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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep arguments lightly presented
A joy to read! Insightful, yet beautifully simple, arguments for many key economic ideas, such as why prices are good and arguments in favour of free trade. Some of the arguments are counter-intuitive, such as seatbelts killing people and recycling paper being bad for trees, but are great truisms which make you think differently and more lucidly.

I also like...
Published on 7 Jun 2006 by richyrich78

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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too cocky by half
Parts of this book delighted me and parts infuriated me. From a conventional economic perspective, Landsburg does a standard demolition job on many popular misconceptions about how markets and economies work. On the other hand he never questions the validity of the conventional economic theories on which he bases what he says. Worse, his cocksure tone belies what I...
Published on 16 Jun 2008 by Gareth Greenwood


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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Right-wing, US-centric, old-school economics, 21 Aug 2012
By 
T. JENNI (Finland) - See all my reviews
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Being a more left-leaning person this book managed to make me raise my eyebrows several times.

Landsburg's thinking is a prime example of old-school economics where the intrinsic value of nature and finite amount of natural resources is completely ignored. In fact, he identifies environmentalism as "a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition, and ritual that has much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious Fundamentalism".

To mention just a couple of examples:

Landsburg advocates keeping consumption of meat, paper and other goods at high levels to sustain the companies that produces them. It seems that the environmental effects of excessive consumption have no weight in his 'logical, science-driven economics'.

On species extinction, Landsburg's thinks that we can "pick up a lot of valuable knowledge by wiping out a few species to see what happens"! He would be sorry, though, if lions were wiped out as he has "fond memories of them from the zoo or from childhood storybooks". Therefore Landsburg would be ready to pay $50/year to preserve them, thus making economic sense to conserve the species.

On air pollution, he sees it a "self-evident opportunity" for the US to move its high-pollution industries to poor countries to improve the lives of not only Americans, but "everybody" as apparently wealthy people "can afford to sacrifice some income for the luxury of clean air, while people in poorer countries are happy (!) to breathe inferior air in exchange for the opportunity to improve their incomes".

Right-wing, conservative anti-environmentalists would probably love this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, poorly presented, 29 July 2013
By 
Steven Greenhill (Frankfurt, Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life (Paperback)
First off, there are some very interesting ideas in this book. It encourages you to think more closely about why things work the way they do. For example: A company that spends a lot of money on advertising expects to be in business in 5 years' time, so their products probably won't fall apart after a week; whereas another company spends nothing and as a consumer, I have no way of knowing whether they intend on making a quick profit and then exiting the industry or whether they are in for the long-haul. So while there is nothing to guarantee a product's quality, the existence of advertising is an indicator of the firm's overall strategy.

This is the sort of thing I expected after reading Freakonomics a few years ago (which, by contrast, was fantastic). Unfortunately, I was very disappointed.

The first reason is that many of the ideas weren't really developed. Freakonomics spent time developing each "story", explaining everything along the way. The Armchair Economist often devotes no more than a few sentences to some of these otherwise interesting ideas, and jumps to some pretty ambitious and definitive conclusions (therefore it "MUST" be true...).

But the main reason for my disappointment was the author's unbelievable arrogance. Essentially he makes the argument throughout the book that as an economist, he's clever and therefore understands how things work. If anyone has an opinion contrary to his own, they are labelled a non-economist (i.e. stupid). Several chapters are devoted to demonstrating how stupid other people are (often naming them in the process) because they don't subscribe to his understanding of economics. At times, it feels like his goal is to encourage the reader to join in and insult all the stupid non-economists. After a while, it feels like he's simply giving us ammunition on how to argue with and mock people that see the world differently.

It really is a shame, because as I said - there are some great ideas in this book. But it was just really painful to read (again and again) how he looks down on and insults everyone else.

My advice: Read Freakonomics instead. If you've already read Freakonomics, then find something else. You'll be soreley disappointed by the Armchair Economist.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but..., 29 Jun 2007
By 
Mr. T. D. Bates (Exeter, UK) - See all my reviews
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I liked the book, and it did introduce me to how an economists thought process churns away.

Whilst it was good that he simplified his illustrative models for everone to understand, I was left puzzled by a fair few; he presented a lot of answers as contrary to 'what people think', and all as 'painfully obvious'. Not sure if anyone else gleaned a slightly supercilious vibe!

An interesting read, although punctuated too much with oversimplification, and his personal views.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars spritely, entertaining but published at the wrong time, 10 Sep 2009
Well written and entertaining, this book may appear more superficial and fashionably opinionated than it actually is. In a sense, this edition has come out at the wrong time. However, is that really the case? When we consider the theoretical and mathematical power this author can bring to bear- and the sort of hybrid work being done around the globe- it may be that a real paradigm shift is in the offing.
Still, it was the failure of nuts and bolts 'institutional integrity' of the sort Ken Arrow focussed on more than 40 years ago which led to the current global malaise. Perhaps, ultimately, the real guilt lies not with any particular approach but with a sort of infectious glib and folksy stridency which prevents the assimilation of useful results in a timely manner.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A weak copy-cat of Freakonomics, of poor quality, 3 July 2011
Landsburg tries to jump onto the bandwagon of popular introductions to economic theory using rebuttals of generally held views. But this is nothing like as good as Freakonomics or the Undercover Economist and the insight of the author is much less. I am not convinced that any naive reader who know more about economics after reading it, on the contrary I think they would have a very distorted view.

Firstly, he only uses 'narrow' economic theory, but addresses issues in which 'broad' economic theory is relevant. He therefore illustrates the economist who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Second, he revels in using as his examples issues which plainly are not susceptible to the sort of only monetary analysis he offers. One finds oneself constantly irritated by the silliness of the arguments and internally pointing out the gaping holes in his accounts. I can only think that he does this in order to be provocative.

The neo-conservative approach he takes is deeply unattractive and he assertions that all economists think like him blatantly false. I find myself shamed by the prospect that people will think that all economists have such blinkered visions and such shallowness of insight. The distortions are such that I would almost rate this in the 'bad science' category.

A poor book, one to avoid. Read Freakonomics, or the Undercover Economist or for the basic facts Free Lunch instead.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting ideas......., 25 July 2013
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This review is from: The Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life (Paperback)
There are some interesting ideas in this book that do make you look at the world in a different way, his ideas seem to be so theoretical that they would be hard to apply to the real world in any relevant way.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So elucidating it leaves you baffled., 1 Dec 2011
This is without a doubt the best pop-econ book I've read. It's clear, lucid, and thought provoking. Although I'm an economics student I still on occasion find it hard to apply all the theories I've learnt to real life yet this book seems to do it so easily. It has the strongest theoretical underpinning of all the books and is also the most fun to read in terms of writing style and examples used. Definitely worth a read if you're into economics.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elucidating, 6 Sep 2009
By 
Lt Haggerty (England) - See all my reviews
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Although i agree with Gareth about the immorality of the authors approach to the environment in the end of the book i must say it is one of the very best pop economics books i have ever read, easily comparable to the under cover economist. Its succinct, lucid and utterly hilarious. Perhaps most importantly the front cover is normal enough to allow seaside economics reading without the embarrassment! An absolute must for holidays!
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars low grade thinking, 7 April 2012
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I've recently bought a lot of pop economics texts, and this is by far the worst. The book is the most Panglossian text I ever read. The author seems to have no idea of life, and will make such statements as a public resource with a 45 minute queue to enter is valueless to the community. I don't know anybody naive enough to believe this, and don't care to read the written opinion of someone who can seriously type this nonsense out. Freakonomics and Tim Harford's work are enjoyable, but this is a waste of time
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The Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life
The Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life by Steven E. Landsburg (Paperback - 10 May 2012)
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