The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World
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The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  2,717 ratings  ·  168 reviews
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...more
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Published January 15th 2008 by Random House (first published 2006)
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I like this type of book, but sometimes it feels like pseudoscience. What the heck! It was insightful to be introduced to Kahneman and Tversky in a book like say Against the Gods, and then to have it rebutted in the first few chapters of this book.

While I may enjoy it, it is going to leave me a little like freakonomics, i.e., a good book but not quite a classic.

After reading it, I must say it is looking like a lesser book than freakonomics. Afterall, freakonomics was the first in this genre. A...more
Dustin Allison
I've been trying to increase my understanding of economics lately, and have found myself reading a lot of books like this one. From 'The Undercover Economist' to 'Freakonomics' I feel a lot more informed about the world, but also better equipped to view my surroundings from new perspectives.

This book is no exception. Harford has a knack for delivering complex information to the everyday reader in an entertaining way. Most importantly, he deals with issues that are relevant to the average person...more
Jan 19, 2014 Carly rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who can identify the wild jumps in logic, yet still enjoy the book
Recommended to Carly by: the author's radio programme and other book--that'll teach me to theorize ahead of the evidence.
**edited 01/18/14

Tim Harford, you're breaking my heart, and more importantly, you're undermining my faith in quantitative economics. I am a passionate fan of your BBC radio show, "More or Less." What could possibly be more entertaining than a topical radio programme that uses statistics to fact-check the politicians, especially if it occasionally measures things in whales and/or Wales? Sure, I don't have the same faith in rationality that you do--well, not without completely bending the meaning...more
The explanatory ambition of this book is stunning--Harford offers rational actor explanations of changes in sexual activity, racial segregation in cities, professional poker, the number of people in parks at different times of day, the productivity of cities, the industrial revolution, colonization, and even why human beings eventually triumphed over neanderthals!

Along the way you get informative sketches of major 20th century economists and game theorists and their theories.

I was most impress...more
Very disappointing. Very shallow and simplistic.
Fairly early in the book I reached the statement that the author's morning coffee habit and an addition to heroin are basically the same thing, just different in a matter of degree.
If I had the book from the library I would have given up at that point, but having paid for the book I soldiered on, unfortunately, hoping for something better to turn up. No such luck. The book ends with a ridiculous speculation about why the Neanderthals went extinct 3...more
Andy Turner
Interesting book which raises various psychological issues in its exploration of rational decision making. Some of the issues raised are set in context with geographical examples, which I like.

The author, Tim Harford, is a self proclaimed economist and he has a website:

I thought the book was calling for a closer integration of economics into social science research to develop a clearer understanding of the way things work. Maybe this is happening, but nevertheless, I won...more
A grandiose title that tells you this book is a little more ambitious than "The Undercover Economist". Harford writes with passion and urgency, defending rational choice theory as a useful framework for predicting in the majority of cases how the majority of people behave. Because people change their behaviours in response to incentives (and these include non-financial ones), rational choice theory also lends itself well to policymaking.

Someone needs to write about how those incentives can or s...more
Mark Russell
A frequently fascinating, tightly reasoned entry in the gonzo economist movement which has become all the rage in the last ten years.

Now for the mandatory comparison to Freakonomics: Though not as hyped or flashy as Levitt & Dubner's growing franchise, like them Harford applies the methodology of economics in answering questions about social values and human nature. And in many instances, The Logic of Life is more challenging and meticulously researched than his genre's more popular counterp...more
An economist proves that people are more rational than we think

Economists no longer just propose fiscal policies, forecast business growth, investigate interest rates and assign value to financial assets. Now they also conduct lab experiments, research teenagers’ sexual activities, analyze prostitutes’ condom usage, hypothesize about what happened to the Neanderthals, explain crime waves and develop winning poker strategies. Look under the bed or out the window, and you will probably find an eco...more
Ever since Stevens, Levitt and Dubner broke into the scene with their enormously popular Freakonomics, there has been a multitude of popular economics books. Books that uses the tools of economics -- the study of incentives, laws of supply and demand, trade-offs -- and apply them to everyday life. The result is often a fun, counterintuitive explanation of how the world works. Dubner and Levitt's most memorable contribution being attributing the decreasing crime rates in the U.S. to legalizing ab...more
Some of the chapters of the book are interesting (game theory, marriage and divorce) but others look like wild guesses. In many cases, he presents
events as causal when in my opinion they are only correlated.

(view spoiler)...more
Review for The Logic of Life
Author Tim Harford
ISBN: 978-1-58836-682-5

“The logic of life: the rational economics of an irrational world”

My chief beef with economics has always been based on 2 simple observations:
(1)Men and women are not rational creatures
(2)Economics is horrible at forecasting future events because of irrational behavior

My conclusion then is that economics as a field of study is flawed and there are no “laws of economics” because the field is so full of potholes there can’t be....more
H. Ric
This is an educational and entertaining dissertation on "rational economics," a newer branch of the "dismal science." It purports to show that much of what we often judge as irrational behavior is not, at least not from the actor's perspective. Which is not to say that it is good for the larger society. The book is a non-technical in that it has no equations or charts, but it delves into some subtle concepts in economics and game theory. A real pean to Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize winning e...more
This book looks to be interesting, in a similar vein to Freakonomics.

BUT: I'm on page 4 of chapter 1, and my hackles are already up. Why? Because of the term "regular sex" being used interchangeably with "penetrative sex," specifically excluding "oral sex" as being "regular". It's a little better than if the term "normal sex" was used... but not by much. It seems all the more strange since part of the author's point is that the performance of oral sex is increasing - making it even more "regular...more
Of all the pop economics books I've read (at least 3!) in the last few years, this is my current favorite. Asserting that people act rationally -- conventional economic wisdom for 300 years -- is unconventional again, and this book does a nice job of putting that in some perspective.

It's most notable for its survey of economic work that identifies off-beat, or less-visible "incentives" that cause people to behave as they do. It also provides a useful contrast to the economics laboratory studies...more
Христо Блажев
Тим Харфорд шашка с “Нещата от живота и тяхната логика”

Този текст трябваше да бъде ревю на друга книга – “Икономист под прикритие” от същия автор, която току-що излезе на пазара с фантастичната корица от Петър Станимиров, чийто албум “Вдъхновен от Стивън Кинг” май ще си подаря за Коледа, защото още не мога да се добера до копие.
“Икономист”-ът ме преследва в работата от известно време и само ме изкушава да бъде прочетена. Но аз съм принципен читател и в...more
Kirsty Darbyshire

I heard Tim Harford on Start the Week a month or three back - I can't remember what he said now but it was interesting enough for me to order his book from the library. When the book turned up I wasn't convinced that I was going to find it that enthralling but I ended up loving it.

This is all about how the world is shaped by pretty much everyone making rational choices about the world around them and yet we end up with some things, like rough neighbourhoods or overpaid bosses, that don't appear

Lovely book. Not afraid to tackle difficult questions or of being politically incorrect. Uses standard economics theory to explain things to a popular audience in an easily understandable way, and draws some conclusions which at times can be quite a stretch, but always entertaining. Good author to keep track of. Young students should be prescribed this book as the start of an economics course to make them truly fall in love with the subject!
A book I wish I owned, The Logic of Life is a great follow up to The Undercover Economist, the author's previous effort. In this book, Tim Harford examines how rational choices make the world go round. Fascinating examples abound including how teenagers recently (and rationally) prefer oral sex to old fashioned sex after weighing the risks and benefits of each. And how the 2000 World Series of Poker Champion used game theory to sew up his victory. There is enough intellectually challenging mate...more
Questo secondo volume Harford mantiene le aspettative sollevate dal precedente. Altri comportamenti apparentemente paradossali vengono spiegati e fatti comprendere alla luce di un comportamento economico "logico", addirittura spesso inevitabile. L'accento si sposta sulle applicazioni della teoria dei giochi (all'ombra dei contrapposti giganti del campo, Von Neuman e Schelling) ancor piu' che nel precedente volume: speed dating, inurbazione, progresso delle popolazioni, promozioni e stipendi esag...more
Harford books are well-written, engaging, and funny. If you loved the Freakonomics books, are a Malcolm Gladwell fan, and want more, I wholeheartedly recommend these.

The Logic of Life is a great read, with a thesis that I like, although it isn't breaking news. Basically, Harford points out that, even when people seem crazy and stupid, they're usually acting rationally and responding to incentives.

It definitely reads a bit like a collection of articles that was tweaked to make into a book. The l...more
Void lon iXaarii
The author is back undercover, with another brilliantly written well researched book of analysis of everything all around us. Fascinating analysis of incentives and realities in our every day life, ranging from neighborhood issues, teen sexuality and gambling through racism, real estate and big scale social changes. Fascinating stuff. Even knowing about this very interesting way of making sense of seemingly random life elements I'm again blown away by how many things he's able to explain and rea...more
Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
This is one of those books written by an economist who longs to be a sociologist. The subtitle of this book; "Rational economics in an irrational world," more accurately reflects the content than the main title does. Two chapters particularly interesting to me are "The dangers of rational racism" and "Is divorce underrated?" The chapter on rational racism makes sense as to why racism is so difficult to change and the chapter on divorce points out how the self-reinforcing loop leading to divorce...more
Very interesting entry in the pop economics lit. And very readable. Less one star on account of its facile last chapter (seemingly tacked on): an economist's take on the whole of human history.
This is another in the vein of Freakonomics, which I think is possibly just as good. It tries to be more controversial than necessary, the first chapter being about how prostitutes use economic theory in making decisions. maybe he thinks economics will only be accepted as a form of entertainment if it is scandalous, a la Freakonomics' legal-abortion-equals-lower-crime-rate. But while attempting to scandalize, it really isn't all that outrageous, and like most topics in the book, it makes a lot o...more
Through the audible version of this book, I found it a quick and easy read. It does contain several interesting stories about various esoteric aspects of life that rarely discussed in economics terms. It does provide some food for thought and a good beach reading (if the detective stories and romantic tales not your kind of thing there) as it does not require deep concentration or active thinking. Sort of intellectual spoon-feeding; the best kind for summer vacations without the guilt of complet...more
This book is similar to Freakonomics - it's a collection of (unrelated) examples / insights, loosely related to economy. If anything, they are all under the huge umbrella of "how people make (rational) choice by reacting to incentives".

In a way, each small example is cute, but you don't get a grand picture or theory that is thoroughly / deeply examined (as it is typically offered by a great book with hundreds of pages). Instead, this book feels more like the result of stapling together a number...more
Tim Harford is an English economist and journalist. He was born in England in 1973 and now resides in London. He writes economics books and a column in the Financial Times, He was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School, Berkshire and then at Brasenose College, Oxford where he got his undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and his Masters degree in Economics.

I've been trying to increase my understanding of economics lately, and found The Logic of Life really interesting. The aut...more
I've been reading books on behavioral economics recently and I read this book in the midst. It's fantastic. Tim describes in detail how while irrational behaviors can be seen by amateurs and in isolated incidents, in aggregate and in general an expert's behavior tends to approximate the most rational. He also goes on to describe that this does not necessarily mean that what's rational at individual level translate to what's rational for a group or a society. Recommended.
Good book. It's a quick read. It argues that a lot of behavior that we might figure is irrational, like aspects of racism, often turns out to be a rational response to incentives. Sometimes it's a happy surprise, like imminent no-fault divorce laws causing domestic violence to drop by one third. Sometimes it's depressing, like the rationality of some racism. But his point I think is that the more one understands what is going on, the more able one is to fix it.
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Tim Harford is a member of the Financial Times editorial board. His column, “The Undercover Economist”, which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences, is published in the Financial Times and syndicated around the world. He is also the only economist in the world to run a problem page, “Dear Economist”, in which FT readers’ personal problems are answered tongue-in-cheek with the late...more
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“The more grotesque your boss's pay and the less he has do to earn it, the bigger the motivation for you to work with the aim of being promoted to what he has.” 6 likes
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