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The Armchair Economist (revised and updated May 2012): Economics & Everyday Life [Kindle Edition]

Steven E. Landsburg
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc


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Book Description

Revised and updated May 2012.

In this revised and updated edition of Steven Landsburg’s hugely popular book, he applies economic theory to today’s most pressing concerns, answering a diverse range of daring questions, such as:

Why are seat belts deadly?
Why do celebrity endorsements sell products?
Why are failed executives paid so much?
Who should bear the cost of oil spills?
Do government deficits matter?
How is workplace safety bad for workers?
What’s wrong with the local foods movement?
Which rich people can’t be taxed?
Why is rising unemployment sometimes good?
Why do women pay more at the dry cleaner?
Why is life full of disappointments?

Whether these are nagging questions you’ve always had, or ones you never even thought to ask, this new edition of The Armchair Economist turns the eternal ideas of economic theory into concrete answers that you can use to navigate the challenges of contemporary life.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Landsburg demystifies the economics of everyday behavior in these diverting if not always persuasive essays. Why don't promoters of sell-out rock concerts raise the advance ticket price? Because, suggests the author, promoters want the good will of teenage audiences who will buy lots of rock paraphernalia. Why are executives' salaries so high? One reason, opines Landsburg, is that stockholders expect managers to take risks, and well-heeled executives are more likely to do so. Associate professor of economics at the University of Rochester in New York, Landsburg applies his counter-intuitive analyses, with mixed results, to everything from taxes, auctions, baseball and the high price of movie theater popcorn to government inefficiency, the death penalty, environmentalism (which he attacks as a dogmatic, coercive ideology) and NAFTA.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Landsburg (economics, Univ. of Rochester) demonstrates the economist's way of thinking about everyday occurrences. The result is a compilation of questions ranging from why popcorn costs so much at movie theaters and why rock concerts sell out to why laws against polygamy are detrimental to women. Many of the issues raised are controversial and even somewhat humorous, but they are clearly explained only from an economic perspective as opposed to other dynamics of human behavior. There are also clear explanations of the misconceptions about unemployment rates, measures of inflation, and interest rates. The book is not a textbook but shows how one economist solves puzzling questions that occur in daily living. Recommended for general collections.
- Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1998 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1451651732
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00120953U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,932 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tour the mind of an economist August 6, 2001
If you're remotely interested in economics, you should read this book; it's a hoot.

Not too many books on economics could be described as a "hoot." But Steven Landsburg, an economics professor at the University of Chicago when he wrote this book (now he's at the University of Rochester), has a delightfully sharp sense of humor and a gift for clear, logical exposition. He also doesn't in the least mind naming names when it comes to egregious economic fallacies and the people who commit them: he keeps a "Sound and Fury file" consisting of economic gaffes from the op-ed pages and he devotes a chapter to exposing the culprits.

His theme is easily stated, and he states it on the first page: the substance of economic science is that people respond to incentives. "The rest," he writes in deliberate imitation of Rabbi Hillel, "is commentary."

Landsburg fills the rest of the book with such commentary. His witty and occasionally sarcastic exposition deals neatly with such topics as why recycling paper doesn't really save trees; why certain statistics are not reliable measures of the "income gap" between rich and poor; why the GNP is not an especially accurate measure of national wealth; why unemployment isn't necessarily a bad thing; why taxes _are_ a bad thing; why real economists don't care about what's "good for the economy" or endorse the pursuit of monetary profit apart from personal happiness; and lots of other points that will no doubt be profoundly irritating to people who just _know_ he _can't possibly_ be right.

For example, Landsburg is delightfully allergic to the claims of the "environmental" movement and recognizes it quite clearly as a strongly moralistic religion.
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94 of 119 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars sometimes misses the point of opposing arguments December 12, 2004
Landsburg's book is entertaining and often witty, and written in a conversational, easy-to-read style. The book is very good at presenting often unintuitive and novel (to the non-economist) ways of looking at things. This is an invaluable book for pointing out common fallacies in arguments about deficits, inflation, unemployment, and other major political issues. At the same time, however, I can't help but think that Landsburg occasional misses significant relevant issues, most glaringly in the final chapter on environmentalism. For example, Landsburg describes a case where Jack wants a woodland at the expense of Jill's parking space and vice versa, and argues that the desires are exactly symmetrical. While environmentalists claim that the wilderness should take precedence "because a decision to pave is 'irrevocable'", Landsburg says "a decision _not_ to pave is _equally_ irrevocable" because "Unless we pave today, my opportunity to park tomorrow is lost as irretrievably as tomorrow itself will be lost" (p. 224). While this is correct, this misses the environmentalist's point that it is much easier to convert woodland to parking lot than to do the reverse. The environmentalist fears taking actions that are irrevocable in the sense that they cannot be undone in the future. Landsburg's perspective throughout the book seems to me to ignore the possibility of actions taken which may have consequences which may adversely effect the very existence of mankind (or economic institutions).

Another example in the same chapter is when he suggests that the best way for environmentalists to support the existence of cattle is to eat beef: "If you want ranchers to keep a lot of cattle, you should eat a lot of beef" (p. 225).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully thought-provoking but uneven April 23, 2002
"Why do rock concerts sell out in minutes -- couldn't the promoters raise the ticket prices?" "Why does movie popcorn cost so much?" "How much harm is caused by government debt?" "Why is it hard to measure inflation? Output? The rich/poor gap?"
This book is a series of loosely organized essays about "how economists think." The target audience appears to be people like myself, who are interested in economics, but are not highly trained in the field. It's a good companion to "The Economics of Public Issues," which focuses on real-world illustrations of basic economic concepts. This book focuses on how to approach analyzing the real world for yourself.
According to the Introduction, many of the essays have grown out of discussions Landsburg had with his regular lunch group ... and what lunches those must have been! Questions are raised, and explanations batted about and critiqued. Assuming that Landsburg is a typical economist, the book succeeds spectacularly in illustrating "how economists think." Many of the essays retain what must have been the original feel of the lunchtime debates (ideas are raised, then criticized, then rejected or refined) -- a form which sheds considerable light upon how economists approach problems. The essay about why economists are sometimes wrong is very enlightening. It describes why economists thought that unemployment and inflation were inversely related -- until government started acting on that assumption, which destroyed the relationship. While I'm not very good at macroeconomics, Landsburg's explanation of this is simple and persuasive, and creates more insights into how the study of economics works.
As a series of essays, some are better than others. Landsburg slips easily between making arguments about issues to making assertions about issues.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and catchy
I didn't buy this book based on a review I had read or heard but as a prescribed reading for my graduate class in economics. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jessica Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Use of examples helps you understand economic concepts
As a graduate student, the assumption is that 99% of the time any book assigned for a specific class is going to be 1) extremely boring and 2) impossible to understand. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Hannah Shetters
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read for anyone interested in the Economics of everyday life.
Landsburg is very thought provoking in his approach to explaining the intricacies of everyday economics. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Matt Gorstein
4.0 out of 5 stars Economics taken to the next-level
I nearly returned the book the very moment I received it after purchase and flipping through the pages. Read more
Published 9 days ago by SHAIBU I.
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book.
Purchased the first edition years ago and enjoyed reading this edition just as much.

Have a facination with economics and enjoy the simple examples of economics from... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Clyde Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
I had to read this book for one of my course in Graduate school and I have to admit that it end up being more entertaining than what I expected. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Stephany Flores
1.0 out of 5 stars A classic example of nonsense economics
I actually use a selection from this book to show my economics students how traditional economics can lead one to completely false conclusions, like Xeno's paradox... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun Libertarians view of things
Very enjoyable for anybody to read. Does understand and can write of economic concepts. Amazon always pleasing me here. Unlike when I order cloths. Read more
Published 1 month ago by billwest
4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to thinking more like an economist
Overall, I very much liked Steven's book. The pertinent examples and descriptions he used make me feel like I have a little better understanding of why things are the way they are. Read more
Published 1 month ago by gsmaclean
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Thought-provoking, surprising, and above all else CLEAR introduction to a wide variety of economic topics. I learned a lot from this excellent book.
Published 5 months ago by Chris Lawnsby
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More About the Author

Steven E. Landsburg is a Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester. He is the author of More Sex Is Safer Sex, The Armchair Economist, Fair Play, two textbooks on economics, and over thirty journal articles in mathematics, economics, and philosophy. He writes the popular "Everyday Economics" column in Slate magazine and has written for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

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