounding marriage in societies of various wealth and mate-availability levels (including which family side pays more to cement marriage contracts); and choices of religious membership. Overall this is a sort of loosely-framed extended meditation on all kinds of price thinking. It is very non-technical, and in that sense pretty well thought-through but not terribly rigorous, but it is thought-provoking. One area that gets particular attention is the pricing of various possible scenarios and strategies with environmental laws and climate change, which opened my (novice) eyes about assigning numbers (and costs) to various choices, contingencies and human values (and, to the unavoidable and tough questions of dollar valuation of human lives involved).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-25-11
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-25-11 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "good value"

    Solid discussion of the dynamics of value and how it affects our everyday decisions. Porter covers a broad range of issues, from how many kids to have to the tragedy of the commons. Solid narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    peter Houten, Netherlands 03-18-11
    peter Houten, Netherlands 03-18-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "arghh"

    This must have been the worst book I accidentally bought. The amount of fallacies is enormous. He is a spokeshole for fascism, provides an onslaught on freedom and promotes power of the few over the many. He does not realize that government is just a bunch of people pointing guns at other people justified by them wearing uniforms.
    Prices are not always set correctly by the market (people making voluntary exchanges) which should be corrected by the few all knowing and all mighty in gvt coercing them 'right'. As evidence he claims bubbles which are all created by a coerced monopoly on money creating. How you can still in this day and age of tax slave funded bailouts of big banks say that the government is there to transfer money from the rich to the poor is beyond me.
    How you can claim that the great depression was solved in stead of created by gvt intervention is beyond me (Roosevelt destroyed 6 million pigs while people were hungry and destroyed tons of cotton while they went unclothed). How you can claim Greenspan the big money printer in his gvt protected monopoly was in favor of freedom is beyond me. How you can say this crisis is caused by shrinking gvt of Reagan (who increased gvt by 2/3) and deregulation (regulation increased) is beyond me.
    In his analysis of deploying X tax dollars for gvt program A or for program B and how much lives they both 'save', he completely omits the detrimental effects of those dollars first being forcibly taken from the tax slaves. He wants to save the environment by an organisation that drops bombs and depleted uranium. He claims to want to save the planet for future generations, by an organisation that made future generations debt slaves with enormous debts. He wants to tax fuel to reduce fuel use, forgetting that this will give gvt more money which will cause gvt programs to expand having the ruling few burn the fuel the tax slaves no longer can afford, doing nothing for total fuel consumption.
    It goes on and on.

    1 of 11 people found this review helpful
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