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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're not as stupid as you look
Just finished "The Logic of Life", the second book by Tim Harford of "Undercover Economist" fame, and recommend it to anyone with an interest in economics and/or how the world works.

The book's essential premise is that you're not as stupid as you look: or, to put it another way, that human behaviour is the product of rational choices, however seemingly...
Published on 4 Feb 2008 by S. McCauley

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm....
I quite enjoyed the Undercover Economist, but I was less impressed by Tim Harford's second book The Logic of Life. I guess it's primarily about asserting rational choice as a (the?) major force in human history and society. This comes at a time when behavioural economics is on the rise and challenging (successfully or otherwise) economic assumptions about...
Published on 6 April 2008 by tomsk77


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rational thinking, 29 Feb 2008
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N. de Cort (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it was well-written and brilliantly researched.

It uncovers the underlying logic of the apparently irrational choices we make (for example, why do smoking rates among young people go up with advertising of products for stopping smoking? The adverts make them think quitting will be easy).

If also shows how a bad result, eg. racial segregation in large cities can arise out of rational decisions made on a mild preference: people don't mind a mixed neighbourhood, but don't want to live surrounded by people of another race. If they perceive the latter starting to happen, they move to another area which perpetuates a cycle.

Not only that, but he finishes with tracing the origins of the Industrial Revolution! A fascinating book, highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some fun factoids but does not equip you to go beyond that, 27 Mar 2010
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
This is in a way a hard book to rate for me for the simple fact that the author on the one hand makes some sound arguments and writes well, on the other hand he exudes the narrow-mindedness of modrn science all too well at the same time - everything worth knowing was invented by his discipline / speciality - in Tim Harford's case, economics. Harford, like others of his kind would do well to read some classics, such as von Bertalanffy's General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, or failing that just peek a bit outside their narrow field of expertise.

So what does the book provide? The main argument, namely that humans just like animals rationally respond to evolutionary pay-offs, is about as old as Darwin and has been well argued and explained by authors as diverse as Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed or Why is Sex Fun?: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (Science Masters)), Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition) or Daniel Dennett (Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Penguin Science)) - all of these do a much more thoroughly argued job of explaining and supporting the thesis than Harford does. Nothing new here - but a sound foundation for thinking about the world nevertheless.

On top of that the factoids / research Harford chooses to share have been carefully vetted to cover as many interests as possible, to be topical and to help the reader appear worldly in a coctail party conversation setting. In fact while many will be well known in scientific / economic circles, the way he describes them is engaging and the book is generally fun to read as a result.

The relentless attribution of all of this knowledge / insight to economics is slightly off-putting, though. Well, at least as an economist (as opposed to a management guru), he glorifies his field, rather than himself, something making the book much more palatable in this respect than something like Lindstrom's Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong.

The message then in a nutshell is this - humans behave more rationally than most people think, if you want to understand the world, scientific method is useful and necessary, and experiments and measurement are required to really draw substantiated conclusions. Not dramatic or innovative but also not wrong.

Now if you like the message but want to go further - for instance to being able to do some of the stuff yourself, you'd do very well to read books such as How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, which will teach you about how to perform the measurements necessary - or even something like Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Thought About Children is Wrong, which will provide readers with a much better view on the iterative process of science than Harford does. In effect it's not all a success first time around and often experiements don't yield immediate insight.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, 14 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
Short and sweet, this is a good book that doesn't quite hold up as well as the others by Harford. The main thrust of the book is clear, to the point and reasonably well argued.

It provides some novel answers to topics.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Oscillating Wildly, 18 Aug 2009
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D. H. GILL (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
A good book but the content swings wildly from common sense truisms, stopping off briefly at wild generalisations that appear to be backed up with evidence but only for a narrow band of parameters, before finally making some excellent insights, esp. regarding racism and the demographics of poverty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Economics for the rest of us, 11 Mar 2014
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Graeme V. (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
I'm not an economist. I'd thought Economics was "all about money" .
Read this book after "the logic of life" ... now realize money is just the counter (one way of keeping score)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book, 14 Dec 2013
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Ania (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
Brilliant snappy, quick and witty book that makes you look at the world a little bit differently. A great entry book into economic subjects.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first book, 2 Sep 2013
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someenglishrose (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic of Life (Kindle Edition)
I'm a big fan of Tim Harford's first book and his columns in the FT, but I never got around to his second (this one). It's okay, but not as good as the first book. I didn't find it as compelling a read and he rehashed quite a few parts of the first book in this one, which was annoying if (like me) you are reading them back to back. Maybe the problem was that they were both on roughly the same subject and he had already used his best ideas in the first one. Since the newest one is on macroeconomics (whereas these two were on microeconomics) I will still be buying it in the hope that it will be a bit "fresher".
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5.0 out of 5 stars love this book, 17 Jan 2013
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Great Author, Great book! nuff said . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .
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5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down, 16 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book, which explores some ideas through the lens of economics and rational thought.

There are some really interesting ideas in this book which really make you think about the world around you and why things are they way they are.

This is a very accessible book which is easy to read and will leave you feeling smarter for having read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad and better than others by the same author, 13 Sep 2011
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Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything (Paperback)
There has been a debate within economics circles between behavioural economists who have tempered models and premises about decision making with psychological research findings and more classical ideas about rational choice making.

Harford, I get the impression, is definitely a proponent of the classical rational choice making theories and models, this book in fact sets out to investigate all the manners in which individuals who do not appear to be acting in as rational, utility maximising decision makers are, when you frame the investigation properly, behaving logically.

Possibly the most cited example from this book that I was familiar with prior to reading it is the scandal in the US about the increase in oral sex between adolescents. Harford explains how as a consequence of rising awareness, educational programmes about HIV for instance, this was a logical development or consequence rather than some fearful and unfathomable development. This is only about three or four pages long, if even that, at the beginning of the book and not even the best content in the book.

The book has a clear contents, index, it is structured well and the pace and style of writing make for a good accessible and interesting read. I believe that the general reader and economically interested or studious reader alike would appreciate this book and I would recommend it to either, it is better than Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, in my highly subjective opinion, definitely better than The Undercover Economist and Dear Undercover Economist: The Very Best Letters from the "Dear Economist" Column: The Undercover Economist Solves Life's Everyday Mysteries and Problems which preceeded and came after it.

I dont consider all the conclusions and content to be as convincing as that which I have read from behavioural economists such as in Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (New in Paper) or Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions but it resembles them more than other economics books such as The Best Book on the Market: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Free Economy.
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