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The Origin of Wealth: The Radical Remaking of Economics and What it Means for Business and Society Paperback – August 13, 2007


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The Origin of Wealth: The Radical Remaking of Economics and What it Means for Business and Society + Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life (Princeton Studies in Complexity)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (August 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422121038
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422121030
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eric D. Beinhocker is a Senior Fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute. Fortune magazine named him a Business Leader of the Next Century, and his writings on business and economics have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Financial Times.

Customer Reviews

Upon finishing the book, I turned right back to page 1 to re-read it....
EconCurious
I'm really interested in the intersection of behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, policy and traditional macroeconomic theory.
Jonathan Dariyanani
This is a very well-written book, pitched just about right for the general reader with an interest in business and complexity theory.
reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Menon on October 21, 2009
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This book was fascinating to me and really led to my subsequent reading of, evolution of cooperation as well as various books on complexity and behavioural finance. I think its always a measure of praise when a book induces an individual to go back and read the references versus just move on to the next book on the pile.

For the unfamiliar (which was me) Beinhocker starts the book out with description of various computational models of simple economic systems that seem almost trivial. The results are the emergence of complexity and patterns that are of extraordinary depth. The emergence of distributions of wealth from things like sugarworld are fruit for extended discussion as are the results of tit for tat results. These computational experiments that were collaberative efforts are still not fully ackowledged as of value to many economists, which continues to shock me, given the richness and paterns one can discern and associate with empirical results we see in the real world.

The book continues with straightforward build up of feedback loops that are frequently encountered and fitness surfaces that we all march on. The issues of local and global peaks and the S curves of innovation that one can associate with the calculus of exploration on these imagined fitness surfaces are tackled clearly. In some sense the origin of wealth might be misleading, i read this book a while ago so i dont recall what my motivation was for buying it (i think i was looking for a more neo-classical economic commentary on economic growth), but the results are a fantastic overview of the emergence of complexity and the non-linear dynamical systems that we operate in.
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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Juris Imprudence on March 5, 2008
I can hardly improve on A.J. Sutter's review below but feel the need to get the following off my chest:

Beinhocker's book does not live up to its title. I am baffled that the title of this book is not "Complexity Economics: How new computer models and evolutionary theory prove what I'd been thinking all along about Milton Friedman being a bozo and about how Left-Democrat ideas make economic sense."

The book contains roughly three parts. In the first, classical economics is debunked with the same endlessly rehearsed, straw-man argument that economists have heard for years, to wit: "many economic models assume rationality, but people are actually quite irrational sometimes, and therefore laissez faire economics is heartless and also quite silly indeed."

I won't go into it any more than to say that the obvious rejoinder to Beinhocker's exhaustive attempt to prove the above is that no economist ever thought people were perfectly rational, and models are just that: we have to assume some things to make them work, but if they work well, then overly simplified assumptions are an acceptable cost of doing business.

The book's second part discusses a number of new economic ideas that employ computers and biology and complexity and that, taken in isolation, are really quite interesting. I would like to read a book about these ideas written by somebody who understands and can explain them well. This was not such a book.

The book concludes by making the long argument that (1) I have shown that free-market economics is wrong, (2) there are some new models floating around out there that use computers and the like to tackle economic problems, and THEREFORE (3) we should all accept several left-of-center political ideas that I have long held.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Smith on August 22, 2008
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Don't be put off by the lengthy critiques found here. You may get the feeling that these reviewers should be writing their own books. If they actually did so, I'd bet they would find that one can't cite every sentence, can't reference every economist who ever contributed to the field, can't explain every generalization at every opportunity. Ignore them and don't miss this great synthesis that pulls from many disciplines to form a wonderful construct that shows how economics is part and parcel of the main drivers of organic life - evolutionary processes.

Btw, Publisher's Weekly also blows their summary. Beinhocker does not use this synthesis as a "panacea." For we humans, his ideas are potentially a more accurate worldview, not a global cure for disease. Beinhocker writes with the aim that we might construct better approximations of reality using this line of thought. Worldviews are big, but that is not the same as a panacea that will cure all that ails you. This is a brilliant work that all thinking members of homo economicus should read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By reader on January 29, 2008
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Economics is one of the fields grappling with new paradigms introduced by complexity theorists. Origin of Wealth is an attempt by the author, a McKinsey guy, to put this into a framework and draw lessons that organizations may apply today. As such, it enunciates theory as a basis for practical applications. This is a very well-written book, pitched just about right for the general reader with an interest in business and complexity theory. This is a very dynamic field which for the past 50 years or so has continued to grow and increase its utility. Origin of Wealth is an honest and successful attempt to make these ideas available to those of us who can use them in our own enterprises. Read this one.
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