The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions Hardcover – 13 Oct 2011
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In this thought-provoking and enlightening book, Mainelli and Harris highlight a point that economists too often forget: that economics is, at its heart, the study of human behaviour, and that both commerce and its wicked sister, finance, mean nothing unless they are connected to people and society.
Bill Emmott, Former Editor of The Economist
We have all discovered, painfully, that there are some areas, important to our existence, where price signals have worked badly or not at all. Financial markets are one. Deep sea fishing part of the tragedy of the commons - is another. This book is a challenging contribution to understanding these failures .
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
"I defy anyone not to enjoy this presentation of global issues explained in an innovative way with amusing anecdotes and analogies."
Sir David Lewis, former Lord Mayor of London, former Chairman, Norton Rose.
"For someone who is not a professional economist, Michael Mainelli thinks more cleverly about economics than anyone else I've met or read. I have never had a discussion with Michael without feeling that I've learned something new. 'The Price of Fish' will provoke, enrage and intrigue people. But above all it will enlighten."
Douglas McWilliams, Chief Executive, Centre for Economics and Business Research
Your mother used to tell you that fish is good for the brain. Reading this terrifying analysis will prove her right.
Stephen McDowell, Editor-in-chief, Interactive Investor Group.
This book shows how unpicking something as innocent as the price of fish reveals an interconnected world of wicked problems , unravelling which will be vital to squaring the demands of a rising population with climate change and resource depletion.
Gerard Wynn, Environmental Markets Correspondent, Reuters News
"From their background of economics, law, accountancy and leading edge work for defence, academic and research institutions, Michael and Ian have proved adept in presenting to commercial enterprises and interested laymen the complicated interactions in the real world of those theories and disciplines with human foibles, accelerating technological change, general noise and interference from misguided politicians with agendas and incompetent bureaucrats, causing unintended consequences and manifest disasters in the global financial and commercial affairs of society. Refreshingly they tell it as it is and we are all the better for it.
Jack Wigglesworth, founder and former chairman of LIFFE (now NYSE Euronext Liffe)
The Price of Fish is a lucid and provocative challenge to many ways of thinking about our world; it will be read by, and will benefit, anyone who realises that apparently simple questions conceal, and require, complex answers which draw on wider knowledge than most of us possess.
Professor Sir Roderick Floud, Provost, Gresham College
Mainelli and Harris offer in The Price of Fish an original and insightful look at the big and important long-term issues facing society today, the wicked problems. Better yet, they provide a framework to analyze these issues: choice, economics, systems, and evolution. Policy makers need to read this book.
Donald J Smith, Boston University, author of BOND MATH: The Theory Behind the Formulas
"Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris are among the most interesting lateral thinkers on key economic issues of the day. They succeed brilliantly in making their provocative ideas comprehensible to mere mortals."
John Plender, Columnist, Financial Times
"The Price of Fish recognises the importance of competition within a complex world of consumer choice and evolving markets. Mainelli and Harris give a richer framework for decision-making, one that applies from finance to scarce resource management and beyond.
Charlie McCreevy, former EU Commissioner and former Irish Minister for Finance
"As one of the world s largest fish buyers I lived on a daily basis with this Wicked Problem. Michael's and Ian's contribution is a welcome insight to complex commercial decision making."
Mike Parker, former Deputy CEO, Findus Group, Europe s largest seafood processor.
"Mainelli and Harris are very bright fellows. It shows in this elegant and witty approach to resource economics which tackles all those dangerous issues which arise when Mother Earth and the market collide."
Richard D North, fellow, Social Affairs Unit and media affairs fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs
"Politicians cling on to today s economic orthodoxies like grim death unwittingly hastening the collapse of the global economy in the process. The ironic and illusion-busting insights of Mainelli and Harris could be just the ticket in wrenching those politicians back to reality."
Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future
"This book is in the best sense of the word wicked . Elliptical, provocative, discursive, infuriating, good for a Notting Hill dinner party not unlike the authors."
Andrew Hilton, Director, CSFI
"It's clear that virtually every global system, from finance to mass media and ecosystems to commodity markets, is creaking. Worse than that, the current structures on which our planetary, social and financial health are based have all proved to be expensive, damaging and perverse failures. In a planetary economy crying out for fresh thinking, smart analysis and, crucially, pragmatic optimism, anything Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris have to offer is not only worth a look but arguably a must-read. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks there must be cleverer ways in which civilisation can manage its future.
Brendan May, UK Chairman, Rainforest Alliance and former CEO, Marine Stewardship Council
Today s economic systems are complex and adaptive. Existing economic models tend to be simplified and rigid. It is little wonder economists are in the doghouse, with their tails between their legs. Manielli and Harris s book should help coax the hound from the kennel, tail wagging.
Andy Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, Bank of England
I spent years ensuring that the price of Scottish salmon could include a responsible approach to the environment. Mainelli and Harris help us all understand the critical nature of the problems and the urgent need for solutions before it is too late.
Lord Jamie Lindsay, Chairman of Scottish Agricultural College & Chairman of UKAS
What has life to do with the price of fish? Practically everything according to witty polymaths Mainelli and Harris. The book forks through loads of theories on economics, commerce and human behaviour, and is always fresh and entertaining, even when covering well-known ground. For fishing in the muddy turmoil of international markets take this modern equivalent of The Compleat Angler with you.
David Shirreff, who writes for The Economist
"Modern philosopher-economists, such as Mainelli and Harris, have to grapple with this problem: we don t just want to live the good life, but feel good about ourselves as well, and that s a tough nut to crack....the authors are not just theorists, but very good listeners, and have managed along the way to fillet some of the more interesting books that have come out recently and weave recent thinking on things like behavioral economics and nudge theory into their argument (the book is a goldmine of quotable quotes)."
From the Inside Flap
Now, more than at any other time in our history, the world is faced with a series of vicious and apparently insurmountable difficulties, chief among them unstable financial markets, rapidly diminishing resources and an eco-system that is becoming dangerously volatile.
In The Price of Fish Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris examine in a unique way the worlds most abiding and wicked problems sustainability, global warming, over-fishing, overpopulation the pensions crises; all of which are characterized by a set of messy, circular, aggressive and peculiarly long-term problems and go on to suggest that it is not the circumstances that are too complex, but our way of reading them that is too simple. Too simple and often wrong.
Looking to the models developed by quantum physicists, the authors aim to blend four streams choice, economics, systems and evolution in a combination they believe is the key to making better decisions and, in turn, finding answers to the worlds most pernicious problems.
Transactional commerce buying and selling is only a small part of the real world of commerce in the larger sense of the world. This book goes beyond economics alone to look at real commerce, and the ways complex interactions adapt and change over time: the price of fish, for instance, cannot be right when we have over-fishing, hunger and ruined seas.
Just as physicists strive towards a unifying theory that makes sense of the universe as it actually is, Mainelli and Harris are taking steps towards understanding the knotty world we live in, not a simple exercise in chess-players logic but an approach which addresses the complex, the cyclical, the hostile and the protracted helping, communities large and small to make better decisions. If were ever going to solve the unsolvable, the first steps start here.
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Fortunately the authors are a couple of polymaths who are well up to the task, looking at the problem in four different ways: Decision Theory, Economics, Systems Theory and Evolution.
By structuring things in this way we get almost four books in one. And within each book each chapter, indeed each paragraph, is itself is rich and intensely flavoured. This is a book to be mulled and chewed over, rather than skim read.
As such it makes an ideal book for the internet age. Publishers want a certain thickness of book to give perceived value for money and because it is easier to notice a thick book on a bookstore shelf. The net result is that most books these days are just too large, and go unread. With this book it is different. Reading just for a few minutes can be very satisfying, and you go away with as many ideas from those few minutes as you often get from reading a different book from cover to cover.
This intensity and quotability means that "The price of fish" would therefore make an excellent "sacred book" for economists as almost any paragraph contains a great wealth of ideas and suggestions that could be expanded into a rich sermon. Unfortunately the authors did not anticipate this use as the book lacks chapter and verse numbers. Certainly, as with other sacred books it would be worth memorizing a few quotes from it to impress your friends.
But not only do the authors highlight problems and suggest solutions, but they also are actively lobbying to get some of the best ones implemented. For example pages 146 to 147 contain an idea known as Confidence Accounting, whereby accounts are published not as single figures, but with an indication of the error, usually as a distribution. Google "Confidence Accounting" and you will find initiatives in progress by the authors.
So far this is the only book I own both a kindle copy and a real copy of. I started trying to highlight the best bits, but the book soon turned yellow.
The Price of Fish breaks the mess down into palatable chunks and uses familiar narratives to explain economic processes, past, present and future. I am humbled because I was wrong about the importance and impact of this subject. Moreover I am angry the preceding books read by me before this one failed to explain their subject properly. How dare they make an exciting subject sound complicated and something we should leave to professionals!
As nOrmern Turbot once said "get on yer pike and get a lob-ster you laser good for yachting" to an unimploded young mine.
But Sushily, "The Price of Fish" is a thoroughly enjoyable deep-sea dive into economics, human-nature, money and finance.
Despite the fact that this is a book about economics, you don’t have to be a financier to enjoy it. In fact, there’s a lot of value here for almost everyone who buys or sells something on a regular basis, whether you’re a stockbroker on Wall Street or a small business owner in rural Scotland. See, the whole world is complex and interlinked, and while it’s difficult to get your head around just how the global economy works in the age of the internet, this book is as good a place to start learning as any.
It can be a complicated read at times though, so you’ll want to make sure that there are no distractions before you start reading it – if you’ve got kids, there’s no chance whatsoever that you’ll be able to read it when they’re around, because it’s tough going as it is. If you understand exactly what the authors are talking about at all times then you’re a wiser man than I, but you don’t really need to worry about understanding each and every concept as long as you let the underlying principles sink in.
But don’t let that put you off, and don’t worry if the thought of reading about economics has never excited you, as long as it’s relevant. I can’t say that I’ve read loads of books about economics, and I’m sure that even the authors would agree that it’s a fairly dry subject in comparison to some others, but they’ve done a fantastic job of making it both interesting and educational, and trust me – that’s no easy task. Some of the stuff about game theory and the idea of time as a tradeable resource is fascinating, too.