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Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (July 18, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887308856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887308857
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 3.2 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To David Friedman (son of Milton Friedman), economics explains everything. In a way, that's an odd thing for him to say: Friedman Jr. has never taken an economics course in his life (by training he's a physicist). Yet he defines economics broadly and uses it as a tool to understand all aspects of human behavior, from selecting a mate to picking a grocery store line to switching lanes in rush-hour traffic jams. If you like the economics-for-everyman approach of such writers as Steven E. Landsburg, then Friedman is for you. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Friedman puts the passion back into economics with this unconventional, demanding primer. A professor at Santa Clara University (and son of Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman), he insists that economics is not primarily about money, but rather about needs, wants, choices, values?an imperfect science predicated on the assumption that people tend to rationally choose the best way to achieve their objectives. Using scores of everyday examples to steer the reader through complex concepts, he discusses consumer preferences, street crime, lotteries, plea bargains in trials, sharecropping, financial speculation, political campaign spending and much else. He demystifies international trade (e.g., there's nothing inherently bad about a trade deficit) and deconstructs the economy as an interacting system all of whose elements are interdependent. A rewarding text for serious readers. Translation and U.K. rights: Writer's Representatives.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I don't know who else might want to slog through this.
Mike Murphree
Despite what I am about to say about the downsides of Friedman's approach, this is a book well worth reading.
This book was easy to read, helpful, and gave interesting and unique examples for common economic theories.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on January 3, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Economics for the laypersons has become the topic "du jour." This book written nearly a decade ago before economics became hot far surpasses its successors such as "Freakonomics." David Friedman does not dumb down economics like the others. Other reviewers who had at least a rudimentary interest in economics really enjoyed it. A few others who confused economics with their own political views predictably got frustrated with it. Economics is not always intuitive. As a result, several reviewers thought the author made mistakes regarding the graphs on page 29, or the example on housing on page 35. I reread these passages carefully. The author is accurate, it is just that these economics concepts are counter-intuitive. And, contrary to Steve Levitt in "Freakonomics" David Friedman did not shy away from tackling the inherent complexity in economics.

The book gives you a good foundation in both macro and microeconomics. Very early in the book he introduces and graphs demand and supply curves, marginal costs and revenue curves, utility functions. His coverage of international trade, taxation, subsidies, rent control is excellent. Along the way, you will also learn about investment theory and corporate finance. Friedman explains how the Efficient Market Hypothesis applies not only to stocks but freeway traffic and supermarket lines.

Friedman also gives full credit and fleshes out the ideas from the founders of modern economics, including Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Alfred Marshall. This is unlike Steve Levitt in "Freakonomics" who truly believed he was the first economist to tackle every day issues forgetting that economics is the science of understanding everyday behavior to begin with.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Average Reader on January 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Be prepared to think as you read this book, it is not just a tirade as so many books with an economic ax to grind are! But the effort you must put into understanding this book will be well rewarded. I paticularly liked the concepts of buyers surplus and sellers surplus, they have enriched my views as to what happens when exchanges take place.
The mainstream media still does not understand international trade in even the most basic way. This is amazing and distressing to me. I was glad to see the author compare this to still accepting the ancient Ptolemiac view of astronomy. Please folks, read ANY economist about foreign trade, what is NOT true is the imports=bad, exports=good notion despite the claims of bumper stickers (Buy American) and politicians (Pat Buchannon). Journalists, please research this issure a bit before you speak!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Like Steven Landsburg's "Armchair Economist," David Friedman's "Hidden Order" is an excellent primer in basic economics. Any book that helps bring real economics (as opposed to pseudo talk-show/pundit/political speech "economics") to an understandable level is good in my book, even if occasionally flawed.
"Armchair" did a good-to-excellent job of boiling down complex economic questions and answers. "Hidden Order" does so as well, but note that it's not for the light-hearted; plenty of graphs are available, and one not versed in Econ 101 may become temporarily lost. Thankfully, Friedman shores up his chapters by proving the theory with graphs, then stating "Here it is in English..." This allows readers who are not graphically inclined to skip over it without losing much understanding, while readers more interested in finding the proof behind the claim can peruse the mathematics at their leisure.
Still, it's not all perfect. There's some issues that he goes into great length, but others are touched on and left hanging. In part this is to reduce the down time for an already-sluggish topic, but the length for each issue varies quite a bit. And I have no idea why a parking meter is on the cover.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bruce_in_LA on February 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book shaped my life since i picked it up in 1999 while browsing. I found it fascinating and adept - see the other reviews. I did an MBA, changed careers, worked in strategy consulting, and now have a VP-level job in a $6B enterprise. (Well, besides reading this book, the MBA helped...) This book is really eye-opening and you'll see the world around you differently, and how all kinds of people, organizations, and forces respond to incentives that can be subtle to figure out. For example, I'd known since junior high the Brits wore Red Coats in the Revolutionary War, and that made them easy to shoot at. It had never dawned on me, the British management felt the risk of Brit infantry fleeing AWOL was greater than the risk of the same, getting shot. They took the risk of getting shot, to avoid the risk of their troops fleeing (too obvious in bright red coats). Fascinating. Their are apparently some typos in the book which you can correct via the author's website, but I hadn't known that and was impressed by the book anyway, as is.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Perich on June 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
David Friedman's gift is making some of the more complicated concepts of economics simple. In _Hidden Order_, he does this with his trademark wit and ingenuity. The most esoteric yet essential aspects of modern economic thought - marginal utility, indifference curves, opportunity costs, Nash equilibria, rent-seeking, etc - all come to life in this modest paperback.
Unfortunately, it is Friedman's penchant for simple explanations that leads to some of his odder conclusions (for instance, check out his explanation on why movie theatres charge so much for popcorn). This is a nagging trend in "Chicago school" economics: reasoning outwards from a textbook principle in order to rationalize the evidence, rather than collecting evidence and reasoning backwards.
Even with that aside, Friedman's _Hidden Order_ is an introductory primer of rare quality.
+ Clear, concise, and clever.
+ Graphs and charts to illustrate the trickier points.
+ Bibliography at the end of each chapter. Further reading for a more detailed look into each topic.
+ Assumes almost no knowledge of economics; starts from the beginning (the motivation for action) and continues from there.
+ Friedman's odder theories about behavior may strike the reader as "quaint."
+ Tends to give examples rather than definitions. For instance, he never comes out and says, "Rent-seeking is any kind of behavior X ...", but he gives very thorough examples of what rent-seeking is.
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