Monday, February 11, 2008

Pg. 69: Tim Harford's "The Logic of Life"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test:The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Harford.

About the book, from the publisher:

Life sometimes seems illogical. Individuals do strange things: take drugs, have unprotected sex, mug each other. Love seems irrational, and so does divorce. On a larger scale, life seems no fairer or easier to fathom: Why do some neighborhoods thrive and others become ghettos? Why is racism so persistent? Why is your idiot boss paid a fortune for sitting behind a mahogany altar? Thorny questions – and you might be surprised to hear the answers coming from an economist.

But Tim Harford, award-winning journalist and author of the bestseller The Undercover Economist, likes to spring surprises. In this deftly reasoned book, Harford argues that life is logical after all. Under the surface of everyday insanity, hidden incentives are at work, and Harford shows these incentives emerging in the most unlikely places.

Using tools ranging from animal experiments to supercomputer simulations, an ambitious new breed of economist is trying to unlock the secrets of society. The Logic of Life is the first book to map out the astonishing insights and frustrating blind spots of this new economics in a way that anyone can enjoy.

The Logic of Life presents an X-ray image of human life, stripping away the surface to show us a picture that is revealing, enthralling, and sometimes disturbing. The stories that emerge are not about data or equations but about people: the athlete who survived a shocking murder attempt, the computer geek who beat the hard-bitten poker pros, the economist who defied Henry Kissinger and faked an invasion of Berlin, the king who tried to buy off a revolution.

Once you’ve read this quotable and addictive book, life will never look the same again.
Among the praise for The Logic of Life:
"The world is a crazy place. It makes perfect sense only to conspiracy theorists and economists of a certain stripe. Tim Harford, a columnist for The Financial Times and the author of “The Undercover Economist,” is one of these, a devotee of rational-choice theory, which he applies ingeniously and entertainingly to all kinds of problems in “The Logic of Life.” …Mr. Harford has a knack for explaining economic principles and problems in plain language and, even better, for making them fun."
--New York Times

"[Tim Harford and Jane Jacobs] are cast from similar molds. Perhaps his ideas seem so intuitively resonant because his arguments, like Jacobs’, can be so elegantly spare in their construction, so brilliantly simple, that you swear you must have thought of them before… Aside from its myriad insights, the book is nothing if not entertaining: Highly readable, funny and daringly contentious, it’s an intellectual’s idea of a whopping good time."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"In a world where you can watch a 30-second commercial for 25 seconds before you know what it is selling – or where newspapers spend more time on politicians’ personalities than their issues – it is refreshing to read a book that argues that people are more, rather than less, rational than we thought……if you loved [The Tipping Point and Freakonomics], you’ll love this one. And, even better, you may find yourself working to discover the rationality in all kinds of people’s behaviour – your kids, your colleagues or your mother-in-law – that you used to just write off as crazy."
--Financial Times

"Tim Harford is an economist but — thanks be to God — he doesn’t write like one. The Logic of Life is as lively as it is smart, charming, penetrating, and wise. If you are at all interested in knowing much more than you do about how the world works, you couldn’t ask for a better guide than Harford…"
Read excerpts from The Logic of Life, and learn more about the author and his work at Tim Harford's website and his blog.

Watch a brief video of Harford talking about The Logic of Life.

Tim Harford writes “The Undercover Economist” column, which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences, and runs a problem page called “Dear Economist,” in which Financial Times readers’ personal problems are answered tongue-in-cheek with the latest economic theory. His other book is The Undercover Economist.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

The Page 69 Test:The Logic of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue