Jun 30, 2009

Book review: Discover your Inner Economist

Though a devoted fan of economics blogs, I do not get marginal revolution, Tyler Cowen’s blog. It is hard to get his point. But I just finished reading his “Discover Your Inner Economist” book and wow, this is just full of interesting stuff and it might make me more inclined to read his blog. This guy is a “bon vivant” that enjoys travelling, ethnic dining and buying paintings. This is basically a book about his passion for life, not really about economics applied to life. The economic principles he tries to address are incentives, scarcity and signalling but that’s about it. Furthermore, he most of the time says to avoid using economics in everyday life…this is confusing, reminiscent of marginal revolution.

In fact, I didn’t learn anything about how to better make use of incentives in life. The advices to skip pages and read books in any order or to switch movies frequently at the cinema don’t make much sense to me. I would waste my time by doing that, better focus on what I like most and not try to maximise my time with bite size feelings that are not complete. His advices on how to find the best restaurants are too obvious to be enlightening.

I did like his comment on why food is better in emerging and unequal economies than advanced egalitarian ones. You need the wealthy to enjoy the tasty meals and the cheap labour to produce it. This confirms my theory of why luxury in Switzerland is nothing compared to the one in Mexico or Indonesia, for example. He insists that Western Europe is losing hits historic role of culinary leader because of its high labour costs. Agree totally.

The best chapter is definitely the “markets in everything” section, where he mentions the imaginary girlfriends services, the boyfriend’s arm pillows, the $10,000 class for top executives to learn how to cope with life in prison, the kidnapping insurance business in Columbia, the Russian alibi providers, the $7.99 pre-sexual agreement forms, the Indian firms renting wedding guests or the Chilean coffin alarms, in case you are buried alive by mistake…markets in everything indeed.

An interesting book no doubt about it. But now he’s got a new one: “Create your own economy” which “explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what’s so great about “Tweeting” and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.”


Dany Jaimovich - Bakary Baludin said...

With the random selection of books when reading. I agree!! is an exercise to think out of the box. A good example in the Latin American literature is "Rayuela", Julio Cortazar. The book is an envelop that can hide the real content.

With random selection of movies... due to the level of the average film in a cinema, better to try chance till you find something good. If not, you will live just about recommendations. Nevertheless I'm dogmatic in that a good film must be seen from the beginning to the very end.

Chilean coffins. a group of Evangelical Christians invented this. Catalepsy or divine resurrection, I'm not sure was the main reason.

Dany Jaimovich - Bakary Baludin said...

BTW, the new book is called "Create Your OWN Economy" not your WON economy, even South Koreans would have been happy with that...