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Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street
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Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  508 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Tomas Sedlacek has shaken the study of economics as few ever have. Named one of the "Young Guns" and one of the "five hot minds in economics" by the Yale Economic Review, he serves on the National Economic Council in Prague, where his provocative writing has achieved bestseller status. How has he done it? By arguing a simple, almost heretical proposition: economics is ulti ...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published by oxford university press (first published 2009)
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Though I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, Sedlacek's book left me with many things to consider. I do think he's correct in his main argument, that the study of economics has become too focused on econometrics to its detriment. A return to a more philosophical, ethical approach might be of use. And I also found his comments on consumer culture to be profound. Can we reach a 'bliss point' by buying things or raising our income? Or can myths and other old views of economics have something ...more
Adam Shields
Short review: This is one of the best economic books I have read. It is a wide ranging book about the purpose and history of economics. The first half is about how economics have been understood by looking at ancient historical documents (Epic of Gilgamesh, Old Testament, New Testament, various Greek philosophers). Then it moves to how early economics viewed economics. The last section is about the limits of economics and a call for economics to move away from mathematics determinism and to a re ...more
Definitely an erudite book on many levels... but sort of boring in other ways. It would be perfect as a series of talks belonging to some "humanities festival" for a liberal arts college, or an undergraduate course that is aimed at giving students a chance to do close reading of major western texts focused on a single theme (economics).

Which is another way of saying that I think plenty of people will enjoy this book, but it wasn't really what I was hoping for; I ended up mostly skimming it. I do
Although the title contains the word economics, the book is more a concentrated history of philosophy, human culture, and civilisation. As the reader learns at the end of this book, Sedlacek's treatise is meant as a plea for refocusing on normative economics than the mathematics dominated positive economics of today.

Despite that the text often lacks drawing conclusions and does not explain how the risen questions and topics apply to economics.

Readers should have basic knowledge in macro economic
If you want a short textbook on philosophy, this is for you. Don’t expect much economics though.
One of very few things I’ve learnt from this book is that the author is well-read. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it readable. The quotations that amaze you at first begin to feel annoying as you progress and make you think ok, we have heard this a thousand times, do you have an idea of your own? He has indeed, in the end, but nothing more than sheer common sense. Spoiler: overconsumption is bad.
Radek Saturka
Nečekal jsem mnoho, nedostal jsem mnoho. Z mého pohledu zbytečná kniha.
Economics of Good and Evil is certainly different. Despite its title, one won't find any fomulas, models, graphs or statistics inside of its covers. It discusses current (messy) state of the world economy but it doesn't offer any solutions. No easy steps to follow to become super-successful or 5 worst actions to avoid in your life if you want to become healthy and happy.

The first part argues that economics is more than just mathematics. It evolved from philosophy, ethics and other "soft" discipl
Aug 15, 2013 Seth rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Seth by: Adam Shields
This is a difficult book to classify, and thus to review. It's not a book of economics, but rather about economics, particularly the modern focus on mathematics to the exclusion of ethics. It's pretty abstract and philosophical. I almost gave up a number of times in the first 150 pages, as I slogged through Sedlacek picking out and commenting on the economic bread crumbs found in the most ancient of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, followed by Greek thought, Stoicism, historic Christianity, an ...more
A very intellectual and informative Book, but his style of writing is pleasant . Sedlacek manages to explain difficult topics in comprehensive manner, so that everyone could understand it even, if one doesn't know much about economy. I particularly liked the fact that he criticized the domination of mathematics in the economy and regret the lack and disregard of other subjects like philosophy, history, ethnology, etc.
He suggest to change some of our habits (egoism, to achieve fame and profit, t
I heard Sedlacek had problems to submit his PhD thesis which he then published (reworked) in a book form.
I initially thought this is just another example how wretched current economics is, but in fact I tend to agree now - at best this belongs to the literature department.

The book is roughly split into 2 parts. The first part is a tour of western literary cannon (well small part of it - Gilgamesh, Bible, bit of jewish tradition, scholastics...) ending with Adam Smith. Sedlacek provides literary
I bought this book when I visited Austria earlier last year, and enjoyed the read during the holidays. It's a relatively light, philosophical, and easy read (with a good intro by Vaclav), which hence makes it a good holiday read. Borderline erudite.

Basically, Sedlacek makes the case for the role of philosophy, religion, history, and ethics, and also explores the intersections of these tenets in creating/establishing stories and the role of stories behind Economics, theories, and decision making.
Birdbath Birdbath
I found this book googling "economics of good" so I was primed to enjoy it and was in the mood. It delivered. The author meandered a bit but in the end I was left full and satisfied. Do read it. I found it free online.
Tomáš Daněk
1) Economy is not a real (exact) science.
2) Money is not everything.
Wow, big deal.
Save yourself time and money and read Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Lars Sanders
everyone whit an opinion about the current economic crisis should study this and think again
I am taking a class , Creating God's Economy, at Christian Theological Seminary, and this book helped me understand the development of economic thought from Gilgamesh to current economists. I agree with the NYT reviewer that the author's conclusions are not supported well, but the role of notions of good and bad in economics were interesting. Prior to the 1930's ethics was part of economic thought, but today self-interest dominates and mathematical models give the impression that ethical conside ...more
Helder opgebouwd historisch overzicht over de verhouding tussen economie en moraal. Economie is veel ouder dan Adam Smith en Sedlacek laat zijn boek dan ook beginnen bij het Gilgamesj-epos ten tijde van de Mesopotamiërs. De mens wordt er aangezet de natuur rond zich te cultiveren. Daarna komen de Grieken met Xenophon, Aristoteles en Plato aan bod. Die eerste dacht al na over vrijhandel en specialisatie. Ook de rol van het Oude Testament (focus op het hiernumaals, droom van de Farao aan Jozef) en ...more
Stephan Renkens
Tomáš Sedláček is quite a popular economist, apparently. The president of the Belgian (Flemish) liberal party, Gwendolyn Rutten, found guidance in his writings, and Sedláček advised also Vaclav Havel in his home country, the Chech Republic.

The book has two parts. In the first part the author seeks economics in myth. His journey starts with prehistoric Sumerians, and ends with Adam Smith. He demonstrates that already in the most ancient stories of human history major economic topics were treated.
Jelle de Jong
Feb 21, 2014 Jelle de Jong rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Jelle by: Hans de Jong
De heer Sedláček heeft een boek geschreven. Dat is opletten geblazen, want hij is geen kleine jongen. Hij was adviseur van Václav Havel (de laatste president van Tsjecho-Slowakije en de eerste van Tsjechië).. Door Yale Economic Review is hij uitgeroepen tot een van de 'vijf spannendste denkers in de economie', wat overigens een twijfelachtig compliment is. Tegenwoordig is hij de eerst macro-econoom van de grootste Tjeschische bank en lid van de Nationale Economische Raad in Praag.

Het onderstaand
Naomi Hilsden
I found this the most interesting book I've read for a long time. Another reviewer called it boring - I suppose it depends on your interests but I didn't find it boring, I couldn't put it down.

First of all, let me admit that I have little to no knowledge of economic theory, historical or otherwise. I knew a brief bit about Adam Smith but that was my limit. I don't really feel able to critique the economic content other than to say that I agreed with his observations on GDP and growth capitalism
Musím říct, že jediný důvod, proč jsem knihu četla, byla přednáška na TV Noe :) Zní to zvláštně, ale jednou jsem při přepínání televize narazila na kanálu Noe na jakousi přednášku, byla tam spousta starších lidí a přednášel jim velice zvláštní výřečný pán, který vesele, výrazně a taky svérázně gestikuloval. Neviděla jsem to od začátku, takže jsem se jen chytala náznaků a došlo mi, že se jedná o snahu poukázat na ekonomii v Bibli. Tenhle pořad mě naprosto dostal, protože jsem se poprvé v životě s ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Annamária rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: to those who study economics
I had to read it for school, and the style was surprisingly humanistic. It had examples from popular films, as Fighter's club, Matrix, and so on. For me religion was the downfall, because I didn't read the bible nor intend to, and I do not consider myself religious, so I didn't like the constant comparison. But it was good enough.
Lee Bertsch
A rather dense book that I could not read profitably after 10 p.m. He offers a detailed summary of the many ways people have thought about the economy from the beginning of history. His sections on the Old Testament and on Jesus were of special interest to me and he handled that material fairly and with fresh insight. His book is a strong challenge against the way modern economics is built around a hedonistic self love and the way it has been reduced to mathematical calculations without any mora ...more
A challenging book, but worth the read if you're interested in looking at how our thoughts on what economics is, what it means and how it fits in our western society. Some chapters are a slow and difficult wander through a strange flow of thought, but once it moves from the overviews of specific time periods, it gets more interesting and tout provoking. Consideration of our attitudes of consumption and how they came to be are certainly fascinating. All in all this book is not what I expected. It ...more
Everyone should read this. Everyone. It's all about how morality and economics intertwine -- both how economics today is SO MUCH more normative than it claims to be, and includes so many a priori value judgments yet has convinced most of society that it's a purely objective science; and how values themselves have been interpreted through economic metaphors and viewpoints. Surveyed by someone who has read widely, watched TV and film widely, and understands culture such as philosophy, literature, ...more
Jsem z jineho kulturniho prostredi :( proto jen **
Kniha je to zajímavá, ale trochu zmatená. Jedna třetina se věnuje vnímání dobrého a špatného ve starých textech (Epos o Gilgamešovi, Starý zákon), další třetina je o zrodu ekonomie jako vědy a jejích východiscích a problémech a poslední třetina se zabývá ekonomickou krizí. Celé je to hodně ukecané a trochu to nedrží pohromadě. Asi tak do poloviny není jasné, kam autor směřuje a jak spolu ty jednotlivé části souvisejí.
Text je navíc rozbitý spoustou poznámek (530!), které by většinou mohly být jeh
Na knížce se mi paradoxně nejvíce líbil konec - tedy ne úvahy a exkurz do historie ekonomie a hledání odpovědi, zda je lepší "být zlý či hodný", ale zamyšlení nad současnou situací (krize) a úvahy na ekonomií jako takovou. Autor má v oblasti velký přehled, na můj vkus vše ale příliš provazuje s křesťanstvím, sem tam odbíhá a občas se i opakuje. Osobně by se mi více líbíla forma sbírky úvah, než historický výlet. Na druhou stranu jsem si odnesl spoustu podnětů k zamyšlení, takže knížku můžu jenom ...more
Very interesting, but not so easy to read book.

Learned about Gilgamesh, rediscovered the 'real' Keynes, got more insight in Western economical history and a lot more...

I do not completely agree with the author on all of his thinking. It would be great to have a live debate on the book with some other readers.

By coincidence Alain de Botton wrote an opinion in the Financial Times on a similar topic. A vivid debate is going on there as well: .
Gilgamesch Epos - Matrix - U2 ... Der Autor spannt einen weiten Bogen und bezieht die gesamte ökonomische Historie der Menschheit mit ein - wenigstens die der westlichen Menschheit. Er erklärt wieso Adam Smith nicht der Vater der unsichtbaren Hand des Marktes ist. Und er stellt schwierige Fragen: Kann der Konsum dem Einzelnen den "bliss point" erkaufen? Er beweist, wie die Ökonomen doch irrational blind glauben. Viel Denkfutter. Sehr lohnend.
Pana Sedláčka mám rád, a proto jsem upřímně čekal trochu víc - ne ve smyslu odborném, právě naopak. Mám jej rád z toho důvodu, jak umí podat odbornou ekonomii obyčejným laikům, a něco podobného jsem čekal i od této knihy. Samozřejmě, je krásnou sondou a možná i analýzou historie ekonomie, z mnoha pohledů, ale já zkrátka čekal něco možná i trochu vtipného a "jednoduššího".
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“According to Plato, a hierarchy of being and a hierarchy of knowledge exist, knowledge of ideas rests at the top, while at the bottom lies knowledge of trickery, illusions, shadows dancing on cave walls. By the way, mathematical knowledge is not in the highest position; philosophical knowledge is. Mathematics can’t describe the whole truth—even if we were to describe the entire world in precise mathematical equations, we would not have full knowledge.” 1 likes
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