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Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist Paperback – Bargain Price, May 27, 2008

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From Publishers Weekly

Perhaps mindful that the procession of Freakonomics-inspired pop-economics books is becoming a blur, blogger Cowen aims to not hit the reader over the head with economic principles. Indeed, in his chatty disquisitions, economics often recedes into near invisibility. Few readers will hold it against this charming guide on how to get more of the good stuff in life. An engaging narrator, Cowen offers idiosyncratic strategies for appreciating museum art, for building family trust and cooperation, for writing a personal ad, for reading classic novels that seem boring on first inspection, for surviving torture, for properly practicing self-deception and for most effectively giving to beggars in Calcutta. In the book's most passionate and practical chapter, on food, Cowen explains how, with planning and tactics, we can eat much better meals at home and in restaurants, here and abroad. Throughout the book, the author's advice is less counterintuitive than simply surprising (he argues that the committed foodie should look to regions where some people are very rich and others are very poor). Even if you don't agree with all of Cowen's cheerfully offered opinions, it's a pleasure to accompany him through his various interests and obsessions. At the least, you'll pick up some useful tips for what to order at upscale restaurants. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Fast, furious, and fun, with great examples of how to apply economic thinking to nontraditional subjects.”
—Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

“Engaging [and] useful.”
The Washington Post

“His creativity is a gift.”
—Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of Freakonomics

“[An] economist who’s a wonderfully entertaining writer but also a deeply humane thinker…will…show you how thinking better can actually help you live better.”
—James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (May 27, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0452289637
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,072,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Paul Sas on August 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tyler Cowen is an economist, aptly self-described "curious intellectual nerd polymath," and a gifted blogger. His new book is the only one I've ever pre-purchased through Amazon. This in itself is a tribute to Cowen's capacity to mobilize appropriate incentives: He secreted a second blog, and advertised on Marginal Revolution that access was available only to those who wrote to say they'd pre-purchased a copy of DYIC. I spent this afternoon reading the book, and my overall impression is that "Sometimes, a bunch of appetizers does not make a meal." Because Cowen's brain brims with creative ways to approach life from an idiosyncratic angle, his blog has marvelous little jags, lists, apercus gleaned from his vast reading. This book is not quite a blook, but it would have greatly benefited from a co-author whose strength was more inclined to thoroughness. While he admits that his habit is to "stop writing just a bit before I have said everything I want to. I find it better to approach the next writing day 'hungry'..." (123), I was left hungry for more detail or resolution on almost every topic. As a troubling example, he introduces the concept of the "Me factor", and deploys it in several instances, but the only explanation provided was this very skimpy account, that focusing "our attention on ourselves ... is in fact our favorite topic. Me, me, me. ... [T]he 'Me factor', as I will call it." (52-3) There are tons of ideas broached here, and the chapters on Art and Food are particularly stimulating. The defense of self-deception felt self-indulgently sketchy, and the final account of how to deal with torture piffles into "Quite simply, it is hard to show other people, in a convincing manner, that we are telling the truth.Read more ›
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jason Wilcox on September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book falls into a trap several recent best sellers have (Blink comes to mind): books that are just random collections of interesting ideas or stories. Like Blink, Cowen advertises a thesis that is supposed to run throughout the book. However, after the first couple of chapters the idea of discovering your Inner Economist is basically discarded. Instead, Cowen throws around interesting ideas that are of varying degrees of interest, shallow and short. The Inner Economist continues to make cameos, but only so Cowen can stroke the reader's ego with comments similar to "Of course, you and your Inner Economist already knew this."

The book is still worth reading. But go in understanding it will not change the way you think and is a compilation of observations more than anything else. Also understand it doesn't measure up to the leader in the collection-of-economic-observations genre: Freakonomics.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cowen gives readers three principles for distinguishing good economics from bad:

1)The Postcard Test - It should be possible to take a good economics argument and write it out on the back of a moderate-sized postcard.

2)The Grandma Test - Most economic arguments ought to be intelligible to your grandmother.

3)The Aha Principle - If the basic concepts are presented well, economics should make sense.

Unfortunately, Cowen violates these less than stunning principles. The book rambles, communicates little if anything about economics, has no integrating thread, and is boring. My guess is that he simply decided to get on the "Freakonomics" bandwagon. If so, it's long past time to move onto another fad.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Reader on September 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of barely-related factoids which the author does not successfully link to a thesis on incentives. The book simply isn't cohesive. Although a number of the author's observations are interesting and surprising, he rarely elaborates upon any of them, and they almost never contribute to a useful conclusion. I was particularly distressed to find that by the end of the second chapter the author had already dismissed two of the three teases in his subtitle. It was difficult to read beyond the point where he admitted that one actually CANNOT use incentives either to survive a meeting or to motivate one's dentist. I should add that nearly every interesting revelation in the book is informed by the fields of history, sociology, and psychology, NOT economics. In summary, this is a very disappointing book with a very misleading title. My inner economist advises you not to buy it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Marsh on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ok. I have a problem with the book. Does it suggest any way you can use incentives to survive your next meeting? No, in fact it says none of them work. How about motivating your dentist? Nope.

The book needed an honest copywriter and a strong editor.

It is entertaining, but it rambles. Better, stronger structure, clearer logic and theory and tighter examples would have really helped.

It has some good points swimming in the sea of stream of consciousness writing, but darn it, I bought this book new to get more than that.

As the author advises, you need not finish every book. I'd add to that, you need not buy every book either, interlibrary loan is more than enough to pick up the good points of this book and to let you save your incentives, your dollars, to encourage another writer.
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