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Knowledge And Decisions
Thomas Sowell
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Knowledge And Decisions

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  592 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Thomas Sowell describes how knowledge is disseminated throughout modern society, warning that an ever-widening gap between firsthand knowledge and decision making threatens not only our economic and political efficiency but our very freedom.
Kindle Edition, 450 pages
Published (first published November 30th 1979)
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Aug 30, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-science
If you can only read one book on knowledge and how it affects human decision-making, I would highly recommend Knowledge and Decisions. It is an updated expansion of Friedrich Hayek's famous paper "On the Use of Knowledge in Society", most of the extra material being relevant examples in the fields of economics, history, law, and politics. There is a wealth of facts and data here, and conclusions drawn from those facts will be a challenge to accepted ideologies on the left and the right. This boo ...more
Aug 24, 2008 Nicholas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 02, 2008 Ari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Knowledge and Decision is a bit hard to categorize. It's about decision making, asymmetric information, incentives, and public policy. It's also, sneakily, an introduction to economics and economic thinking. It's the sort of book that makes economics look like a fun and interesting topic, as well as a disciplined science.

Sowell isn't an ideologue, and he backs his claims with data, and with wonderfully chosen examples. It's a fun read, as well as a highly illuminating one.
Apr 03, 2016 Vadim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Некоторые полагают: чтобы сделать общество лучше, нужно принять предлагаемые ими экономические, политические и правовые решения. Однако Томас Соуэлл утверждает: нужно договориться не о "решениях", а о том, кто при каких стимулах и ограничениях будет их принимать. Результаты политической деятельности, с его (и большинства экономистов) точки зрения, определяются не заявленными или даже желаемыми целями, а механикой производства этих результатов, как раз тем, кто и с какими целями и информацией в г ...more
Oct 12, 2015 Sylvester rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Knowledge is power. Sowell's analysis of how knowledge is transmitted in the society as capital can influence law, politics and history is captivating and compelling.
Ignacio De Leon
Jul 28, 2014 Ignacio De Leon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
La primera parte de este libro desarrolla una interpretación del conocimiento en la formulación de políticas públicas, distinta del enfoque convencional económico basado en la idea de asimetrías de información. La segunda parte aplica el concepto a distintas áreas de política pública evidencianfo limitaciones de los burócratas para entender la complejidad del contexto que regulan o pretenden intervenir. El autor se basa en el ensayo de F.A.Hayek "Economics and Knowledge" de 1936. Es un libro exh ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, but it's not an easy read.
Not an easy book to read but well worth it. Sowell has the unique ability to make highly abstract concepts both interesting and practical.
May 10, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the greatest works on decision-making theory ever written. Combines a thoroughness of research with a clarity of writing style. Thomas Sowell is one of the great minds of our time.
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quotes:

"What then is the intellectual advantage of civilization over primitive savagery? It is not necessarily that each civilized man has more knowledge but that he *requires* far *less.* A primitive savage must be able to produce a wide variety of goods and services for himself, and a primitive community must repeatedly duplicate his knowledge and experience in innumerable contemporaries. By contrast, the civilized accountant or electronics expert, etc., need know little beyond his
Andrew Willis
May 31, 2017 Andrew Willis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the way he built on the basics of knowledge which ultimately led to decisions on the highest levels of goverment. Well reasoned and very thought provoking.
Brendon Brewer
Dec 31, 2016 Brendon Brewer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third Thomas Sowell book I've read, the other two being 'Basic Economics' and 'Intellectuals and Society'. When I referred to the latter in an essay, a commenter suggested I hadn't realised Sowell has an ideology. Ha. It's one of the most obvious things in the world. Still, he is a sharp thinker and worth listening to.

Knowledge and Decisions is from 1980. I borrowed it from the library because it sounded interesting. I think my favourite part of economics is the stuff about how marke
Mark Geise
Oct 05, 2015 Mark Geise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell’s “Knowledge and Decisions” is just as important today as when it was written. This book is dense and takes a bit of time to get through, but it’s worth it. Sowell’s main thesis is that decision-making power has shifted to centralized bodies. This has profound impacts on economics, law, and politics. As power is concentrated, there is less faith in the public and in mutually beneficial, voluntary transactions. Top-down, one-size-fits-all “solutions” are much more likely with increa ...more
Aug 20, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: opinion
Good book on the economic and organizational use of knowledge and decision-making. I recall his discussion of the 'cost' of knowledge very insightful. A CEO of a fast food chain would have a high cost to obtain knowledge of the day to day customers of a single restaurant, yet have ease of access to aggregate data on the sales for the chain or individual restaurants as a whole. Compare this to the manager or even till-operator who sees the customers each day - the cost of knowledge for him is the ...more
Carl Gauger
Dec 05, 2016 Carl Gauger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having read several other books by Sowell (an economist)--one on economic history (Marxism) and the other on political ideas (A Conflict of Visions), I picked this one up when I had been doing some study of Knowledge Management. This book is on economics as well, specifically on the distribution of knowledge in economic systems, but I found it to be very useful in thinking about the use of knowledge in business organizations. Sowell is of course an economic thinker in the line of Hayek and Fried ...more
Michael Connolly
As with most of Sowell's writing, including his newspaper columns, this book exhibits Sowell's ability to examine an issue from a novel angle, to see aspects of the issue that others have missed.
Sowell makes the point that knowledge has a cost. Sowell talks about the relationship between economics and knowledge. The kinds of knowledge that are relevant are supply and demand. That is, what people can produce and how much labor is required to produce it, and what people want, and how much they ar
Ben Pratt
Sowell is a first rate thinker. Knowledge and Decisions goes hand in hand with A Conflict of Vision, his masterpiece, in my opinion. His other excellent - and most approachable - book is Basic Economics. The world would be a better place if more people would read and absorb the basic truths in it, if only to see more clearly the common economic fallacies that are perpetuated in the media daily and not be taken in by them.

In a nutshell? Problems in economic policy stem from a misconception: that
Jan 09, 2010 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required for all who claim to be free thinkers!

This is truly the single secular book I wish was required study as part of high school education and voter's privileges. Thomas Sowell is an intellectual giant, and this is his magnum opus.

In this book he turns his keen intellect to an analysis of the economics of knowledge in society. The often unseen and subconscious acquisition, evaluation and flow of knowledge is integral to the efficient operation of our individual daily lives and to the gener
Thomas Sowell is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. His Knowledge and Decision is an amazing book, one which at the same time confirmed some of my reflections while adding new ones.

Knowledge and Decisions is a book about... knowledge. Knowledge in society, and how it spreads, but also how knowledge is ignored. The author reflects upon three domains where decisions are made: economy (or business), law and politics.

The book is split into two parts. The first describes the general mechani
Eugene Kernes
Nov 14, 2015 Eugene Kernes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: knowledge
Sowell imbues every single paragraph with so much information and knowledge with such eloquence making it an extremely rare gift. 'Knowledge and Decisions' discuss the how knowledge is used in making decisions. In discussion of incentives and constrains, gathering knowledge is a cost which places a constraint on those who can bare it. Those who have obtained that knowledge, have an incentive to make it more relevant as that means they earn more money, power, or prestige. In making decisions it m ...more
Don Weidinger
Sep 18, 2014 Don Weidinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
inadequate, skewed by what hope for vs what do, not what decision but who makes decision, authenticate first, less checks with more supposed intellect, lower expectations to reach consensus, economics and value of alternative uses, black unemployment lowest in 49 unions most adverse effect, regulation wonders recreate sensible economics, British subsidies of GA ended 1751 did not work, Fed agencies do 10 times more regulations that lawmakers, if you don’t want government on your back take your h ...more
Joe Vander Zanden
The focus of this book is on the nature and dynamics of decisioning in complexity. Its very accessible to readers new to the subject of information economics and decisioning but also provides common sense examples and reasoning for more advanced readers that merit further exposition. Topics covered include treating knowledge as a resource with associated acquisition costs as an assumption when analyzing existing systems, the paradigm of trade-offs versus absolute solutions when considering quest ...more
Alvaro Berrios
Mar 28, 2014 Alvaro Berrios rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is my least favorite of the Thomas Sowell books I have read so far, it's still very good. Despite its old publishing date, the information and lessons learned are rather timeless. Sowell gives clear and concise examples of how easily information can be distorted in today's society which skews knowledge and, therefore, decisions.

It's funny because there's so many books out today on decision making from authors such as Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely and Tim Harford which have become extrem
Abhilash Nambiar
This book can change your life. I really mean it. If you can understand it, it can change your life. Here is what it says in a nutshell. The end result any organiaation claims to achieve is a distraction. Its existence and action can have consequences beyond what it hopes to achieve. Focus on the processes within the organization as well as the incentives and constraints its members are acting under. The appeal here is to do proper institutional analysis rather can counting on the virtue of indi ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A book that has changed the way I analyze social and political trends.

The first half is rather abstract, defining knowledge and how we know things, and showing how knowledge does and does not affect decisions we make. The second half uses the framework set up in the first half to discuss in some detail economic, social and political decision making and how knowledge is used. The final summary makes a strong case for individual liberty rather than bureaucratic fiat in decision making.

A scholarly
May 09, 2009 Blake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Most books inform or entertain. This book goes farther and expands the mind. Mr. Sowell does a great job of exploring the foundations of decision making as an individual, nation, bureaucracy or as an academic. He explores who has what knowledge in an economy and how that knowledge is exercised. He explains why bureaucracies do the things they do, why governments do the things they do, why individuals do the things they do and why intellectuals do the things they do. All in all this book sets a g ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book about knowledge, which is scarce, diffused, and has a cost. The breadth of considerations Sowell tackles is almost mind boggling.

This may be Sowell's best work, or it's at least on par with his other two favorites of mine, Basic Economics and A Conflict of Visions.

I really can't recommend this book enough, the only draw back is that it's dense and perhaps a pretty difficult read.
Justin Cole
Nov 16, 2014 Justin Cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Covering a wide range of topics, starting with the concept of decision making units and then applying the framework to economic, legal, and political trends, this book provides a more comprehensive look at the constraints and incentives that govern all decisions. I would have given it 5 stars but I felt it was a bit too preachy at points and felt the arguments a but repetitive at points. Very good read.
Muriel Fang
Dec 13, 2015 Muriel Fang rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking discussions -- are we reducing the overall amount of taboos, or are we substituting new taboos for old ones?

The triumph over totalitarian government decisions making by the end of 20th century -- was (like Churchill said) merely the end of the beginning, not the end, or beginning of the end.

While ideas and discussions are thought-provoking, the narrator's tone is too soothing. I almost feel asleep behind the wheel listening to the audiobook...
George Slade
Jan 06, 2014 George Slade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This book is pretty heavy, but if you can handle it it's immensely interesting. I recommend it to anyone that is interested in broadening their outlook on concepts and themes that are still just as relevant today as they were in 1980, when Sowell wrote this book.
Abraham Arslan
Nov 13, 2016 Abraham Arslan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the classics. A masterpiece.
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
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