HIDDEN ORDER by David D. Friedman


The Economics of Everyday Life


 Friedman, son of venerable ``No Free Lunch'' economist Milton, here analyzes the familiar to elucidate economic theory. The author (Santa Clara Univ.; Price Theory, not reviewed, etc.) tackles subjects as diverse as statistics, rent control, and the Mafia in order to illustrate and explain more complex economic theories about how society works. In fact, Friedman suggests that the study of economics is not so much about measuring value with money as it is about measuring value by the choices we make. While this theory seems to assume that all people have a reservoir of free will, Friedman makes an elegant, articulate case that people commonly accept societal restraints and, as a result, make appropriate economic choices. The economics of society as a whole, he points out, come back to the unstated principle of Adam Smith's invisible hand--though no one is in charge, the system continues- -and Friedman reasons that even the simplest item, such as a pencil, owes its existence to the concerted efforts of millions. Friedman frequently invokes the notions of reason and rationality, arguing that people will always choose the more rational plan, be they burglars or buyers of potatoes. While this argument may seem too basic to be entirely convincing, Friedman's distilled analysis and his readable, often entertaining writing make at least the elementary aspects of economic life comprehensible. He cleverly explains the economist's principle of declining marginal value by putting the theory into action in a grocery store, where he shows how choices are made based on what's available, and demonstrates how the desire for a thing drops as the want is filled. Though many of the theories he explains are accompanied by equations, the math is intelligible and the real-life situations--and jokes--make this a good read for even econo-phobes. A surprisingly lucid and useful book, and about as appealing as economics gets. (National radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-88730-750-7
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1996


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