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Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics Hardcover – 7 Apr 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571220126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571220120
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.4 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 816,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Punchy and entertaining … The real importance of what Ormerod is saying goes far beyond economics... Exhilarating.’ -- Brian Appleyard, New Statesman

From the Inside Flap

WorldCom, Enron, Yamaichi, Equitable Life, Andersen, Parmalat, Shell . . . Around the world, corporate scandal - and full-scale collapse - has caught the headlines in a spectacular way, and investors avidly search for scapegoats. We all express surprise at such catastrophes - yet extinction is an inherent fact of life, and failure comes calling at the door of companies both gigantic and small.

Over 17,000 companies will go bust this year in the UK alone. But is this a bad thing? And if so why does the US, with its hugely dynamic economy, see more than 10 per cent of companies disappear each year?

In his inimitable fashion, Paul Ormerod draws upon recent advances in biology to help us understand the surprising consequences of the Iron Law of Failure. And he shows what strategies corporations, businesses and governments will need to adopt to stand a chance of prospering in a world where only one thing is certain.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Betty on 26 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I sympathize with the critique of traditional economics as too focused on equilibrium and other simplifying assumptions. The author uses examples from biology, dynamic complex systems theory and many other fields to make his point that economic and social interactions are too complex to be fully understood and predicted. But sometimes he is beating the obvious to death. It’s hardly surprising that most corporations eventually fail when viewed over long time periods.
I did learn a little more about the history of economics and its limitations. But I found the book unfocused and rambling. The main point about “Why Most Things Fail” is pretty obvious at a general level, the reasoning about that is long winded, but the examples are interesting.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Sept. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I greatly enjoyed the book, certainly it compared very well with Freakonomics, as Ormerod's book told you things you wouldn't have realised, and makes you think more about society. I liked the discussions on complexity of organisation and the natural conclusion that competition and decentralisation of decision making is the safest way for organisations, including societies, to survive.
Nice to read economists acknowledging the limits of the pure 'free-market' approach while stressing the benefits of market capitalism.
Recommended.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By K. Tune VINE VOICE on 26 Aug. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read Ormerod's 'Death of Economics' around 10 years ago now - and really enjoyed it. He clearly believes he has a mission to challenge orthodox classical equilibrium led linear economics, which has the unfortunate problem of being based on over simplified premises, leading to failure to explain many real world phenomena ( e.g. boom and bust ). That was a great book - arming the interested reader with demonstrations of problems in modern economic theory.
Unfortunately this book, 10 years later is a retread of the same ideas, with a chapter at the end about how governments should act to promote economic health ( competition is not the answer ). You'll probably enjoy it if you didn't read 'Death ...'. If you did - well sadly this contains no extra pearls.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 Nov. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This excellent, short work by Paul Ormerod is a worthy successor to his remarkably successful Butterfly Economics. As he did in that work, he draws here on lessons from biology to explain phenomena in economics. He covers a wide range of subjects, time periods and theories, all tied together (though not without some straining at the rope) by an inquiry into failure. Although Ormerod makes every effort to keep the work accessible, that scarcely makes it is easy reading. Readers who lack at least a nodding acquaintance with scientific writings and economic studies may find this hard slogging indeed. With that caveat, we think that readers who have a background in this field should pay serious attention to Ormerod's ideas. The notion that failure is inherent and inevitable for many systems ought to guide business strategies and - especially - government regulation.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By gerryg VINE VOICE on 6 Aug. 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another economics text which takes well from other disciplines.
By the time you get to the other end you will have a much better idea about how economics can help you understand life, the universe and everything. What you won't get is a "recipe" for the hard of thinking. The author gives a potted history of the newer big ideas that have informed economics and relates them to earlier thinking. He also explains their limitations. He brings in good links to systems theory (engineering and science perspectives). AND, if you get the references, (they're not obscure, but you do need to know them) he is very funny. Always a bonus when you are reading a book about economics. A minor criticism - I am suspicious when log/log graphs are used to prove a relationship, log/log can show a relationship between chalk and cheese.
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