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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect present
This is a cracking fun read for anyone who wants a new angle on familiar problems. It's stimulating and challenging but Harford carries off this trip with a reassuringly everyday style. Very easy to pick up, very readable and ideal for a busy person - you can pick up again after a real-life interruption thanks to Harford's clear but very humorous way of explaining things...
Published on 29 Jan. 2008 by Homer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Math Applied to Common Decisions
Many of the popular books about economics seek to convince you that human beings are wildly illogical. Why? Because the dollars and sense of what people say and do don't always match up well. Tim Harford gets past that problem by mostly ignoring the academic studies that seem far removed from reality by emphasizing what people do when they are new to something...
Published on 23 April 2008 by Donald Mitchell


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Math Applied to Common Decisions, 23 April 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Many of the popular books about economics seek to convince you that human beings are wildly illogical. Why? Because the dollars and sense of what people say and do don't always match up well. Tim Harford gets past that problem by mostly ignoring the academic studies that seem far removed from reality by emphasizing what people do when they are new to something.

The book is at its best when he's explaining how systemic biases can create large shifts in human behavior. For instance, a slight preference for having neighbors who are like oneself can lead to quite substantial segregation along race, religion, education, and economic lines.

For me, the book lacked any big "gotcha" like the finding that abortions may have contributed to lowering crime.

In almost every section, I thought that Mr. Harford was arguing (or at least haranguing) beyond the limits of his evidence.

When he moves beyond being an observer into someone trying to convince you what people are like, I found he was often offensive. There's a section about how those who aren't native to Africa "solved" the problem of dying from malaria by transferring slaves from Africa to milder climates that's insensitive at best.

To Mr. Harford's eye, we are so much creatures of economics, comfort, and the pursuit of gain that there's no role for any other human motives. That's a too limited view of people . . . and hardly an uplifting one.

Unless you are addicted to Mr. Harford's writing, skip this book. It won't tell you much that you need to know.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect present, 29 Jan. 2008
This is a cracking fun read for anyone who wants a new angle on familiar problems. It's stimulating and challenging but Harford carries off this trip with a reassuringly everyday style. Very easy to pick up, very readable and ideal for a busy person - you can pick up again after a real-life interruption thanks to Harford's clear but very humorous way of explaining things. A wide range of people would enjoy this. Perfect present material!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An economist proves that people are more rational than we think, 20 Mar. 2009
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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Economists no longer just propose fiscal policies, forecast business growth, investigate interest rates and assign value to financial assets. Now they also conduct lab experiments, research teenagers' sexual activities, analyze prostitutes' condom usage, hypothesize about what happened to the Neanderthals, explain crime waves and develop winning poker strategies. Look under the bed or out the window, and you will probably find an economist taking notes while researching you and your neighbors. Tim Harford is one of these ubiquitous "new economists." He reports on odd studies and screwball findings, but for a serious purpose. He posits that seemingly dumb actions, such as going out of your way to become addicted, are almost always fully rational and logical, if unwise. getAbstract recommends Harford's iconoclastic book as an "X-ray image of human life." He and his irreverent new economist cohorts explain how everything works, and why. If you enjoy delving beneath the surface to learn what really makes things tick, Harford is the perfect guide and his book is an offbeat yet revealing travelogue.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rational addiction never felt so good!, 20 Jan. 2008
By 
G. Riley "GBR" (Eton, UK) - See all my reviews
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Tim Harford is an optimistic economist. Rather than becoming trapped in the daily torrent of noise and news from the global financial markets, trying to making sense of this small move in Chinese interest rates or that short-lived fluctuation in a Ukrainian bond yield, Tim has the confidence and the chutpaz to cast his net far wider to unearth much of the hidden wiring of our everyday lives, and in doing so he brings microeconomics alive at every turn. He draws on a tremendously wide range of quirky and often ground-breaking research from a new breed of economists whose laboratory style experiments are providing us with intriguing insights into hugely important economic, social and political controversies. Tim's optimism seems to stem from a robust belief that, when it works, economics can simplify the world and provide lasting insights to intractable problems. Such an approach requires taking risks, it needs people to challenge the conventional wisdom and think counter-intuitively.

The heart of the book is a mazy journey through any number of intriguing aspects of 'rational choice theory'. This is not usually a subject that can be described as fun especially when it smothered from head to toe in complex mathematics. Mercifully 'The Logic of Life' is completely free of equations and calculus; instead we can relax into some intelligent, lucid and confident economics from a natural communicator. On several occasions I have enjoyed watching Tim show his passion for the subject to groups of eager students and hard-bitten economics teachers. And in The Logic of Life, there is a real sense that economics has something pertinent to say on issues of deep public concern. Tim takes us on a journey from the television studios of the Oprah Winfrey show where teenage sex lives are top of the agenda to a shopping mall in Chicago where he commits a rational crime with a septuagenarian Nobel-Prize winner. We touch base with the street prostitutes of Mexico, the gambling palaces and poker dens of Las Vegas, pricey restaurants in London, the African savannah, a double-glazing business in Ohio, the locale surrounding the World Bank in Washington, playgrounds in Hackney Downs and classroom experiments in Virginia that can transform a group of law abiding students into racists within twenty minutes. It is all exhilarating stuff.

From a teaching perspective, one of the book's major strengths is in clarifying some of the core ideas from a clutch of important contemporary economists. The likes of Gary Becker, Thomas Schelling, Ed Glaeser, Roland Fryer, William Nordhaus all figure prominently together with well known figures such as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Alfred Marshall and John Von Neumann, the founding father of game theory. Inevitably having used such a broad canvas, some chapters are more convincing than others; I wasn't comfortable with some of the 'rational' explanations for the explosive growth in the pay and earnings of CEOs, whose rewards, to this author, border on the obscene.

My favourite sections were `In the Neighbourhood' which gave me a brilliantly clear understanding of Schelling's model of the emergence of racially segregated communities driven only by mild preferences about where to live. And chapter seven, 'The World is Spiky' is tremendous on the drivers behind the dramatic success of some cities set against self-reinforcing decline of others. The economic geography of cities now gives due weight to the importance of increasing returns to scale and the positive externalities that can flow from cities rich in diversity and hot-spots of creative activity. Having recently watched 'When the Levies Broke' the brilliant Spike Lee documentary, Tim's writing in chapter 7 brings home with real clarity the scale of the government failure that lay behind the tragedy in New Orleans in 2005 and the bodged recovery programme ever since.

The Logic of Life persuades me that people's behaviour is often much more rational than is immediately apparent but that rational choices can have wholly undesirable social consequences. Tim's book is ideally suited to ambitious sixth form economists who want to experience much of the vibrancy fascination and relevance of microeconomics and enjoy the vibrancy and sense of fun which permeates Tim's writing. This is a great page-turner that will cement Tim's well-earned reputation for bringing economics alive to a much wider audience around the world. I can now justify my addiction to his writing as a perfectly rational act!

The Logic of Life is available through all good bookstores and an audio-version is also for sale.
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The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World
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