Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tim Harford: top 10 undercover economics books

Here is the Guardian editor's introduction to "Tim Harford's top 10 undercover economics books" list, followed by Harford's account of Number Two on the list:
Tim Harford's new book, The Logic of Life: Uncovering the new economics of everything, argues that the most unexpected people - oversexed teenagers, Las Vegas slot addicts, juvenile delinquents and even your boss - are rational, unconsciously weighing up risks and rewards and complying with economic logic. The author of The Undercover Economist, Harford is fond of unearthing economics in unexpected places, and here he roots it out in 10 unexpected books.

2. Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling

Thomas Schelling is a hero of mine and repeatedly appears in The Logic of Life. A cold war strategist, he advised John F Kennedy during the Berlin crisis before later falling out with Henry Kissinger. He also helped Stanley Kubrick develop the twisted disaster scenario of Dr Strangelove. When Jimmy Carter was president, he turned to Schelling for help in thinking about climate change. If that wasn't enough, he wrote Micromotives and Macrobehavior, a beautiful collection of essays showing how complex and unwelcome results can evolve from the interactions between agents with simple motives - whether drivers, members of a crowd, or people sending Christmas cards. Where's the economics? It's in there somewhere, and was enough to win Schelling the Nobel memorial prize in economics in 2005.
See which book topped Harford's list.

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 v. Stephen Colbert caged death-match: two men enter, one man leaves.

The Page 69 Test: The Undercover Economist.

The Page 69 Test:The Logic of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue