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Economic Fables Paperback – 20 Apr 2012
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About the Author
Ariel Rubinstein is Professor of Economics at Tel Aviv University and Princeton University. His recent publications include Modeling Bounded Rationality (1998), A Course in Game Theory (with M. Osborne, 1994) and Bargaining and Markets (with M. Osborne, 1990).
Top Customer Reviews
It would be a shame if all economists thought that models are fables and therefore stop trying to actually make them more realistic and more useful. For example, perhaps current DGES models are not great, but we must continue searching for better, as is done in other sciences. Do we continue to use the equilibrium assumption? Would we be better off with massive agent-based simulation models? How should expectations be modelled? These are relevant questions that cannot be so easily dismissed.
At any rate, the book rambles a bit, jumping among seemingly disconnected topics mixed with personal vignettes which occasionally seem beside the point. Hence the 3-star rating.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The not-so-good: About 10% of this book is mired in some rather obscure subject matter that cannot be saved by the writer's abilities (and probably couldn't be saved by *any* writer). There is a section near the end, for example, where the author goes into detail about his work on applying economic principles to language. I appreciate writing that is intellectually challenging, but this section (and a very few others) were so tedious as to be absurd.
The bad: Once again, I find a very talented academic writer that follows up 10+ chapters of precise, logical instruction with one chapter espousing his socialist views in which logic and critical thinking are abandoned to the extreme. Certainly, different viewpoints and political biases are beneficial. But the breakdown of logic in what is a book about academic rigor (or lack thereof) in economics is alarming. As a libertarian and a believer in the superiority of capitalism over rival economic systems, I was put off by the personal (socialist) political statement that is the last chapter. As a reader and critical thinker, I was put off by the vapid generalizations that infest this chapter ("Most people believe...", "Almost everyone will agree...", "All of us want..."). It is an almost-unforgivable grievance.
Fortunately, the rest of the book is so good that I could only take away one star. This book is certainly worth the read. I suppose I will have to learn to expect that any academic (regardless of their intellect or writing prowess) is incapable of ending a book without preaching their socialist political beliefs using weak arguments and scant evidence. Sigh.
However, now we can read it from the writings of a world class professor of economy. Ariel Rubinstein sees how economic research is being abused to provide "predictive power" and justify economical and political agendas around the world, when it is obvious that scientifically it does not provide such insights. Sadly, the beautiful mathematical models that economic scholars use often blur reality in a way that the models are practically useless. The main message is that people should be highly critical when faced with economic "theories" as the main engine behind any sort of regulatory policy. This is a very important take-home message that shouldn't be overlooked.
Anyway, Ariel takes us for a ride through several important pitstops such as the fallacies in the "economic man" (rationality assumption), and some experiments that show that people simply do not behave like economics expect them to behave under that assumption. Next, we delve into Game theory and its inherent limitation (again, steaming from these assumptions). The next chapter was to me the most interesting one as it illustrate the Jungle model vs. the Market model, and show that they behave the same with respect to important theoretical results.
The next to last chapter walks us through one of his own research projects, conversation and persuasion situations, and reveals several weaknesses and criticisms that should have been pointed out in his own results. This is extremely important to see how interdisciplinary research often use some of the "respected" economical models to give a theoretic boost to its claims. Prof. Rubinstein takes us through his results and explicitly puts down the different traps that a critical reader of his research should have been thinking about.
The book is very interesting to read, and can be approached without any knowledge in Economy. The author also spice-up his ideas with personal experiences as a child growing up in Jerusalem, and from living in a lively political arena in the middle-east. I think the book is a must-read for anyone who ever took any academic course in Economy and for some reason now think that he can understand market and people's behavior.