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Economyths: How the Science of Complex Systems is Transforming Economic Thought [Paperback]

David Orrell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 2012
From the inability of wealth to make us happier, to our catastrophic blindness to the credit crunch, "Economyths" reveals ten ways in which economics has failed us all. Forecasters predicted a prosperous year in 2008 for financial markets - in one influential survey the average prediction was for an eleven per cent gain. But by the end of the year, the Standard and Poor's 500 index - a key economic barometer - was down 38 per cent, and major economies were plunging into recession. Even the Queen asked - Why did no one see it coming? An even bigger casualty was the credibility of economics, which for decades has claimed that the economy is a rational, stable, efficient machine, governed by well-understood laws. Mathematician David Orrell traces the history of this idea from its roots in ancient Greece to the financial centres of London and New York, shows how it is mistaken, and proposes new alternatives. "Economyths" explains how the economy is the result of complex and unpredictable processes; how risk models go astray; why the economy is not rational or fair; why no woman (until 2009) had ever won the Nobel Prize for economics; why financial crashes are less Black Swans than part of the landscape; and, finally, how new ideas in mathematics, psychology, and environmentalism are helping to reinvent economics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848312199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848312197
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 296,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This is without doubt the best book I've read this year, and probably one of the most important books I've ever read.... Orrell exposes the rotten heart of economics... There are other books taking on economics, but I've not come across another that explains it so well for the layperson, takes in the credit crunch, totally destroys the validity of economics as we know it and should be required reading for every politician and banker. No, make that every voter in the land. This ought to be a real game changer of a book. Read it." --Brian Clegg, Popular Science website, May 2010

"The author dissects ten fundamental misunderstandings ... Orrell manages to convincingly explain the relevance of these myths and make them understandable, even for laymen, in a wider context." --Handelsblatt

"A must read for understanding the roots of the financial crisis, the severe limitations of the field of economics and what needs to be done to improve our ability to avoid future crises."
--Spyros Makridakis, author of Dance With Chance

About the Author

David Orrell is an applied mathematician and author of popular science books. He studied mathematics at the University of Alberta, and obtained his doctorate from Oxford University on the prediction of nonlinear systems. His work in applied mathematics and complex systems research has since led him to diverse areas such as weather forecasting, economics, and cancer biology. His work has been featured in the New Scientist, the Financial Times and on BBC Radio.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interestng take on the financial mess. 31 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I am by no means an economist. It was this fact that drove me towards this book as a means of (hopefully) gaining some insight into the financial mess the world now finds itself.
To be honest, I did find some of the early sections that dealt with more the more mathematical side of economics a little heavy-going for my non numerical brain. It really picked up for me later on when talking about the whole neo-classical economics and it's apparent wealth of shortcomings.
I always suspected there was something wrong with a world based on constant growth and the accumulation of wealth as the be-all and end-all of life. Now Economyths has given me an answer -and someone to blame.
Although the arguements are compelling to my layman's brain, I'm sure the author has an agenda of his own. That's OK though- it's also something that makes total sense to me.
Let's just hope somebody listens and people start to act before it all becomes too late.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uneasy Truth 31 May 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's clear, it's easy to read and it makes sense. It questions traditional economics, and while it's not a lone voice these days it won't find favour with the rich and powerful. Chapter 8 is particularly good, questioning growth and emphasising that we have only one earth, only one store of resources, far too much waste and a growing population. Don't just read it and enjoy it. Read it and take action!
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68 of 77 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
After any great political or sociological phenomenon, the publishing industry's response tends to follow three distinct phases. Firstly, there are knee-jerk accounts of what happened by people who frankly don't have a clue. In the case of the credit crunch the worst include cash-in City memoires by assorted junior traders, and opportunistic accounts by novelists, political science academics and others who barely know their RAVs from their elbows. The second wave includes more considered accounts by more knowledgeable types. These typically take longer to get out because their authors are waiting for the dust to settle/have proper jobs. Here you tend to get books by senior City figures, intelligent financial journalists and so on. These, however, are still focused on describing and explaining what has just occurred, and perhaps offering suggestions for regulatory changes to make them less likely to occur again. Philip Augur's `Reckless' is a good example of this type. Finally, you get the books that put the events into their wider context and suggest some more radical solutions. These can be very variable indeed, ranging from the frankly nutty to the brilliant. `Economyths' is brilliant.

As it happens, I wasn't expecting a great deal from the book. David Orrell isn't an economist, he's an applied mathematician, and he hasn't, so far as I can tell, worked in the City. Books by outsiders, however talented, frequently miss the point, often because they are pushing a political agenda, or perhaps because they just `don't get it'. But I was pleasantly surprised from the first chapter, and by the end I was absolutely converted to his viewpoint. Indeed, is should carry a health warning - read this book and you will never be able to take the claims of classical economics seriously again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard times explained 5 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very informative and readable account of why things went wrong in 2008. A necessary account of an area of the news which is repeated frequently but rarely explained to the layman such as myself. It's not flawless but manages to entertain and asks the reader to pursue some of the loose ends.

Keep this book in mind when you watch similar accounts from the neo-classical economic view!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economist's hubris exposed 22 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent critique by a properly qualified analyst that exposes the amazing over-simplification of those who claimed they understood our economy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Emphatically shows how basic economic theory is the emperor's new clothes. Identifies many areas where new thinking is urgently required.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It would be hard to imagine a book on economics written by a non-linear mathematician stirring the interest of many. I have personally found economics and books on the subject to be very dry and impersonal. But Economyths proved to be addictive reading, in part because the author was free from the shackles of a formal education in economics. Such an education continues to teach an idealised economics view of the world where the environment is an endless supply of resources and humans always act rationally.

Actually, the point repeatedly raised by Orrell is that classical economics presumes humans to be super-rational, making decisions based solely on monetary matters all the time. He rips apart the 'scientific' foundations of economics for what they are - inappropriately basing mass human behaviour on Newtonian mechanical principles.

This will delight those with an anti-establishment view - those uncomfortable with the profit and growth mantras. But for those steeped in the traditional or neo-classical viewpoints, this will be excruciating reading that would likely dismiss in order to quash feelings of cognitive dissonance.

Fabulous book, and a massive challenge to Universities the world over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 22 Oct 2013
By Corven
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this much more interesting than I expected and it explains in simple language the theories behind economic policies which I understood properly for the first time.
I'm not sure that I agree with all he says, but it was certainly food for thought and enables me to understand more of what the government, banks etc are talking about.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries too hard
The book certainly makes some interesting points, but I can't help shake the feeling that it could have been wrapped up far more succinctly. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ankur Banerjee
3.0 out of 5 stars A review of others ideas...
...feel like a review of other people's thought without a huge amount of coherence between the themes, except for 'neo classical economics doesnt work'. Read more
Published 3 months ago by paul sharma
2.0 out of 5 stars Economists as easy targets
Two stars because some people will gain some understanding from this book. However, the central position is quite absurd. Read more
Published 5 months ago by RedDit
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical but I loved it.
The book explains the relatively new science of economics as not a science in reality but as unpredictable as monkeys making bets in the money markets. Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Mahmood
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking read
Well written and not only highlights the significant problems with our current economic models, but offers potential solutions too. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. C. Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars Real science applied to economics
Such a nice change to see real scientific standards applied to economic theory. Explains a great deal about the mess the economy is in.
Published 7 months ago by Lena Thane-Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Breaking Nrw Ground
This is a profoundly original and important book which should be read and studied by every world leader when it might, just might, arrest the rape of Planet Earth but I fear it... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Trumpeter
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking book.
Good speedy delivery.

Book itself explores many fascinating and appalling examples of how doctrines of economic theory fail to equip politicians to effectively real... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Steven Llewelyn
4.0 out of 5 stars good expose of laissez-faire capitalistic guff
Do the proponents of laissez-faire capitalism really believe the guff they spout, about the self-correcting nature and fundamental rightness of the market, the desirability and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by L. Williams
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