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Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist Paperback – Bargain Price, May 27, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Perhaps mindful that the procession of Freakonomics-inspired pop-economics books is becoming a blur, blogger Cowen aims to not hit the reader over the head with economic principles. Indeed, in his chatty disquisitions, economics often recedes into near invisibility. Few readers will hold it against this charming guide on how to get more of the good stuff in life. An engaging narrator, Cowen offers idiosyncratic strategies for appreciating museum art, for building family trust and cooperation, for writing a personal ad, for reading classic novels that seem boring on first inspection, for surviving torture, for properly practicing self-deception and for most effectively giving to beggars in Calcutta. In the book's most passionate and practical chapter, on food, Cowen explains how, with planning and tactics, we can eat much better meals at home and in restaurants, here and abroad. Throughout the book, the author's advice is less counterintuitive than simply surprising (he argues that the committed foodie should look to regions where some people are very rich and others are very poor). Even if you don't agree with all of Cowen's cheerfully offered opinions, it's a pleasure to accompany him through his various interests and obsessions. At the least, you'll pick up some useful tips for what to order at upscale restaurants. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fast, furious, and fun, with great examples of how to apply economic thinking to nontraditional subjects.
Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics
Engaging [and] useful.
The Washington Post
His creativity is a gift.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of Freakonomics
[An] economist whos a wonderfully entertaining writer but also a deeply humane thinker will show you how thinking better can actually help you live better.
James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds
Top customer reviews
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So far, so good. Where the book lets off is where it stops being insightful like that. You can't review a book without reviewing the other books in its genre - the Washington Post review of this book in the Amazon page spends half the time comparing it to Freakonomics. On one level that's not fair because a book should stand or fall on its own. On the other hand, nothing exists in a vacuum and where the author himself references Freakonomics in his own book you can get a bit of a pass for doing it in a review too. As I've pointed out and as the author does as well, unlike Freakonomics, this book purports to tell you not just where economics principles can help but also where they hurt. In that case he has to get this right too. And I don't feel he did. Continuing the example: if paying your daughter to do the dishes means she won't do as good a job and will instead look for a better-paying job, is that a bad thing? Depends what you're trying to motivate her to do and what result you're seeking. It's that last analysis that Cowan doesn't give enough here. Freakonomics told you its motivations, and what would be motivated by following economics principles. Cowan doesn't tell you what you lose or what you gain by abandoning them. He should have.
This book is going into the garage-sale bin a.s.a.p.
The book needed an honest copywriter and a strong editor.
It is entertaining, but it rambles. Better, stronger structure, clearer logic and theory and tighter examples would have really helped.
It has some good points swimming in the sea of stream of consciousness writing, but darn it, I bought this book new to get more than that.
As the author advises, you need not finish every book. I'd add to that, you need not buy every book either, interlibrary loan is more than enough to pick up the good points of this book and to let you save your incentives, your dollars, to encourage another writer.
From the quality of the food saved in restaurants in Paris or New York, through our perception of cultural artifacts, Mr Cowen challenges the status quo and helps us rethink our understanding of the world.
I especially appreciated his passage on why politician want to provide "health for all" when economic efficiency would call for the "best care possible for most people as possible". His conclusion on the need to bring the values of civilization in perspective and that sound economics is not about "grabbing everything at hand" shall be kept to pounder.
For example, Cowen has an insightful chapter on combating global poverty. No, he doesn't claim to have any solutions, but he does have an excellent piece of advice: Don't give to beggars. Why? Because that encourages begging. If there are people who are equally poor but spending their time doing more productive things than begging, the true philanthropist will take the time to find them. (If that sounds crass, Cowen points out that some beggars in India have had their limbs amputated just to increase their begging revenues. If charitable pedestrians would think through the incentives their spare change creates, this horrific phenomenon wouldn't exist.)
Many of Cowen's points are more obvious, or relevant only to a narrow audience (foodies?). I doubt that you'll learn to "Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist," as the subtitle claims. (His dentist advice amounts to "be nice to her"--the incentives faced by dentists, it turns out, are complicated.) Still, this is a quick and breezy read. When the marginal costs are so low, the occasional gem of insight yields positive net benefits indeed.
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