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The Price of Everything: Finding Method in the Madness of What Things Cost [Kindle Edition]

Eduardo Porter
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Everything has a price, but it isn't always obvious what that price is.

Many of the prices we pay seem to make little sense. We shell out $2.29 for a coffee at Starbucks when a nearly identical brew can be had at the corner deli for less than a dollar. We may be less willing to give blood for $25 than to donate it for free. Americans hire cheap illegal immigrants to fix the roof or mow the lawn, and vote for politicians who promise to spend billions to keep them out of the country. And citizens of the industrialized West pay hundreds of dollars a year in taxes or cash for someone to cart away trash that would be a valuable commodity in poorer parts of the world.

The Price of Everything starts with a simple premise: there is a price behind each choice that we make, whether we're deciding to have a baby, drive a car, or buy a book. We often fail to appreciate just how critical prices are as a motivating force shaping our lives. But their power becomes clear when distorted prices steer our decisions the wrong way.

Eduardo Porter uncovers the true story behind the prices we pay and reveals what those prices are actually telling us. He takes us on a global economic adventure, from comparing the relative price of a vote in corrupt São Tomé and in the ostensibly uncorrupt United States, to assessing the cost of happiness in Bhutan, to deducing the dollar value we assign to human life. His unique approach helps explain: * Why polygamous societies actually place a higher value on women than monogamous ones. * Why someone may find more value in a $14 million license plate than the standard issue, $95 one. * Why some government agencies believe one year of life for a senior citizen is four times more valuable than that of a younger person.

Porter weaves together the constant-and often unconscious-cost and value assessments we all make every day. While exploring the fascinating story behind the price of everything from marriage and death to mattresses and horsemeat, Porter draws unexpected connections that bridge a wide range of disciplines and cultures. The result is a cogent and insightful narrative about how the world really works.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Business journalist and New York Times editorial writer Porter delivers a popular explication of how supply and demand affect prices. In vignettes about all manner of transactions, from coffee sales to marriage dowries to home values, he disputes notions that prices settle out as rational correlations of supply and demand. All sorts of emotional factors are involved, which enliven Porter’s stories as he explores divergent behaviors of upper-, middle-, and lower-income consumers in what they will pay for something. If a purchase expresses the pursuit of happiness, Porter chases the idea that money yields joy, concluding it can, though temporarily. What about the price of power? Porter adduces the cost of votes in São Tomé v. the United States, as he does the worth of labor, love, and life itself, practically breaking them down into a schedule of prices. As a book in which nothing, not even religion, seems safe from the crass intrusion of pricing, Porter’s work ought to ring up the audience for Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics (2005). --Gilbert Taylor


"Porter's book is an enthralling look at the prices we put, consciously and unconsciously, on everything from a gallon of gas to a spare kidney. Everyone could learn something from this wise and clever book. I did."
-Tim Harford, Financial Times, author of The Undercover Economist

"Everything in the world comes with a price, but what does a price mean and how is it set? This riveting narrative is the best book on these very human and very important questions. There is an interesting nugget on virtually every page."
-Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog

"A fascinating journey through what we see every day-but do not think about enough. Eduardo Porter makes you think hard about the corporate interests at work behind the veil of prices (and much more). Just because people are willing to pay does not mean that the price is right-in any sense of the word."
-Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers and professor of entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management

Product Details

  • File Size: 564 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046ECFRC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,797 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I am burning through every resource on pricing I can find. The author is a New York Times journalist - and I do so love to read books by journalists. They can write clearly, succinctly and well! This book is an incredible journey through business, anthropology and psychology. Some snippets.

* Market transactions do not necessarily provide people with what they want; they provide people with what they think they want. Consumers often have the most tenuous grasp of why they pay what they do for a given object of their desire. (This guy must drive economists crazy!)
* Value started as a moral inquiry, a manifestation of divine justice (back when the Church ran the World)
* The real world is plagued with search costs. It is difficult for consumers to to find out what a given product costs in all the shops in town- let alone everything available on the Internet. One of the best know market techniques is to make it difficult for customers to understand where they can get best value for their money
* People value more things they bought than what they receive as gifts
* Imposing a fine on tardy parents picking up their kids at daycare worsened tardiness. The fine made it affordable.
* Even if an investor were to correctly call a bubble, it would be expensive to bet against it
With enough investor enthusiasm, the bubble will stay inflated longer than the contrarian could remain solvent.
Keynes believed that most investors really do not know what they are doing. Sort of betting on the
average response to average events. Keynes made a lot of money in the market.
* Expect increased right wing politics as the economy worsens

The author covers off the price of slaves, women, children, global warming, religious affiliation, horse meat and more. It is an eclectic and marvelous journey. Great book for a trip.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives a lot to think about January 24, 2011
Despite the readable and enjoyable prose style, the book took me a long time to get through. The problem was that every few pages I'd find myself pausing to think over what I'd just read. It is almost provokingly thought provoking. Entertaining, informative, challenging: the author covers an immense amount of ground without being superficial or predictable. Even when going over subjects that are familiar, for one reason or another, he makes the treatment interesting by applying a steady analysis to the topic. Instead of participating in inflammatory debates on controversial matters--immigration, marriage, speeding--he lets facts, well presented, illustrate the always fascinating operations of market valuations. He deftly shows how those valuations tell us about ourselves and the world.
The result is that you keep thinking about the book long after it is read. Whether he seemed to support or contradict my own point of view, he invariably presented a reasoned argument which was worth going through.
"The Price of Everything" is enormously rewarding and well worth rereading. I recommend the book unreservedly.
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener that will make you think! January 6, 2011
By Dan
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an amazing eye-opener that will make you think. Not only think but expose you to some realities about PRICE that could shift your perspective in powerful ways.

Before reading this book I thought of PRICE in more of a retail sort of way. The cost of an iPad, new shoes or a pair of pants.

While that's certainly one form of PRICE, Eduardo Porter has reminded me that it's actually so much more.

What about The Price of Happiness? The Price of Life? The Price of Work? The Price of Faith? The Price of Free? Or even The Price of the Future? (all chapter titles from the book).

PRICE is about choice, priorities, and the value or worth that we set. That value drives our decisions and shapes our lives in more ways than we might initially think. After all, everything has a PRICE doesn't it? From consumer goods to our time, every choice in where we'll invest our resources has to do with PRICE.

But PRICE isn't fixed. You and I might see PRICE in a totally different ways because the PRICE we're willing to pay is shaped by a variety of things. While I might be willing to pay $10 for a collectible card, you might think it's only worth $1. And while I might be willing to invest 4 hours of my week on Social Media, you might think that same use of time is worthless.

Everything we do, every choice we make boils down to PRICE.

I highly recommend this book. It's well worth the PRICE. :)
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An original, important, and fun read January 10, 2011
This thought-provoking, reader-friendly volume explores the economic
choices individuals and societies make every day, often without considering
the true cost and other implications of those decisions.
Eduardo Porter, a member of the New York Times editorial board, is both a
creative thinker and hugely entertaining writer, skilled at explaining complex
issues to numbers-phobic, non-economists like me.
I learned a lot about how the world really functions, and was
riveted from cover-to-cover.
I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars stopped reading September 14, 2011
By Dimitri
Apparently, the author thinks that people chose to ignore newly introduced highway speed limit because they have made some cost/benefit analysis and figured out that improved economy from driving slower was not worth the X amount of minutes lost on the journey as a result of it. No evidence is presented, which is fine - I am not against speculations of this kind, if I feel that they are results of some research or study by an expert. I just feel that people mostly ignore speed limits because they like to drive fast and get there faster, and that this book is a collection of disjointed musings on a variety of subjects.
A good book would be akin to a guided tour of a museum done right, this one feels like I am left wondering on my own in a warehouse for overflow exhibits, mixed with an occasional trash item waiting to be taken out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!!!
Published 1 month ago by alex
1.0 out of 5 stars Eduardo is providing faults information as fact. Reading this book is...
Faults information or lies called facts are in this book. I just about spit my coffee across the room when I starting read this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but lost me towards the end...
It's an insightful read. In the fashion of "Freakonomics" it will challenge your preconceived understanding of our societal norms. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars A Useful Tool
When I was young in the 50's and '60s, I found some correspondence between the price of things (outside the luxury trades) and what they cost to make. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Khirul
1.0 out of 5 stars statist
Statists gonna state. This dude is so enamored with authoritarianism, it's definitely affected his perception of the world around him and therefore, his writing. Read more
Published 15 months ago by elsensei
2.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Few Books I Couldn't Finish
I love Economics, Business, Finance, as well as Sociology and Social Economic books.
I read about 1-3 books per week. Read more
Published 16 months ago by In Like Flynn
4.0 out of 5 stars By evaluating opportunity costs, we organize our lives....
"What's your price?" Has anyone asked this to you? Maybe not, but imagine for a moment if someone did - what would your response be? You would have a confused "huh"!! Read more
Published 18 months ago by Rajesh
5.0 out of 5 stars The price of freedom, work, Happyness
Mr. Porter has done a good job at quantifying how we make choices. In general the book is quite objective on the examples provided
Published on March 16, 2013 by George Benaroya
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Overall but Some Serious Flaws
First, there is a lot of interesting information in this book about how price drives behavior, sometimes in unexpected ways. Read more
Published on May 30, 2012 by bronx book nerd
3.0 out of 5 stars A general discussion of price, behavior and value
Eduardo Porter takes on the issue of price in his book "The Price of Everything" largely from an economic and traditional view. Read more
Published on April 30, 2012 by Mark P. McDonald
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Topic From this Discussion
One mystery would be why the Kindle version of this book is 45¢ less...
Me, too. I saw this in the bookstore and thought it would interesting, but $15 for a Kindle book?? It was less in hardcover (with a 20% discount)

Wake up, publishers - there's 2 sales you lost, at LEAST.
Jan 5, 2011 by xyz |  See all 3 posts
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