Life sometimes seems illogical. Individuals do strange things: take drugs, have unprotected sex, mug each other. Love seems irrational, and so does divorce. On a larger scale, life seems no fairer or easier to fathom: Why do some neighborhoods thrive and others become ghettos? Why is racism so persistent? Why is your idiot boss paid a fortune for sitting behind a mahogany altar? Thorny questions–and you might be surprised to hear the answers coming from an economist.
But Tim Harford, award-winning journalist and author of the bestseller The Undercover Economist, likes to spring surprises. In this deftly reasoned book, Harford argues that life is logical after all. Under the surface of everyday insanity, hidden incentives are at work, and Harford shows these incentives emerging in the most unlikely places.
Using tools ranging from animal experiments to supercomputer simulations, an ambitious new breed of economist is trying to unlock the secrets of society. The Logic of Life is the first book to map out the astonishing insights and frustrating blind spots of this new economics in a way that anyone can enjoy.
The Logic of Life presents an X-ray image of human life, stripping away the surface to show us a picture that is revealing, enthralling, and sometimes disturbing. The stories that emerge are not about data or equations but about people: the athlete who survived a shocking murder attempt, the computer geek who beat the hard-bitten poker pros, the economist who defied Henry Kissinger and faked an invasion of Berlin, the king who tried to buy off a revolution.
Once you’ve read this quotable and addictive book, life will never look the same again.
About the Author
Tim Harford is the author of the bestseller The Undercover Economist and The Logic of Life and a member of the editorial board of the Financial Times, where he also writes the “Dear Economist” column. He is a regular contributor to Slate, Forbes, and NPR’s Marketplace. He was the host of the BBC TV series Trust Me, I’m an Economist and now presents the BBC series More or Less. Harford has been an economist at the World Bank and an economics tutor at Oxford University. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.
“Highly readable, funny and daringly contentious . . . a whopping good time.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“[Tim] Harford sets off on an enormously entertaining yarn backed by the findings of expert economists. He spins playfully, but smartly, across matters of sex, crime, gambling, addiction, marriage, racism, ghettos and politics, and he makes it all, well, titillating at times. Really.”
“Harford has a knack for explaining economic principles and problems in plain language and, even better, for making them fun.”
–The New York Times
“[Harford] is an amiable guide for the non-specialist reader . . . but his command of the subject is such that even a well-schooled economist will discover much that is new.”
“Highly engaging . . . entertaining and provocative.”
“A fascinating work with many ‘aha’ moments.”
“Smart, charming, penetrating, and wise.”
–Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics
“Chock-full of numbers and money talk, but oddly entertaining.”
“Charming and informative.”
“Like Harford’s earlier book, The Undercover Economist–if you haven’t got it, get it–this book uses the basic theory of rational choice to make transparent the logic behind common but important puzzling phenomena. Even a trained economist can enjoy discovering what he didn’t realize he already knew. I did.”
–Thomas C. Schelling, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics
“This witty, intelligent book will help you see the entire world in a new light.”
–Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist