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Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets Paperback – November 17, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323719
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John McMillan's Reinventing the Bazaar is an extremely accessible description of markets large and small, as well as an explanation of their underlying mechanisms. An "absolutely free market," he says, is a "free-for-all brawl," while a "real market" is an "ordered brawl." Sprinkling his analysis with hundreds of anecdotes and examples--prison camps, eBay, the American experiment with alcohol prohibition, the Tokyo fish market, and traditional Ghanaian bazaars--and pertinent quotes from the likes of Chekhov, Twain, and Steinbeck, McMillan animates his subject. Why do banks build showcase headquarters? Which "frictions" brake, and which spur, various markets? Is the "invisible hand" attached to a clothed arm? Why are both pro- and antimarket absolutists, in McMillan's view, the economics equivalent of "flat-earthers"? Is there such an animal as a "perfect" market? Reinventing the Bazaar answers these questions, and many more, in an eminently wise, entertaining, and instructive way. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

An economics professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, McMillan views this historical moment as a unique living laboratory for observing how technology, globalization and changing expectations of buyers and sellers have brought changes to everything from the international flower market based in the Netherlands to national economies. The sheer number of ingenious schemes that have surfaced over the last decade has had an intoxicating effect on McMillan; he skips from the 1994 FCC auction of the electromagnetic spectrum for pagers to the hugely popular Internet auction sites and the effects of intellectual property rights on innovation in this anecdotally rich survey of world markets and new trading opportunities. McMillan looks at a wide variety of industries including interstate trucking and fishery management and lays out the elements he regards as necessary for a smoothly operating market. An illuminating chapter comparing the deregulation and privatization experiences of New Zealand, Russia and China will leave readers wishing that McMillan had concentrated on just a few examples to establish in-depth his primary points: that good design of a market is crucial to its success, that a market develops over time by trial and error, and that government plays an indispensable role in providing public goods and acting as rule setter and referee in the best of all market-based worlds. As it is, the book feels scattered, and McMillan's tone is by turns condescending and frustratingly abstruse. Many readers will be disappointed.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Discusses many interesting examples.
jukka aakula
Government is neither all bad nor all good, and markets are neither all good nor all bad, in this view.
A. J. Sutter
The book is fun to read, easy to understand and highly illustrative.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By natron on March 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This timely book describes the market systems of today's world. He is an advocate of what he calls the "market design approach" of economic systems. He has five things that a market needs to be effective: social trust, property rights protections, negative externality prevention, free flow of information, and competition. He makes a strong case for a `middle way' in economic development when it comes to government involvement. He argues that the controlled and command economies of the far left, and the laissez-faire libertarian approach of the far right are both equally garbage. He tells some interesting stories of the worldwide pharmaceutical industry and critiques it's free market effects on society and world health. His discussion of information and technology are somewhat simplistic in my opinion, and his conclusions that for economic development these two forces need to be free to innovate and profit seemed the same pedantic old story that is peddled by Gates and co. He makes a strong case for honesty in business and describes some very interesting approaches for regulating and policing business behavior. His discussion of patents and intellectual property rights seemed balanced in its look at how they can help and hinder business and society. He also describes (convincingly in my opinion) how individual and company behavior creates all kinds of negative externalities that cannot be left to the market to take care of. The last couple of chapters described the very different methods of economic transitions used by New Zealand, Russia, and China, and he has some interesting conclusions to offer.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Mc Millan's book makes it easy to understand how markets work, as well as their bennefits. Although it is not a book advocating free markets, it puts some sense into the idea through fun examples, stories and quotes. Anyone toying with the idea that free market economies are bad should read this book. As an imparial comment it might show a thing or two about why it is that free market policies don't seem to work for some countries(because they are not all that free)while in others they seem miracuolous.

The secrets of economic growth and sensible pro market policy can be extracted, although I wouldn't base a government's development plan on it.

The book is fun to read, easy to understand and highly illustrative. A must read for anyone (for or aginst free markets)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wherever buyers and sellers get together, there is a market. In the absence of currency, trades have been consummated by assigning relative value to items (e.g. livestock, weapons, clothing) or services (e.g. plowing, medical care, harvesting). Throughout human history, there have been markets in one form or another at which people exchanged or purchased goods of various kinds, usually in a centrally located area such as a crossroads, harborside, village center, or town square. Buyers and sellers (or traders) gravitated to markets where and when there would be the most people. At least to some extent, all that remains true today even with the emergence of cybermarkets. Effective marketing in the 21st century creates or increases demand first by attracting interest. Hence the importance of visibility. It must also provide a convincing argument as to why a given product or service is preferable to other options, including not purchasing anything. Supply and demand often come into play. Pricing is frequently a decisive issue. For centuries, be it in an ancient bazaar or modern market, buying/selling/trading is among the most dynamic of human activities.
In this lively as well as informative book, McMillan offers "a natural history of markets" which helps us to gain a better understanding of how markets work as well as of what they can and can't do. "Markets do what they are supposed to do, however, only if they are we structured. Any successful economy has an array of devices and procedures to enable markets to work smoothly. A workable platform has five elements: information flows smoothly; property rights are protected; people can be trusted to live up to their promises; side effects are curtailed; and competition is fostered.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By William Thedinga on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Through a diverse set of examples, John McMillan illustrates how markets work -- and how in other cases they fail to work. McMillan's book, Reinventing the Bazaar, builds a case for market design through anecdotal evidence rather than economic theory. The first half of the book describes -- using clear and apt examples -- the ... basic features of market design; the balance of the book illustrates how the elements of market design are implemented.
McMillan's examples are reminiscent of business school case studies -- focused, self-contained, realistic, and practical. The illustrations that McMillan offers are the strength of the book. (McMillan gives especially compelling examples from fields where he has a personal interest -- like football/soccer -- and where he has firsthand experience -- the design of auction markets.) But the illustrations also are a weakness.
After reading Reinventing the Bazaar, you are left with a craving to know more about the theoretical underpinning of market design.
In classical free market theory, a market functions best in a "hands off" environment, with only the the Smithian "invisible hand" at work. In contrast, McMillan's market design is very much "hands on." Competition is a key component of McMillan's market design theory; and the elements of proper market design promote competition. But the McMillan designed market is carefully regulated and circumscribed by detailed rules (insulated from the excesses of the "free for all" of the Smithian invisible hand market).
Inevitably market design theory clashes with classical free market theory (and accepted free market ideology). As McMillan illustrates well, normative rules are necessary to a healthy well-functioning market system.
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