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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for its down-to-earth lack of pretensions
After reading Levitt's "Freakonomics" and Harford's "Undercover Economist" I was attracted to this book when I came across it. Yes, there's some overlap with both of them and yes, in some places either Levitt or Harford is better. Where this book scores, however, is that you can take it in small bites and have a good mull over what it says a bit at a time.

As...
Published on 16 Jun 2008 by Gareth Greenwood

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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good questions, but generally weak answers
There's a rash of these things. This latest one, like Freakonomics, takes an "economic approach" (i.e. use of basic statistics and vague generalisations) to make a series of obvious or clearly incorrect assertions about the world. Still, the lack of hagiographies about the authors at least makes it easier to stomach than Freakonomics.

I got bored after two...
Published on 27 May 2008 by Pete


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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educational, ideal for beginners, 14 Jun 2008
This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
Its supply and demand, of course; "Freakonomics" established the market for popular economics paperbacks and this is one of several such books that have appeared recently. The pedagogic approach is very different from Levitt and Dubner's research-based original, though. Frank is an economics lecturer and despairs that students, even when they study economics, don't end up understanding much about it. Shockingly, surveys suggest maybe all those graphs and equations actually confuse ex-economics students. They often perform worse in answering everyday economically-related conundrums than the general populace! What this says about the competence of his teaching colleagues or the quality of the expensive undergraduate economics textbooks that pile up in university bookshops is left to the reader to decide.

Franks' approach is to ask his students to explain questions he puts to them (or they come up with) which represent little case studies of socioeconomic interaction. Why is there a light in your fridge not your freezer? Why do mobile phones cost less than their replacement batteries? Why do some bars offer free peanuts? Why are CD and DVD boxes different shapes? Why do women wear high heels? And so on. By pondering these, students should start to understand the basics of economics. All great fun and you genuinely end up beginning to "think like an economist", soon even challenging Frank's own sometimes simplified answers (...surely the aim of any pedagogic text). There is some theory underlying it but, as an ex-economics student myself, I thought a few graphs might actually have helped explain some concepts.

Nonetheless, cost-benefit analysis, opportunity cost, the tragedy of the commons, price-sensitivity, market segmentation and "behavioural economics" are some of the ideas entertainingly explained through example. The "economic naturalist" is therefore focused on fieldwork rather than abstract theory, but there is perhaps more to the title than that. Frank also draws, through for example the case of the elk's excessive antlers the link between evolutionary biology and economics and suggests that Darwinism was in part based on the ideas of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor choice, 15 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
This book epitomizes what I believe the worst of modern economics. It rationalizes the status quo, and generate explanations of why the current practice is the best behaviour.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Generally Disapointing, 9 Feb 2010
By 
Mr. P. M. Sharpe (Liverpool) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
The field of "Behavioral Economics" has grown quite significantly in the last few years. The premise is quite interesting, are we in control of our decisions or are there some mysterious laws guiding our every move?

The cover of this book offers some interesting questions but when you get into it it is a bit of a let down. The author has basically rehashed a number of 500 word essays by some of his students on day to day questions and nuggets. Being only 500 words these are brief and lack any real detail about the economic theory guiding them. Another problem is that many of the explanations aren't particularly economical but rather come down to common sense, some of which is so blindingly obvious that you wonder why he is making it out like some kind of amazing revelation.

This book provided some interesting questions and answers that would be good fun at dinner parties but it didn't convince me that "behavioral economics" was behind everything.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 6 May 2008
By 
Mr. M. R. Wassell (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
This is an excellent introduction to everyday economics and the way the world works around us. Very well written in an amusing but educated style. Recommended!!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overpromise and underdeliver - recipe for disaster, 27 Aug 2008
By 
S. H. Quadri "Syed Husain Quadri" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
That's right. This book's like a movie which has an intriguing story line, unconventional camerawork, fresh star cast but a weak script. So promising when you pick it up yet so dull and utterly unconvincing by the time you eventually doze off.

I have no major qualms with the 'narrative form of expression' - it may seem refreshing to begin with. The truth is - most books/teachers aren't and don't teach the subject in the didactic way they are accused of in this book. Quirky examples and hypothetical scenarios do help in introducing concepts but it should then be supplemented by concrete facts. A sort of has a school boy take on matters throughout the book neither does justice to to the subject nor the intelligence of the reader.

I am glad that some people would actually pick up this book for sheer curiosity and could potentially develop some level of enthusiasm for Economics. But, please do not use 'pop-eco' arguments to bluff in a gathering. You will be caught.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing read, 7 Jun 2008
By 
Richard Cocks - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
I found this book extremely disappointing. Many of the examples are covered better elsewhere, and those that aren't were very vague answers, and often contained no economics!
The ideas underlying the book were very thin and many repetetive examples quickly became boring.

I would avoid this book. Instead, I recommend "The undercover Economist" by Tim Harford for a better version of essentially the same thing.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the economic novice, 16 April 2008
By 
K. Ziabek (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
Why do 24 hour shops have locks on their doors?
Why are whales in danger of extinction but not chickens?
Why is it easier to find a partner when you already have one?

A fun and fascinating look at social phenomena, Frank's 'The Economic Naturalist' answers the questions we really want to know. Forget graphs, diagrams and endless equations, economics can be surprisingly entertaining! A book I'd highly recommend.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why economics offers incomplete or false explanations., 29 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
For anyone who is genuinely puzzled as to why their fridge, but not their freezer, contains an internal light; this book will doubtless be a godsend. Although the explanations offered for most of these "everyday enigmas" is in most cases likely to be no more insightful than the readers own assumptions or wild guesses. The great lightless freezer mystery is the first question presented in the book. Question number two asks: "Why can laptop computers, but not most other appliances, operate on any country's electrical standard?"
Here is a summary of the authors proposed answer: "Refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and other appliances sold in any country never leave that country, it makes little sense to bear the additional expense of adding internal transformers". We are told; early adopters of laptops tended to take their machines abroad so for the manufacturers it was worth the additional expense of including "internal transformers with their products from the beginning".
To anyone with a good understanding of electrical and electronic technology the author immediately reveals that he has not the slight grasp of the principles involved. His ability to offer up such glib "answers" might have been adequate when faced with his class of fresh faced and impressionable economics students but there is a danger that his readership may be better informed.
To clarify, in detail, the shortcomings of this one explanation: Laptop computers are electronic devices that are powered from a low voltage DC supply. This DC supply is a sophisticated electronic converter known as a switched mode power supply [SMPSU]. For many years it has been common for this type of power supply to be designed to accept a wide ranging input voltage specification. This has been the case in wide variety of applications, from mobile phone chargers to modular industrial power DC supplies. The fact that these power converters can be designed to accept a wide ranging input at little extra cost is a happy result of the clever way in which they electronically convert the input power.
By contrast refrigerators are high power "electrical" machines that run directly from the mains AC supply without intermediate voltage conversion. The compressor motor must be designed and constructed so that it can run directly from the local supply specifications. So one motor for 110Vac and one for 220Vac is, in general, the cheapest solution.
As an intriguing aside; televisions [also quoted in the authors example] are, in the case of the modern flat screen variety, low power electronic devices and are generally also powered from an SMPSU with a wide input range. I have checked a few and it turns out that they also commonly accept 100-240Vac.
Not because early adopters of TVs liked to take them across the atlantic but for the reasons I have given in my more thorough explanation.
So in short; I have bought a book in which an economics teacher accepts questions on subjects about which he knows very little. And then proffers neat little "economics" answers which are likely to be thoroughly WRONG!!
So my suggested subtitle for the book would be: "Why economics appears to explain almost everything provided that you know very little else. " or alternatively the title THE ECONOMIC NATURALIST: "A man of limited knowledge has a go at explaining some obvious stuff".
As a last point; for those who might be itching to discover why a fridge contains a light but not a freezer. Apparently it's because we use the fridge more often so that the extra expense is justified. Or some such mindblowingly trivial observation!! If the world is in the hands of economists then GOD HELP US!!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who would have thought it?, 26 Nov 2009
By 
Jonathan Kettleborough (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
Robert's excellent book takes economics to the real world.

Ever wondered why CD's work everywhere but DVD's are regionally controlled, why hotel minibars cost so much and why economics contains so much maths? (believe me there are so many MORE great examples).

Robert takes a whole range of everyday questions and clearly explains the economic issues behind them.

A simple and easy read. A great addition for the economics student, the MBA student and business people (and consumers) of all types.

At least I now know why brown eggs are more expensive then white ones!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mostly the bleedin' obvious...., 22 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)
Very disappointing. I don't claim to be an economic genius, or any other type of genius for that matter, but the answers to most of the questions are pretty much what you'd expect them to be, and many of the questions elicited a response from me of "who cares". OK, it categorises the questions under broad economic theories, but most of the answers were what anyone would come up with themselves if they gave it a moments thought, so ultimately I learnt nothing from this book (except why men and women's clothes fasten on different sides, which was quite interesting).

I bought it as an easy, entertaining and trivially informative read but found myself scanning by about page 15, skipping by page 30 and giving up altogether well before the pages reached three figures.
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The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything
The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything by Robert H Frank (Paperback - 3 April 2008)
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