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

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  704 Ratings  ·  71 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
Apr 27, 2011 Adam Shields rated it it was amazing
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 The first half is about how economics have been understood by looking at ancient historical documents (Epic of Gilgamesh, Old Testament, New Testament, various Greek philosophers).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
Apr 01, 2012 Sebastian rated it liked it
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
Oct 15, 2011 Megan rated it it was ok
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
Jan 24, 2013 Eva rated it it was ok
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.
Tomáš Daněk
Mar 12, 2014 Tomáš Daněk rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 02, 2014 Ashkhan rated it really liked it
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
Radek Saturka
Jan 21, 2012 Radek Saturka rated it did not like it
Nečekal jsem mnoho, nedostal jsem mnoho. Z mého pohledu zbytečná kniha.
Aug 15, 2013 Seth rated it liked it
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
May 21, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2014 Suhrob rated it it was ok
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
Mar 18, 2014 Samiur rated it liked it
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
Nov 21, 2012 Birdbath Birdbath rated it really liked it
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.
Lars Sanders
Aug 08, 2013 Lars Sanders rated it really liked it
everyone whit an opinion about the current economic crisis should study this and think again
Feb 26, 2014 Robin rated it liked it
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
Aug 28, 2015 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
De ondertitel maakt duidelijk welke reis er gemaakt wordt aan de hand van gids Tomáš Sedláček: De zoektocht naar economische zingeving van Gilgamesj tot Wall Street. Het boek is een aangepaste versie van een proefschrift dat Sedláček indiende bij de Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen van de universiteit waar hij toen studeerde. Het werd verworpen vanwege 'twijfelachtige wetenschappelijke waarde'. Of dat een correct oordeel is of niet, kan op basis van het boek niet meer worden nagegaan want het ...more
Aug 24, 2015 AJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
I originally picked this up as a read about economics (duh), but it was rather an analysis of philosophy and theology, with those subjects as context in the current and historic field of economics today. In other words, I found Sedlacek's work to be a weave of philosophical variables (such as human/social preferences) and their deficient in mathematical models. Economics, after all, is quantification of our behavior. The first part of the book even details some complimentary themes with Russell ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Pieter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economie, filosofie
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
Jelle de Jong
Feb 21, 2014 Jelle de Jong rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 21, 2013 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
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
Sep 17, 2013 Petrucha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2015 Tomasz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As stated in other reviews, this book is not exactly about economics, more focused on philosophy of economics. The book is rather boring and hard to get through. It does contain a few smart points, but this is hidden amongst inadequate comparisons, and multiple repetitions of 'obvious truths'. The author states that economics is too focused on mathematics. While many may agree with this, what he proposes is totally ditching mathematics in economics, which is at least equally insane as relaying s ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Annamária rated it really liked it
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
Feb 13, 2014 Lee Bertsch rated it really liked it
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
Apr 02, 2012 Simone rated it liked it
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
Jun 12, 2013 Kristen rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 01, 2015 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
quite insightful, actually, and a c timely call for a return to an ethics-based economics
Jan 18, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jsem z jineho kulturniho prostredi :( proto jen **
Mar 05, 2013 Pavel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marko Jerina
Nov 13, 2015 Marko Jerina rated it it was amazing
Briliant philosophical read.
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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
“We are not exactly sure what we are growing toward, but we compensate for this shortcoming by accelerating.” 0 likes
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