The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything Paperback – 3 Apr 2008
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"Fascinating ... provides the answers to some of life's quirkiest conundrums" (Daily Mail)
"Explains how cold, hard cash really does make our world go round" (Independent)
"Can be returned to again and again like one of those all-you-can-eat buffets" (New York Times)
"Don't miss this addictive book. As Robert Frank and his students figured out dozens of everyday puzzles together, they produced ideas that are charming, curious, educational and lots of fun. Wonderful stuff." (Tim Harford, author of 'The Undercover Economist' and 'The Logic of Life')
"Fascinating, mind-expanding, and lots of fun" (Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate)
DISCOVER THE SECRETS BEHIND MANY EVERYDAY ENIGMASSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
As another reviewer has noted, the book is based on questions that Frank's students have posed and answered, in varying degrees of depth, but always from the economist's perspective. The result is a collection of questions and answers, all relatively concise, and all showing economic thought at work. And the book pretends to be no more than that.
Criticism that it is too shallow or not based on empirical research IMO misses the point. The book's purpose is to demonstrate the application of economic thought to questions about everyday economic observations. The answers are cogently presented without any pretence that they are the last word - and this alone is welcome in a field whose more psychotic schools of thought have a hubristic track record of basing theories on patently false premises.
The important thing about this book is that it seeks to make its readers *think* about the things it discusses. IMO, it succeeds admirably (and it certainly made me think a lot). As a former student of economics, I'd confidently recommend it as a taster for students considering whether to take economics as a major subject.
More power to Frank and his students. I hope he writes a sequel ("More from the Economic Naturalist"?) that addresses topics not included in the original.
I got bored after two chapters of this. To take an example: there's a section on why milk comes in square cartons, while coke comes in cylinders. The answer seems to me to be almost entirely because coke needs to be pressurised. He says it's because it's drunk from the can and therefore needs to be easy to hold. I don't care either way because I can't see why either has anything whatsoever to do with economics. And anyway, what's so hard about drinking directly from a Tetrapak?
Get Tim Harford's "The Undercover Economist" instead, which addresses many of the same points (especially the ones about product features/costs) much more intelligently and in some cases directly contradicting this; Frank assumes that additional product features cost more to produce; Harford makes the point that often they don't, they're just excuses to have differentiated pricing. It's a much stronger case.
The book didn't disappoint, but did not dazzle either. It definitely misses the quality of linked events and explanation of Tim Harford's Undercover Economist, but is not as bad as some of the reviews claim.
Yes, it's not economist prose with complex explanations and statistics...with a unifying idea as an explanation for everything... which in my opinion frankly is a good thing. The layout is simple... each section has a series of questions with their `answers' below them... the Q&A layout makes it an easy read... which you can enjoy in chunks ...taking as much time as you like.
Some questions do jog the brain, and you will definitely find a few which you yourself might have wondered from time to time. Please be aware though, that the `economic explanation' offered for the posed question MAY be one of the many right ones... it's a point of view ... with an economic angle... just like these reviews which have been posted... each with our individual opinion!
A few fellow readers have been a bit generous with their criticism on for this book, but as already mentioned here a couple of times, due credit to the writer (R.H. Frank) that he confesses early in the book that the answers are a `point of view' and should be `critically' evaluated.
Yes, it's not dazzling economic or literary genius... but still a good read... worth a try.
I find many reviews here too harsh, so decided to try adding my 2 cents.
As the author says, the answers he gives are free to be refutable, open interpretation, and it's just an economical aproach. The point not to reply to the answers as whole (like how electromagnetism works for the lights in the freezer, and etc.) but to answer them in the economical perspective.
For the most, it was interesting, although I didn't agree with everything. I admit I liked freakonomics more, but an interesting read nontheless. I'd give it 3,2/5
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