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Armchair Economist: Economics & Everyday Life Paperback – Mar 1 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; New edition edition (March 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029177766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029177761
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 14.2 x 1.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #581,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Landsburg demystifies the economics of everyday behavior in these diverting if not always persuasive essays. Why don't promoters of sell-out rock concerts raise the advance ticket price? Because, suggests the author, promoters want the good will of teenage audiences who will buy lots of rock paraphernalia. Why are executives' salaries so high? One reason, opines Landsburg, is that stockholders expect managers to take risks, and well-heeled executives are more likely to do so. Associate professor of economics at the University of Rochester in New York, Landsburg applies his counter-intuitive analyses, with mixed results, to everything from taxes, auctions, baseball and the high price of movie theater popcorn to government inefficiency, the death penalty, environmentalism (which he attacks as a dogmatic, coercive ideology) and NAFTA.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Landsburg (economics, Univ. of Rochester) demonstrates the economist's way of thinking about everyday occurrences. The result is a compilation of questions ranging from why popcorn costs so much at movie theaters and why rock concerts sell out to why laws against polygamy are detrimental to women. Many of the issues raised are controversial and even somewhat humorous, but they are clearly explained only from an economic perspective as opposed to other dynamics of human behavior. There are also clear explanations of the misconceptions about unemployment rates, measures of inflation, and interest rates. The book is not a textbook but shows how one economist solves puzzling questions that occur in daily living. Recommended for general collections.
- Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sporkdude on Nov. 18 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a good read; it's fun, entertaining, and factual correct. Landsburg explains simple concepts through the eyes of an economist with blinders on. It's an interesting read where pages seem to fly by. For an educational book, it flows as freely as a novel, and is incredibly gripping for something about economics. He presents different scenarios, from the price of popcorn to government debt, and shows how a true economist would view each situation in small bite sized chapters. It's both refreshing, and at some points, eye-opening.
One problem is that he tends to simplify everything way too much. It's hard to relate what he says to the real world when many of the details are gone. For example, when explaining national debt, he talks about the lending rate, and the rate of return to being exactly the same. He doesn't explain what would happen if they were different.
Another problem I had is the lack of continuity. He seems to switch from one topic to another without any direction. Sometimes, the types of arguments were repeated from one hundred pages ago, while the previous page had nothing to do with the current page. With about 30 or so seemingly random arguments and situations present, it's hard to place it all into any lesson or theme.
Finally, and most importantly, Landsburg seems to take out his aggressions and displays some mean spirited rants in the latter part of the book. I felt that it incredibly hurt his credibility. When someone starts debasing someone else's opinion vehemently and atrociously, it gives the impressions of fanaticism rather than cool-headed thinking. He seems to enjoy criticizing every line of particular papers and making the writer feel like an idiot.
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By A Customer on Feb. 6 2004
Format: Paperback
The criticism of this book seems to be largely based on the feeling that rational economics leads to unsatisfactory political conclusions and even possibly that rational economics is itself a suspect theory.
My take is that this is a pretty fun read that illustrates some basic economic concepts via common examples. True, it is not comprehensive and the arguments presented are neither completely thorough or precise. But then again, that's not what I'm looking for from a book about economics with the word "armchair" in the title.
Anwyway, if rational economics isn't a good model, what is? Central planning? Keynesian economics? European socialism?
The criticism here is of a worldview, not this book. It should come as no surprise that to those whose political views tend to conflict with rational economics, this book is threatening and must indeed seem highly political. But imho, the political agenda is in the eye of the beholder. When you point a finger, there are 3 pointing back at you.
Quit picking a fight about epistemology with a country pastor.
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Format: Paperback
Landsburg's book should be entertaining for economic neophytes. His style is a bit questionable, in that he can occasionally be found lost in self-argumentative circularism without resolve. I found David D. Friedman's book 'Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life' a more valuable book. As a singular example, his discussion of the price of popcorn in theaters seems, intuitively, better than Landsburg's.
What is particulary amusing about economists, in general, is their intractable belief that people make rational decisions. A recent body of thought, behavioral economics, would argue against that as a certainty. Dr. Kent Hickman et al. (Gonzaga University) published an interesting study on this topic in a Harvard edited journal, which examined bidding on the game show 'The price is right'. It's not difficult to read, but may require a search at a university library to find it.
Economics can be fun, and conceptually at least, isn't beyond the understanding of the common man.
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Format: Paperback
for the layman. This book presents an economic way of thinking to the public, sometimes taking a "shock therapy" approach, in which he seems to deliberately avoid the arguments for positions that would be most likely to convince people of his conclusions, primarily because conclusions are not so much what this book is about; it is about the arguments, which will be foreign to many people. While he is surely sometimes glib, don't assume that the reasoning is always invalid if you disagree with his conclusion; sometimes your conclusion is wrong, and if it is not you should gain something by making yourself determine why it is not. (E.g. while later in the book he drops this assumption, many of the first several chapters assume that all consumers are identical in their tastes. Figure out how dropping this assumption would change the results, and to what extent his conclusions are still valid.)
Another illustration: in his last chapter he attacks environmentalism. There are environmental arguments against recycling, but he refuses to make them, in large part because they would confuse the real issue, which is his right to a preference set. It should be clear from his previous discussion that what he is objecting to is not the notion that pollution imposes a cost, nor that it is improper for people to want a clean earth; he is defending his right to a preference set, and not to have it itself dismissed out of hand.
The glibness and sloppiness that cost him his star may well make the book more effective for what it was intended -- to introduce a way of thinking, and follow it to its sometimes unexpected conclusions.
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