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The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World Paperback – February 10, 2009
Based on seven years of reporting from over a dozen countries, writer Tom Wainwright takes you on an extraordinary journey into the business of being a drug lord. Learn more.
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The result is a startlingly diverse collection of insights and anecdotes which are all held together by one central premise - that you can explain a lot about life by starting from the simple assumption that people are fundamentally rational. This is not an uncontroversial assertion - among the "new breed of economists" are those melding economics with psychology into a fledgeling discipline of behavioral economics, which focuses on our irrational quirks. Harford's view is not to dismiss these human foibles, but to argue persuasively that they shouldn't be overstated, and that in most important situations we behave rationally - that is, subconsciously evaluating costs and benefits and responding to incentives - to a remarkable extent.
Harford's writing is a joy to read, especially when he's impishly puncturing pomposity - my favorite is the "why your boss is overpaid" chapter, which discusses several theories that could rationally explain the obscenely high wages commanded by modern CEOs (hint: none of them are "because they're worth it").Read more ›
My big problem with this book is that Hartford lacks rigor. In a popular book I wouldn't expect the rigor of an academic article, but when an author draws conclusions that are wider ranging than warranted or if the author factually incorrect then I do have a problem. There are at least a couple of instances when Hartford does that. For me it taints the whole book - making me ask questions such as what if Hartford is factually incorrect in other places that I don't know about.
Hartford relies a lot on the experiments of John List to set up his premise - People are more rational in their day to day life than psychologists give them credit for. One set of List's experiments demonstrated that experienced pin and baseball card collectors are able to make rational decisions in situations where rookies often make irrational ones. Hartford then extends this logic to claim that as people are experienced in their day to day life - in activities such as work and shopping - they are unlikely to make the rookie irrational mistakes. To me this is a big stretch. I don't know anyone who thinks a day-to-day shopping decision through as much as an experienced collector would. A little effort from the author here in establishing his premise would have been really well served.
Hartford really lets go of rigor when criticizing the work of Jeffery Sachs. Coincidentally, I was reading "...Read more ›
A great book and a fun read.
What Harford does so well is pick interesting everyday topics, some big and some small, explain the rationale typically used to explain why things are the way they are, and then paint a new picture of what is driving peoples' actions. Harford explains why people will pay more to live in cities and why new tele-commuting technology will make cities more attractive, not less. He digs into the sadly explainable roots of racial discrimination in hiring and why some students are making the rational choice when they conciously decide not to study. The reasons may surprise you, but you will enjoy his explanations and frequently end up nodding in agreement or shaking your head in frustration with the inescapable but lousy conclusions.
The greatest thing about Harford's book is how clearly it demonstrates the value that economics can deliver. Done right, economics is a powerful tool for identifying the root causes of both good and bad trends. If a trend is good (Harford explains historic growth in wealth) you can learn how to promote it further. If a trend is bad (the decline of a city like New Orleans or Detroit) you can figure out how best to deal with it. Economics gives its users a tool for objective, clear thinking that is tough to come by.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to develop their thought process. You'll come away a smarter voter, wiser consumer of news and thinking more clearly all-around.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Harford discusses economic irrationality and comes close to identifying the causes, but then veers off into emotion and politics. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Marvelous Mal
"The Logic of Life" describes what economists mean by rational and then pursues how economists use that assumption to examine crime, characteristics of cities, marriage and... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Bryan L. Boulier
Not sure what to make of this book. Not as well written as it could have been and not sure about the grand ideas, especially about politics. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Kevin Schmittgens
Economics has its popularizer! TH packs quite a lot of material into this slim quick reading book -- all of it interesting and most of it topical. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Librum
Almost as good as Freakonomics. And it's something you can experiment with when you read the newspaper or your e-mail every day.Published 20 months ago by Hobson Lane
good book. great if you are a University Student or a young professional looking for more perspectives on business and government.Published 23 months ago by Rex C Cameron
Harford is oft quoted by right-wing types to justify bigotry or racism, in either "soft" or "hard" aspects. Read morePublished on January 27, 2014 by Enrique Cardova
For some random reason I decided to read this during my senior year of high school. It probably has something to do with with the fact that the words "economics" or... Read morePublished on November 7, 2013 by Katherine