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Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception
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Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,310 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Ever since Adam Smith, the central teaching of economics has been that free markets provide us with material well-being, as if by an invisible hand. In Phishing for Phools, Nobel Prize-winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller deliver a fundamental challenge to this insight, arguing that markets harm as well as help us. As long as there is profit to be made, sel ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Princeton University Press (first published September 15th 2015)
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3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,310 ratings  ·  160 reviews

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After the 2008 collapse, economics has come under sustained criticism. The idea that economists and economic models were unable to predict the occurrence and scale of the crisis has damaged the credibility of mainstream economic thought to the average citizen. The theoretical premises of a certain mainstream economic school were called into question - the belief in human rationality, and that humans would always act to maximize their utility - this is the premise of an internally consistent mode ...more
Oct 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
(1.5 stars) What's the target audience? High school students? People who only watch reality TV and haven't opened a newspaper since the 80s?

Some ideas had the potential to be interesting, e.g. phishing equilibrium, the fact that the conventional neoclassical model needs to be modified because it can’t explain when and how “phishing” will occur, how the “stories” people tell themselves are an important component of the economic machinery, etc. Yet these concepts were left so fuzzy, broad and unde
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book was not well-written, nor did it explain anything new about economics. If the field of economics wasn't so enamored with the greatness of free markets, despite its obvious shortcomings, maybe this book wouldn't have been written. But, it appears economists still largely think people act rationally, and there is some invisible hand guiding markets in the right direction, which is hard to believe given all the fraud that regularly occurs, not to mention the Great Recession. I would like ...more
Atila Iamarino
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bom livro para quem quer uma introdução ao espaço para enganadores na economia. Um pouco de economia moderna, um pouco de publicidade, regulação e cognição. Tudo para ilustrar como mercados desregulados e anarcocaptalismo invariavelmente dão espaço para muita gente ser enganada e grandes problemas. Algo que aparentemente os americanos ainda precisam aprender.
Nov 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Did not finish, which is very rare for me for a nonfiction book. Would file what I did read under "not even wrong" - full of fairly obvious observations, and if you're interested in cognitive bias or advertising or fraud or finance etc. that the book covers, read something else about those things instead.

One star is maybe harsh, can imagine some people might get something out of it, but I was really unimpressed - and, most importantly, bored.

Ar esate kadanors buvę apgauti? Mūsų pinigai dažnai nepastebimai viliojami iš kišenės, piniginės, banko sąskaitų. Kodėl, kada ir kaip mes tampame tokiais "kvailiais", kuriuos "žvejoja", norintys pasipelnyti, šioje knygoje pasakoja ekonomistai George A. Akerlof ir Robert J. Shiller.

Knyga parašyta moksliniu stiliumi, su išsamiais pavyzdžiais, statistikomis, skaičiais, nuorodomis bei išnašomis pabaigoje. Neverta stebėtis, kad ją su ilgomis pertraukomis skaičiau gerą pusmetį. Nors ir bandy
Troy Blackford
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be an excellent book on the subject of how institutions and industries use the 'levers' of human biases and frailties to motivate or otherwise convince people to act against their own best interests. This subject gives it a lot of ground to cover, as this sort of thing plays out in everything from food manufacturing to pharmaceuticals, and beyond. A well-written and engaging book on a serious (and at times upsetting) topic.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Billed as highlighting the economics of manipulation and deception, this book provides, albeit with a slightly over-used ‘device’ a very interesting look at how we are being cheated by the invisible, free-market hand that many economists assure us works for our common good.

Can there be only winners or, for every winner must there be at least one losing counterpart? The authors must know their stuff, as you don’t get Nobel prizes (for economics) out of cereal packages. They provide a compelling v
Alex Kenjeev
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
I got to the end of this book and realized I'm not really sure what it's authors were actually arguing. They claim to be advocating a new mode of "equilibrium" (to use economics-speak), where the balance between supply and demand is replaced by a balance between "phishers" and "phools". It all makes sense intellectually but it felt unfinished. Let's grant this new model, for discussion's sake. How can we test its validity? What outcomes does it predict, where conventional models fail?

I also str
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
Was expecting more. Their thesis about phools who are phished by alcohol was weak and ancedotal. Their political bias was definitely on display. I have more to say and revise this review in the next day or so.
Athan Tolis
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ec-and-finance

Two of the world’s most famous behavioral economists are on a mission from God. Their task is critical. They must travel 239 years back in time, all the way to 1776, to introduce Adam Smith’s butcher, brewer and baker to their nemesis, the dreaded phisherman. If it all goes to plan, the economics profession, and the world at large, will be rescued from the touch of the invisible hand.

Somewhere in the time capsule, and while they are waiting for the synthesis between the Phishing Equilibrium and
Steven Peterson
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Many of us are aware of the concept of “phishing.” Wikipedia defines this notion thus: “Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. The word is a neologism created as a homophone of fishing due to the similarity of using a bait in an attempt to catch a victim.” This book notes that phishing is al ...more
Karl Nordenstorm
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Other books by the duo are better. There is nothing radical in here, if you have a well rounded knowledge of the world, you will just amass some anecdotes maybe find a new perspective or two on things you kind of knew.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Bylo to takový nijaký. Autoři chtěli obsáhnout vše, nemluvili ale o ničem konkrétním. Jejich závěry byly často dosti pochybné. Bylo to hodně povrchní a s behaviorální ekonomii to nemělo vůbec nic společného. Nelíbilo. Nedoporučuji.
Dmitry Kuriakov
Mar 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: finance, economics
По словам авторов, они хотели написать в меру научную и в меру доступную книгу для широкой аудитории. Получилось? Не думаю. Тут как в знаменитой пословице про двух зайцев. Авторы не стали углубляться в одну конкретную тему, но и также не стали опускаться до простого или любительского уровня. В итоге получилось, что одни прочитали и мало что поняли, т.к. темы связанные с финансовым миром авторы совершенно не упростили, а для тех людей, кто понимает и разбирается в вопросе, авторы тоже ничего не п ...more
Nick Klagge
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
This book has a reasonable concept behind it but is poorly executed in my opinion. The authors don't really give a clear idea of why they are writing the book until the very end. To give my own summary with the best possible spin, the authors (two very prominent economists) are interested in linking findings of behavioral economics with partial equilibrium (and perhaps general equilibrium) microeconomics. In general, the discipline of behavioral economics has focused heavily on special cases and ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: bibliocase
We live in a world where a plethora of materialistic lures compete for our attention and resources. We in turn are enslaved to and enraptured by wants which might on hindsight be totally inessential or unnecessary. Why is it that we fall prey to the tricks of unscrupulous dealers and businessmen even though we are rational and completely capable of making logical decisions. Why are we rendered incapable and vulnerable at those precise moments which call for clarity, alertness and judiciousness?

Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The book written by George A. Akerlof (who won Nobel prize in Economic Sciences) and Robert J. Shiller contains a simple idea, that Chuck Palahniuk described in 1996:
"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need." Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Unfortunately, Palahniuk somehow hadn't received his Nobel prize for this wonderful discovery. Sigh.

In Akerlof's book it's not just advertising that makes us buy 'sh*t'. He describes how free markets create goods and services that
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Cognitive dissonance at its best. The authors struggle to maintain their free-market bone fides, but continue to run into the incapacitating contradictions to general equilibrium theory. In this case, Akerlof and Shiller illustrate the implications of behavioural economics, that is, people whose wants can be manipulated by greed or advertising. They argue that the existence of manipulable people creates its own demand – Says Law for dummies.

“But let’s not carry our praise of markets too far. Th
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: grey
For any book of non-fiction which is attempting to advance a theory of how some aspect of the world works, there are at least two ways to judge it. One, is on the quality of the questions it raises. The second, is on the quality of the answers it gives. It is no condemnation of this book, that it is much better by the first standard, than by the second. The right questions are often harder to arrive at than the right answers to those questions.

The term "phishing" comes from early computer hackin
Jalal Almarhoon
Feb 20, 2016 rated it liked it
القاعدة الاقتصادية تفترض انه عند وجود حاجة (الطلب) سيوجد من يلبي هذه الحاجه (العرض). عند وجود من يقبل ان يدفع مال مقابل خدمات او سلع، سيوجد من يقدم هذه الخدمات والسلع...

يسحب المؤلفان القاعدة ليقولا انه عند وجود فرصة لتحصيل او تعظيم المال (حتى بالخديعة والتضليل) فسيوجد من يستغل الفرصة!! قد يكون ذلك باغراء المستهلك لشراء ما يزيد عن حاجته او عدم اعطائه معلومات كافيه ليتخذ القرار المناسب..

الكتاب يستعرض الفكرة من خلال مناقشة مجموعة امثله من عالم الاعمال والنظام المصرفي والسياسة.. يناقش كيف ولماذا، و
Jaryn Friesen
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"And that is where this book comes in. Casting Phishing for Phools in an Adam Smith-style general equilibrium framework, which is the benchmark for thinking for all economists, suggests its generality. The generality cues us into the inevitability of phishing.
returning to the question of why economists missed the financial crash: if we had been thinking about phishing for phools as a general phenomenon that occurs insofar as people have informational or psychological weaknesses that can be expl
Pavlo Illashenko
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The basic idea - phishing for phools (manipulation and deception) is a natural consequence of free markets as externalities; those who are driven by profits will use your weaknesses against you. This can imply that economy can be at suboptimal equilibrium.

This is an old idea. The most usual counterargument - people know better. But, if you know something from behavioral economics this argument sounds silly. No, people can be very mistaken what makes them happy and it is quite easy to exploit thi
Hakan Jackson
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
It really seemed like the author was just trying to make "phishing for phools" the new popular phrase by expanding what it means to phish. The big problem is we already have a word for what the author is trying to describe. It's called "corruption". Sure the premise is fine: a free market doesn't lead to utopia. However, the author suffers from what the military calls "Mission Creep". The author strays from economics to seek out corruption in seemingly random industries, from pharma to the gover ...more
David Robertus
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
An important bit of economics, although not necessarily well described. The authors are so bent on trying to make this work accessible that it seems to lose focus. It falls into a series of historical events and studies but doesn't try too hard to bridge them or probe deeper into the psychological or behavioral phenomenon at work. Still, from a standpoint of examining policies that societies have been able to put to work to address these issues, I have to recommend it.
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
a rather short book. the title may suggest a comprehensive look into the link between economics and psychology, but that link was only briefly touched on. a good summary of major misbehaving in the recent time but it still lacks a meaningful recommendation. i like the last part of the heroes and i do appreciate the works from those 3 parties.
Oct 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Some interesting anecdotes; however, no new ideas or revelations. I would say that it is worth a read.
Nate Barker
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Super disappointing book given the authors. It seemed super half-baked, and like it was just a first draft of a book they had put together.
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is now a good forty years after the advent of the modern era of Globalization. In the public domain, we find sharp criticisms of Neo-liberal economics. There are concerns on income inequality. People feel that the odds are against the common man and stacked in favor of the big corporations. The much-touted trickle-down economics does not seem to be working. We have Thomas Piketty leading a critique on capitalism. Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbin in the UK question the fundame ...more
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
From the preface:
"The late nineteenth century was a busy time for inventors: the automobile, the telephone, the bicycle, the electric light. But another invention of the time has received much less attention: the “slot machine.” Slot machine in the beginning did not have its present-day connotation. The term referred to any sort of “vending machine”: you deposited your coin in a slot; you got to open a box. By the 1890s slot machines were selling chewing gum, cigars and cigarettes, opera glasses
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Reviews of the book 2 4 Apr 09, 2016 01:53PM  
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George A. Akerlof is a Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics.
“The economic system is filled with trickery, and everyone needs to know that. We all have to navigate this system in order to maintain our dignity and integrity, and we all have to find inspiration to go on despite craziness all around us. We wrote this book for consumers, who need to be vigilant against a multitude of tricks played on them. We wrote it for businesspeople, who feel depressed at the cynicism of some of their colleagues and trapped into following suit out of economic necessity. We wrote it for government officials, who undertake the usually thankless task of regulating business. We wrote it for the volunteers, the philanthropists, the opinion leaders, who work on the side of integrity. And we wrote it for young people, looking ahead to a lifetime of work and wondering how they can find personal meaning in it. All these people will benefit from a study of phishing equilibrium—of economic forces that build manipulation and deception into the system unless we take courageous steps to fight it. We also need stories of heroes, people who out of personal integrity (rather than for economic gain) have managed to keep deception in our economy down to livable levels. We will tell plenty of stories of these heroes.” 3 likes
“The winning electoral strategy with phishable voters is threefold: 1. Publicly, proclaim policies that will appeal to the typical voter on issues that are salient to her, and where she will be well informed. 2. But on other issues, where the typical voter is ill informed, but where potential campaign donors are well informed, take the stance that appeals to donors. Publicize this stance to would-be contributors, without broadcasting it widely to the general public. 3. Use the contributions from these “special-interest groups” for campaigning that increases popularity among the regular run of voters, who are more likely to vote for someone who “mows their lawn on TV.” 1 likes
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