Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics--and Why It Matters

Overview


Humans just aren't entirely rational creatures.

We decide to roll over and hit the snooze button instead of going to the gym. We take out home loans we can't possibly afford. And did you know that people named Paul are more likely to move to St. Paul than other cities? All too often, our subconscious causes us to act against our own self-interest.

But our free-market economy is based on the assumption that we always do act in our own ...

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Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature is at Odds with Economics--and Why it Matters

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Overview


Humans just aren't entirely rational creatures.

We decide to roll over and hit the snooze button instead of going to the gym. We take out home loans we can't possibly afford. And did you know that people named Paul are more likely to move to St. Paul than other cities? All too often, our subconscious causes us to act against our own self-interest.

But our free-market economy is based on the assumption that we always do act in our own self-interest. In this provocative book, physician Peter Ubel uses his understanding of psychology and behavior to show that in some cases government must regulate markets for our own health and well-being. And by understanding and controlling the factors that go into our decisions, big and small, we can all begin to stop the damage we do to our bodies, our finances, and our economy as a whole.

Ubel's vivid stories bring his message home for anyone interested in improving the way our society works.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“...an accessible guide…combination of the theoretical and the practical, along with the author’s ability to move smoothly between the two, that gives the book its charm.” - Strategy + Business, Summer 2009 Issue
The Barnes & Noble Review
It's time a writerly physician weighed in on how free markets encourage obesity, and that's just what Peter Ubel does. Adding to the spate of popular books on human irrationality, Ubel makes a case for restraining markets that have gained more territory than they deserve. His argument is nuanced: far from shunning capitalism, he describes how better policies could help people get back on track. When it comes to deflating obesity, Udel calls for snack taxes, farm bill phaseouts, and weekly instead of monthly food stamp payments. These, he believes, could encourage people to make healthier decisions. After all, it just doesn't seem fair that advertisers have unfettered access to our hearts and minds while government attempts to counteract corporate power put "no nanny state" libertarians into fits and encourage powerful lobbies to bankroll political naysayers. In the same way books like The Paradox of Choice and Predictably Irrational present numerous studies to underscore how humans make poor decisions, Ubel's book chronicles various experiments showing that we can't quite keep our hands out of the (proverbial and actual) cookie jar, unless we get some help from Uncle Sam or some other agent who values our well-being over company profits. Ubel discusses how American irrationality also makes for a bloated health care system, long commutes, and other downers someone's got to fix. Though the book's message -- that the free market puts us in a position to harm ourselves -- is sobering, the prose is peppered with tasty recipes for improvement. Ubel will help you think twice about your own decisions, making you realize how little control you actually have. --Ariana Green
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781422126097
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 1/12/2009
  • Pages: 257
  • Sales rank: 857,289
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter A. Ubel is a physician and behavioral scientist at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. A prominent thinker in medicine and other fields, he has written for numerous science publications as well as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. His appearances on radio and television shows include Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air.
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