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The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  455 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Stanford University student and Cuban American tennis prodigy Ramon Fernandez is outraged when a nearby mega-store hikes its prices the night of an earthquake. He crosses paths with provost and economics professor Ruth Lieber when he plans a campus protest against the price-gouging retailer--which is also a major donor to the university. Ruth begins a dialogue with Ramon a ...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jul 12, 2014 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economic-liberty
What category should this fall under? I picked this off of a list of "Libertarian Fiction" although it is only Libertarian so as free markets are concerned. Of the four tenants of Libertarianism; Don't hurt people, Don't take their stuff, Be responsible, and Mind your own business this really only approaches the 'Mind your own business' aspect.

This story is a primmer on Austrian Economics. It uses a conversational lecture style to convey many fundamental ideas about pricing and markets. I have r
Kelly Cox
Mar 25, 2017 Kelly Cox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful read. Has to be in the top 2 books I have read this year.
Mahala Helf
Dec 03, 2009 Mahala Helf rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Simplistic, unimaginative, outdated & cliched attempt to glorify the market and analogize human economic behavior with natural phenomena. Roberts wants us to believe that birds, ants, and markets mystically/magically achieve the best for all without any group communication or intentionality.
The analogy fails. He is either incredibly lazy(well, he does base his bird theory on one anecdote & ask readers to write in ...he couldn't be bothered to google for confirmation ) or willfully ignora
Nov 19, 2016 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A simple economic primer on how prices help to balance supply and demand, how they impact the allocation of resources, and how they are a prime motivator in our societal advancement. I recommend this book to EVERYONE, as I find most people are economically illiterate. The neat little thing is the author, Russell Roberts, has put the economics lessons into a novel. This is not his first effort in economic fiction having also written The Choice, and The Invisible Heart, both of which I also recomm ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Price of Everything by Russell Roberts utilizes fiction to educate the reader about economic theory, taking events from everyday life and divulging the principles that explain how markets work, and entertains and engages the reader to think about what Adam Smith called “the Invisible Hand.”1
The story begins with an earthquake causing Ramon Fernandez and his girlfriend, Amy, to shop for flashlights first at Home Depot, where the supply has run out, and then at Big Box, where prices have been
Sam  Bronstein
Jul 01, 2017 Sam Bronstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book which has made me fall in love with economics . The novel is brilliantly spun weaving history sports and economics in one.
Greg Linster
Jan 18, 2013 Greg Linster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You've likely heard of the pop economics genre, but did you know that there is econ-fiction too?  Perhaps econ-fiction is a merely a branch of pop economics, but either way, it makes for a great way to teach basic economics to inquiring young (and old) minds alike.  And as far as I'm concerned, Russ Roberts (a professor at George Mason University) writes some of the most powerful didactic fiction about economics around.

His book, The Price of Everything , is a parable that engages readers and nu
The Price of Everything is an economics novel about the virtues of prices and markets, explaining how they work to maximize efficiency and spread goods out among those who need them and are willing to pay. Like The Invisible Heart, it is a policy treatise in novel form. There, an economics professor fell in love with a liberal English professor and slowly worked his dark-side libertarian magic on her. Here, another economics professor, this one the provost of a university, takes a passionate you ...more
Heather Shaw
Nov 06, 2008 Heather Shaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Price of Everything is the name of a book I got in the mail recently from Princeton (978-0-691-13509-0). Apart from the intriguing title, the BISAC categories on the back were POPULAR ECONOMICS and FICTION. Huh?! Who could resist that?

Not me. I sat on the back porch one Saturday and didn’t get up until it was over. Then I went back through and made notes. Then, I decided that all of my children had to read it over summer break—required. A couple of days later, I talked about it to a friend o
Amy Sturgis
I wish I could offer two ratings here, one for the ideas behind the book and one for its execution.

First, the ideas. Roberts' goal is a most worthy one: to challenge and educate the reader about an often misunderstood aspect of the market, prices, and how prices send signals that help individuals unintentionally but efficiently coordinate their actions. (Thus the much-maligned phenomenon of "price gouging" after disasters, for example, serves important purposes: not only to encourage those who n
Jan 01, 2017 Taweewat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like the way that the author tells the economics concept in this form as a conversation. The best way to learn economics is through examples, but simply giving examples one by one won't make the book that interesting. Now, I will definitely go back and read more books that are written by Robert.
Jan 20, 2009 Aastha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I started reading this book, I kept thinking how perfect it would be for an aspiring student of economics to read, freshman or sophomore year of college. Its conversational style (the book is largely written as a conversation between a teacher and a student) makes it a lively, if a little preachy, read. Some things are really interesting to think about, like the elements that go into creating a pencil, and how so many jobs, around the USA and around the world, are so intrinsically linked in t ...more
Dec 12, 2009 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Doug by:
A pedantic tale which is really designed to educate the reader about basic economic concepts. Despite the fact that long stretches resemble classroom lectures, the story moves along fairly well. It is particularly good at taking on some of the 'conventional wisdom' which is inconsistent with economic thinking. A good example is a case where some stores mark up the prices of certain goods, such as flashlights, when demand surges due to an earthquake. A common, and natural, reaction, is anger at t ...more
"Much of the novel is a one-on-one seminar about how price signals create a market more efficient than central planning could ever do, and Roberts is good at illustrating this difficult concept. There are many examples of how the same unplanned order arises in the natural world, both explicit and implicit for example, a flock of birds with a common goal, or dancing couples in a nightclub. But it s not strictly a series of lectures. The story of a born teacher, full of passion about even her very ...more
Jun 04, 2013 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Price of Everything is an enjoyable fiction story, interwoven with the essential economic lessons of Leonard Reed's "I, Pencil," Smith's Wealth of Nations, and other free-market economic greats. Using an informative dialogue between economics professor & university provost Ruth Lieber, and her Cuban-American student, Ramon, Russell Roberts breaks down economic basics (market systems, price emergence, spontaneous order, "unseen" forces) into concepts the non-economist can understand. Lieb ...more
Mar 07, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economic-prices
I loved this book, it will probably be a front runner for my favorite book of the year, though the year is young. Here the author explains how prices keep the free market in tune with the needs of the consumer.

There are books galore about this subject and I haven't read many but the thing that made this stand out is the story format along with several teaching dialogs between teacher and student. It held my attention throughout, with many of the dialogs drawing mental applause, with the AH-HA mo
Aug 04, 2009 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Daniel
About half-way through, and the dialogue is as clunky as those cars being recently swapped for cash . In fact, the book reads as the video accompanying my 7th grade Spanish book sounded: very contrived. "No hay carpetas," indeed.

But I do have to admit that there is some good in what the author is (obviously) trying to portray: that the world isn't just about corporate greed gouging the poor, but about innovation driven by incentives, not all of which are money. He challenges his readers to think
James Carmichael
If you are curious about some of the basic principles of microeconomics and don't know anything about them, this might be a lovely book to read. The lectures - which are most of it - are lucid and straightforward and clear. Beyond that: it's hard to get mad about this, because (a) the book is labeled as a "parable", not a novel, and (b) the book imparts the sense that Russell Roberts, the author, writes this kind of stuff out of a genuine desire to educate, but to this reader anything that wasn' ...more
Sep 28, 2008 Vincent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Vincent by:
Shelves: current
Russell Roberts has a remarkable talent for incorporating economics into readable, enjoyable fiction. This sequel to The Invisible Heart (I think it's safe to call it a sequel, considering the character "Amy" is in both) does well to show that some folks have a warped sense of economic "justice." Is it better to have products available at an "unfair" price, or unavailable at a "fair" price? What larger function do prices serve in a free market economy? How does government interference disrupt th ...more
May 22, 2012 Tyler rated it really liked it
Wow. This book was very, very good in my opinion. I am really only familiar with professor Roberts because of his infamous Hayek VS Keynes raps but he deserves more credit for making economics entertaining. Not just through videos or raps but this elegant short parable kept me wanting to read more. Not just the information in it, which alone deserves a high rating, but the actual story kept me wanting to read more. It would have been a 5/5 if I felt like the ending wasn't a little weak. I did li ...more
Ernestasia Siahaan
Apr 19, 2012 Ernestasia Siahaan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, economy
I was going to give this 3 stars based on the story-writing alone. But I learned so much from this book, it deserves more than 3 stars.

Having read a little review of this book beforehand, I had expected it to be teaching about economics - which it did well. But to my surprise, the book actually made me more passionate about the art of teaching and investing time in my students.

The character of Ruth Lieber touched me with her way of imparting her passion on economics and her way of meeting more
Aug 04, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really an incredible work. I hesitated to give it the full five stars only because a few short stretches of dialogue got to the point where it felt like I was reading an economic text. I know that's what Roberts tried to avoid and he largely succeeds. By the time you finish it you don't really care about those small issues.

He is able to integrate an entirely compelling story with economic concepts like emergent order, knowledge, and prices. You really connect with the characters and its ending
Jan 21, 2009 Rahul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Atlas Shrugged lite, this book is a fun fiction read that takes the reader through some basic economic philosophy in a non-boring manner. The book is set as a conversation between a professor and her student, who is involved in protesting a Wal-Mart like corporation for its business practices.

The author does a great job of conveying some basic tenets of neo-classical economics without getting bogged down in the details. The references to FA Hayek are great, and provide the reader with plenty of
Justin F
Dec 17, 2013 Justin F rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just as with his Podcast EconTalk, Russ Roberts distills economics into understandable concepts that the non-economist can understand and appreciate.

The story itself is entertaining and well-written. However, it is the nuggets of Hayek, Mises and other economists that is real meat.

If you enjoyed this book, definitely listen to the EconTalk podcast (especially back-episodes as there is a lot of great content in the archives).

This book is a great launching pad into more deep and complex economics
Anna Ebers
A quick enjoyable read that I finished during my airport wait and subsequent flight. Would recommend it as an introductory text to my econ students. I especially like the discussion about the morality of large retailer charging higher prices in the aftermath of an earthquake. Ramon Fernandez reminded me of some people I know who could stir up a revolution over a thing they don't clearly understand. The character of Ruth Lieber made me think of Deidre M, even though I have never met her, this is ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, economics
Another book about economics! This story is about a college tennis player whose mother brought him from Cuba as a child and his friendship with an economics professor. The professor sees leadership potential in the guy and mentors him in his understanding of economics and the free market theory. It was very interesting and informative, and helped me to better understand the modern economy. Want to know why it is 'fair' for a store to raise its prices during natural disasters? Read the book!
Jan 04, 2011 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well I wouldn't call it captivating or incredibly wonderful as a novel or parable (and the non-explanatory writing was kind of clunky), and I'm not sure the italicized paragraphs at each chapter beginning really did much to help... But it was a good introductory text on basic economics. Seemed a little bit simplified (I had all sorts of questions to ask), so I guess the author succeeded in his goal to inspire curiosity and desire to learn more.

And most definitely interesting to read at the same
Colette Campbell
I've been wanting to learn a bit more about economics, but the books I've gotten in the past have been too boring for me. This is a fiction book that teaches econ through the dialogue and plot. It's not an AWESOME page-turner, but it's pretty good and if you're wanting to get a good background on econ without being bored out of your mind this author is the way to go. Apparently he has other works of fiction that teach other aspects of econ, too.
Oct 02, 2009 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to Clare by: Ben
I wish everybody in America would read this book!!

So many of us don't understand how economics works, yet we make numerous decisions based on basic economics - from voting to shopping to values/ethics judgements.
Price plays a huge role in our lives every day in ways that most people don't ever notice.

Also, many Americans do not know why Americans' standard of living is so high compared to that of other nations. It's all about price and economics, baby! Read up!
Oct 03, 2010 Sean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The story was uninteresting, simplistic, often cliche, and even maudlin. But it does what it set out to do: inform the reader of some basic economics in support of free markets. I think Roberts is a good economist and my views are very similar to many of his, but this isn't a great book. I do give him credit for trying to find a way to educate people that resist learning economics presented in a more traditional manner, as an economically literate electorate is beneficial.
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Russell David "Russ" Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at

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