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The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, And the Radical Remaking of Economics
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The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, And the Radical Remaking of Economics

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  551 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Over 6.4 billion people participate in a $36.5 trillion global economy, designed and overseen by no one. How did this marvel of self-organized complexity evolve? How is wealth created within this system? And how can wealth be increased for the benefit of individuals, businesses, and society? In The Origin of Wealth, Eric D. Beinhocker argues that modern science provides a...more
Hardcover, 527 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2006)
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When I was studying engineering at University one of the subjects we had to have an overview of was economics. I wanted the read this book because to me at the time the traditional macro economics theory just didn’t make sense – too many assumptions that were self evidently wrong, and I wanted a more up to date perspective. This book, I was pleased to discover, not only explained traditional economic theories in detail but also agreed that there are basic flaws in this traditional macro economic...more
Donghun Lee
Another eye-opening book.

I've read circa one fifth of the book and the stuff in the part was enough to break down all the stereotypes and misconceptions that I had, partly due to the conventional education of economics- I am an economics major.

Still yet, of the things argued by the author there are some that I cannot fully understand or know whether the argument is true or not. One of them is this ;

Economics activity is firmly rooted in the real, physical world, and thus economics theory cann...more
Part I starts out with a nice overview of the development of "traditional economics" since Adam Smith. The characterization of the work of Walras as a "false turn", importing physics metaphors into economics, is particularly striking. The physics framework was maintained until well after WWII with the neoclassical synthesis, while 20th century physics had already moved away from its deterministic 19th century predecessor. Chapter 3 talks about the work at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), where comp...more
Jonathan Jeckell
I went through a ridiculous number of highlighters and tape flags marking this book. It provided a fascinating look at how theorists are bringing economics into the 20th Century. Existing economics models borrowed from physics, and thermodynamics in particular, most notably with the concept of equilibrium. This book shows how the economy (and much else) are not so simple, but follow rules found in complex adaptive systems and evolution. Moreover, it provided some fascinating insights into organi...more
Beinhocker tells us that there is a revolution in the making in the world of economics. The orthodoxies of the equilibrium models have long since ceased to tell the truth about the way markets work. Not only are they not able to render a proper account of the reasons why they periodically fail, but also what is positive about them in the sense of what they do well.

The book tells a good story of what economics attempts to be as a science and the tools it has developed to fulfil its mission. Right...more
Juan Pablo
I've been meaning to thoroughly destroy economics for some time now and after finishing this book, I'm saying to myself "Heck, maybe I will if only for its necessary rebirth."

I studied econ back in college and the more I learned, the more painfully I experienced the disparity between reality and the "science" most powerfully endowed to observe and prescribe the measures for our understanding of human and societal interaction. Let me clear up the "": economics became over a hundred years a powerf...more
About 5 years after finishing college, I started to feel that there was a major, glaring deficiency in my liberal arts education. As a young, naive, and somewhat annoying undergraduate, I had a deep and mostly indefensible aversion to the idea of taking an economics class. It's all a bunch of B.S., I thought--and whatever isn't B.S. would certainly offend my pale pink sensibilities at the time. I managed to get by without having to take one. However, as I got to be a little older, I starting to...more
The first 85% of this book was worthy of a 5 star rating and one of the most interesting books I've ever read. His analysis and linkage between Evolutionary Theory and the Economy was compelling. It provides us with a whole new lens to see the economy through and Benhocker's ideas of complex adaptive and open systems, I believe, to be extremely relevant. The case he makes against Neo-classical economic theory is long overdue. As Beinhocker makes clear at the opening of the book "Origin of Wealth...more
Scott Shepard
This is a stunning book. Beinhocker amasses a wealth of information (pun intended) into a relatively short, easy to read paperback. He addresses the failures of Traditional Economic theory and makes a passionate argument for why we need to change our textbooks and views to fit more modern "complexity" economic theory. The things I found most interesting were the history and development of traditional theory, the wide use of computers to model economic behavior in startling ways (sugarscape) and...more
Jerry Ward
May 12, 2013 Jerry Ward rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the seriously interested in economics
I can’t recall having ever read an author with the clarity of exposition and the depth and breadth of erudition that is demonstrated by Dr. Beinhocker in this book. It is an impressive work.

The opening sentence of the book asserts that “the field of economics is going through its most profound change in more than a hundred years.” Since much of the book directly addresses and analyzes that change and its implications, I think the book could have more accurately been entitled The Evolution of Ec...more
Thought-provoking economic theory exposition

In this massive, erudite book, Eric D. Beinhocker offers a history of economics, and an informative discussion of the scientific basis and shortcomings of conventional economic wisdom. He is strongest as he explains the steadily diminishing scientific credibility of “Traditional Economics,” and offers “Complexity Economics” as a more useful theory. He says it better accounts for changeable, evolving markets with irrational actors, dynamic networks and...more
Cary Neeper
A great idea, finally presenting economics as the extremely complex system it is. Beinhocker does a thorough job of suggesting how businesses and economists could complex principles to revamp their thinking and make a few more realistic assumptions. However, the author seems to be stuck in the old paradigm that growth is essential for economic health. We know now that growth costs more than it's worth. That's why I am backing Dietz and O'Neill's Enough Is Enough and using my own fiction to model...more
This book took me two years to get through, but I found it incredibly interesting. The book discusses traditional economic models and proposes an alternative view or economies in general: that they behave like evolutionary systems.

The business act as the organisms, the business plans the DNA, and the economy provides the environment to determine fitness.

Well worth the read if you like economics, though a bit long. He touches on a wide range of issues and why traditional economic theories can d...more
Henri Tournyol du Clos
This is a deeply flawed book, which starts by building a straw man representing consensus economic thinking and then unfairly abuses it at length, before ending up preaching management BS. Yet, in-between, it is an important one: having read it, I stopped teaching introductory economics to graduate students the way I did before. It provides a powerful intellectual framework for teaching both the innate limitations of economic modelling and why there is no viable alternative. The 16 or so pages d...more
The book was very illuminating. I enjoyed it a great deal.
Apr 14, 2010 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: world
About half way through. As of now, he has aptly distilled a few hundred of years of the evolution of economic thought, and begun to present a tantalizing application of complexity science to economics. I picked the book up on the strength of the topic and the reviews, despite the author's lack of bonafides. I have not been disappointed. This book is light years beyond the standard unorthodox economics fare and has much to offer. I'll post more later.
Jan 04, 2009 Craig added it
An amazing book. A friend recommended this to me as "the book people should have been reading when they read the Black Swan". I could not agree more. It uses principles of evolutionary biology, computer science, and physics to explain how economic systems and business management systems evolve. Meanwhile, it touches on why black swan events happen and shows the flaws with modern portfolio theory and economics. A very good read.
Even if you're not into economics this book is still an amazing read. It explains how economics actually works in terms of human psychology and evolutionary theory. There is nothing in this book that is too technically difficult to understand and the range of topics is wide and relevant to everyone's everyday life. I really think this book should be required for all high school and college students, that's how good it is.
Jurgen Appelo
Brilliant! I wish I could give it 6 stars. Must. Read.
Saku Mantere
I am deeply ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, it is a splendidly written introduction to the limitations in classical economics. It is also a great intro to complexity theory. Yet, in its insistence that complexity is a theory for everything (from doing firm strategy to transcending the left-right dichotomy in politics), the book's main argument is trivialized and becomes almost ridiculous.
This is an amazing book! It's an academic read, but the scope and depth makes it intriguing enough. The author doesn't talk down to the reader (although I'm not an economist), but there are a lot of footnotes and such. Also, as footnotes go, they're printed smaller, so 70 pp of footnotes may actually be 200 of normal 11pt've been warned. But highly recommended for the inquisitive mind!
Simon Hampton
Good analysis of limitations of traditional economics, but the best section was the description of the numerical models that initiated evolutionary economics. And then, all of a sudden, it became a management book for 100 pages! Some good discussion about future research at the end, but ultimately the theory looks to be poorly developed mathematically.
this book opened my eyes to the exciting, eye-opening concept that the economy is a complex evolutionary system. mark my words, it will change the face of contemporary economics.

if you're wondering if i just used the terms exciting and mind-blowing in regard to economic theory, that's right, i did. and i stand by it. i truly do.

Sam Critchley
Brilliant book. Overview of classical economics, how it tends to be overly simplistic, then lays the groundwork on modern evolutionary economic theories. Finally it ends up with some practical looks at the application of the new economic theories in life and business. This book totally changed my perception of and thoughts on economics.
Should have waited for the paperback - for as far as I've gotten. There is a revolution occurring in Economics that is based on understanding innovation as it relates to what rewards it and how it changes growth - from an economic perspective - it is not an externality! Still trying to figure this stuff out.
Bassam Al-Bassam
The central thesis of this book revolves around the idea that economy is a complex system and not even the current economic laws can provide a solid understanding to markets and wealth creation.

The book is very well researched and the nonacademic author's style was engaging and easy to follow.

Aug 27, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Gene Browder
This is really interesting. So far it's a brief history of economics, then an analysis of how traditional economics took a big wrong turn by trying to model the economy as an equilibrium decision. Computer models are much more suited to understanding the economy than simple equations.
"...Wealth is knowledge, and its origin is evolution..."
This is a quote from Beinhocker's fabulous book on economics, its structure, evolution, and function. A must read for anyone interested in what makes economies--and hence countries--tick.
Not much new if you've seen Agent Based Modeling applied to the Social Sciences although the description of the simulated environment of repeated Prisoner Dilemna games and evolutionary strategies was interesting.
One of many work-related books I'm currently reading. This one however, is the best of all (so far), and is great for anyone just venturing into economics. The author makes the topic thought provoking and interesting.
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Why am I reading this book? 2 10 May 29, 2013 03:51PM  
Goodreads Authors...: Book Review 2 162 May 13, 2013 02:04PM  
highlights so far 1 4 Feb 13, 2008 11:07PM  
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  • A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
  • The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good
  • Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life
  • The Evolution of Cooperation
  • The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do about It
  • Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
  • The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea
  • The (Mis)Behavior of Markets
  • The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor
  • Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets
  • The Myth of the Rational Market: Wall Street's Impossible Quest for Predictable Markets
  • The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities
  • The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
  • The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
  • The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better

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