Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brief review of Discover Your Inner Economist

Just finished reading Discover your Inner Economist, by Tyler Cowen. Dr. Cowen is an economist (oddly enough), who writes the often intriguing Marginal Revolution blog.

This book is a loosely tied together collection of themes on how we can all improve our inner economists, and learn how to use incentives to succeed in life, and to know when incentives don't work. Cowen is a polymath, and he ranges far and wide in interests and expertise. This book is one of several "pop" econ books trying to bring economics to the non-economist people. Books such as Freakonomics, and The Underground Economist (read the former and recommend it, and haven't yet finished the latter).

I was very interested in the chapter on how to save the world, subtitled "More Christmas Presents won't Work," something dear to the hear of my fellow Jeff St. church members and our annual Reclaiming Christmas project.

Anyway, Cowen suggests we don't give money to beggars, mainly because the more beggars become successful, the more beggars there will be (same argument against buying and freeing sex slaves, because the price will rise and more people will be kidnapped in order to be freed by payments). He suggests giving the money to the poor who don't try very hard (a poor family sleeping on the sidewalk, and not expecting $$, for example). He also has ideas on giving to charities; one of the most interesting being being loyal to a charity and giving to them on a regular basis, so that they won't keep sending you mailings that cost them money (how much does email cost now?)

He has an extensive chapter on how to eat and cook well (tips for while in a foreign country, how to become a better cook), how to become a better art lover (in a museum pretend to have enough $ to buy some paintings and decide what you would choose). Seems like an interesting way to stay focused in a museum.

I took away how important it is to know human nature, tendencies and behavior in order to make the world a safer, healthier place.

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