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The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity
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The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  564 ratings  ·  74 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 ...more
Hardcover, 203 pages
Published August 17th 2008 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Greg Linster
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mahala Helf
Dec 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Simplistic, unimaginative, outdated & cliched attempt to glorify the market and analogize human economic behavior with natural phenomena.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
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Kelly Cox
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read. Has to be in the top 2 books I have read this year.
Skylar Burris
This is a purely didactic novel, and as such it consists of lengthy passages of dialogue that expound on principles of economics - most particularly how supply, demand, and prices work, why markets are important, and why it's a bad idea for the government to control prices. As such, it's not much of a story. It lacks tension, and because the characters are largely props, it's not possible to become attached to them. It has a forced feel to it.

The economic lessons are well explored and
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An accessible Fountainhead!

This is a touching book in many ways, but it really is a story of choices. It is told through the conversation between a Cuban Immigrant and a Stanford professor. The conversation is one that any high school, college student, or even an adult not well versed in economics.
Cole Ramirez
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, economics
Interest in the Russ Robert's econtalk podcast led me to pick up his fiction book, The Price of Everything. The idea of an economist writing fiction intrigued me.

I wish I could say I loved it as much as I love econtalk, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. I found both the storyline and the conversations too forced. It was not like historical fiction where fact and fiction blur seamlessly... it was more like an intro to acting class practicing a choppy conversation about basic economics. At
Jeni Enjaian
When I started this book, I thought it might be interesting. The opening telling about the past created an interest in me to see how the author would weave this into the narrative. Rather than weave this bifurcated narrative together, Roberts forges ahead with complex discussions about economics. These discussions form the bulk of the narrative, with primarily one character talking. The ending could be seen a mile off and feels a bit fairy tale. Roberts attempted to set that up early in the book ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in dipping their toe into the world of economics. Spontaneous order also known as the principle of the invisible hand is the concept most greatly highlighted in this book but all principles are covered in an easy down to earth way. It can be a bit cheesy at times, but I think the attempt at real-world relevance is affective. Highly recommend to everyone I know.
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book that manages to be self-consciously didactic and yet works as fiction. Sure, there is no complex plot or a lot of character development, but the conversation between the two main characters has an authenticity that is refreshing and interesting. The light touch of Roberts combined with the inter-twinning biographical elements makes it an interesting read for anyone interested in economics. A surprisingly compelling novella that was both thought provoking and inspiring.
Cam Lidstone
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, fiction
The novel's main focus, which it doesn't try to hide, is to teach economic principles. Russ's enthusiasm for the topic, which listeners of his podcast EconTalk will be familiar with, seeps through as he teaches and marvels at the phenomena of emergent order and the vital function price plays in allocating resources to circumvent society's knowledge problem.

It's a very accessible starting point to learn Hayek's deepest insights.

Although it was self-consciously didactic, it was too heavy-handed
Steve Gross
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even though there's kind of a twist ending, this is still basically an extended economics lecture on prices.
Sam  Bronstein
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
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 ...more
Heather Shaw
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2009 added it
"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 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Ernestasia Siahaan
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Russell David "Russ" Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.