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The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions Hardcover – Nov 16 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Nov. 16 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857885716
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857885712
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 662 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,895,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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

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 world’s 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 world’s 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 we’re ever going to solve the unsolvable, the first steps start here.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quality and Enjoyable Seafood Buffet Rather than a Set Menu April 18 2012
By Rob Julian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is very eclectic and broad in its themes. On the last page they write that "Academics have tended to emphasize specialism: knowing more and more about less and less." Well these guys between them could never be accused of having narrow specialised interests when it comes to economics and decision making. They are clued up on a wide range of big questions and highly versed in many arguments and the thinkers who have previously approached these issues.

This book contrasts with most books which have a linear path where a single one dimensional theme or thesis is being developed. Not being used to such eclecticism can make this book disconcerting to read: as soon as you recognise the subject being discussed, the authors have already moved on to the next! But if you just sit back and enjoy the ride there is some tasty morsel on every other page. (My copy had many corners folded down by the end, just so I would not forget my favourite tit-bits). Two of my favourite sections were the ones on evolution and innovation, and the I-PAT (impact = population, affluence and technology) section.

The regular returns to the subject of fish I found funny (the more laboured they were, the funnier they were !) Overall the themes of the book were very pertinent: like global warming, depletion of resources, and how the interaction between business and regulation effects these subjects. Much of the book is about mankind's relationship with the future and the tragedy of the commons type situations that arise.

The strength of this book is that the authors are not narrow specialist academic economists on the one hand, or your typical idealist (idealist meant in a positive way) environmentalists on the other hand, but guys who also have real commercial even "City" type experience in decision making, who just happen to have very progressive opinions. They may represent the fact that solutions to our problems may evolve out of complex ecosystems of competing commercial ideas and experiments, rather than descending upon us fully formed.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, informative, and well written Oct. 22 2011
By Matthew Leitch - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is, overall, an excellent book and well worth reading. A lot of ideas and information are included, drawn from good quality sources, as well as the authors' own work. Along the way, there's a lot to take in but the writing is clear.

In places it is witty but this (and the pictures of the authors juggling on the inside flap) shouldn't be taken as an indication that the book is a lightweight, or just an entertaining tour through popular economics or science. The issues are big ones and the authors suggest some solutions, at least in principle, and sometimes at a practical level.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively take on economics: The dismal science may not be so dismal anymore Aug. 2 2012
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the book for students who rolled their eyes as the economics professor doggedly scribbled supply-and-demand curves on the board. Scientist Michael Mainelli and accountant Ian Harris didn't buy that dry drivel, either. Economics as a discipline has much to offer, they argue, but it falls far short of explaining why people behave the way they do. The authors use the ingenious example of commercial fishing: If humans were as all-knowing and rational as economists say, why would commercial fisheries continue to harvest fish stocks to depletion? Mainelli and Harris make a good argument - backed by a sometimes-confusing hodgepodge of studies, cases and examples - that the right economic decision for an individual isn't the right decision for everyone. They offer an alternative theory of "real commerce" - a study of human motivations that includes economics but dismisses the idea that anyone makes perfectly informed, perfectly logical decisions. getAbstract recommends their work to readers seeking new financial fish to fry.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life the Universe and how to price it...a context for the big debates of our times Nov. 29 2011
By Sophisticate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is not only an answer to my annual dilemma of what to buy my friends in public life and finance for Xmas but a genuinely great read. Those occupying various financial centers would benefit from reading this, as would our financial policy-makers, as the book offers a context for the debates on all things financial that we need to have so badly. The authors offers real insights into the current hot global issues such as fairness between the generations, scarcity of resources etc.

There have recently been rumors that the most exciting place in the Universe is the frontal right lobe of Prof. Mainelli's brain, as his overflowing lectures at Gresham College in London over the past few years can attest. You won't need a bablefish to understand the arguments as the prose is clear and playful.
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Price" is Right June 25 2013
By TonyD - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book is quite something. I was struck by its rigorous organization, structure, and conceptual elegance. It was also, IMHO, remarkably well-written, replete with wit, lucid examples, catchy turns of phrase. The authors display a masterful familiarity with the literature (and an unusual propensity to attribute the ideas of others to others). While I had been acquainted with much of the material in the first half of the book, the second half was novel and thought-provoking. Their argument for the superiority of confidence accounting is persuasive. I was also impressed by the intellectual options market idea. Finally, the authors show an admirable commitment to environmentalism and to other global-impact causes. Highly recommended.