The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas

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Overview


Why do the keypads on drive-up cash machines have Braille dots? Why are round-trip fares from Orlando to Kansas City higher than those from Kansas City to Orlando? For decades, Robert Frank has been asking his economics students to pose and answer questions like these as a way of learning how economic principles operate in the real world-which they do everywhere, all the time. Once you learn to think like an economist, all kinds of puzzling observations start to make sense. Drive-up ATM keypads have Braille dots...
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Overview


Why do the keypads on drive-up cash machines have Braille dots? Why are round-trip fares from Orlando to Kansas City higher than those from Kansas City to Orlando? For decades, Robert Frank has been asking his economics students to pose and answer questions like these as a way of learning how economic principles operate in the real world-which they do everywhere, all the time. Once you learn to think like an economist, all kinds of puzzling observations start to make sense. Drive-up ATM keypads have Braille dots because it’s cheaper to make the same machine for both drive-up and walk-up locations. Travelers from Kansas City to Orlando pay less because they are usually price-sensitive tourists with many choices of destination, whereas travelers originating from Orlando typically choose Kansas City for specific family or business reasons. The Economic Naturalist employs basic economic principles to answer scores of intriguing questions from everyday life, and, along the way, introduces key ideas such as the cost-benefit principle, the “no cash on the table” principle, and the law of one price. This is as delightful and painless a way to learn fundamental economics as there is.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003570
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/7/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 409,553
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. His “Economic Scene” column appears monthly in the New York Times. His previous books include The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip Cook), Luxury Fever, and Principles of Economics (with Ben Bernanke). Frank’s many awards include the Apple Distinguished Teaching Award and the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction     1
Rectangular Milk Cartons and Cylindrical Soda Cans: The Economics of Product Design     13
Free Peanuts and Expensive Batteries: Supply and Demand in Action     29
Why Equally Talented Workers Often Earn Different Salaries and Other Mysteries of the World of Work     51
Why Some Buyers Pay More Than Others: The Economics of Discount Pricing     71
Arms Races and the Tragedy of the Commons     93
The Myth of Ownership     109
Decoding Marketplace Signals     133
The Economic Naturalist Hits the Road     149
Psychology Meets Economics     163
The Informal Market for Personal Relationships     183
Two Originals     197
Parting Thoughts     201
Notes     205
Index     219

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A fresh look at everyday questions

    I picked up this book mostly because the cover art was more intriguing than the majority of economics books on the shelf, and I am glad that I did! Robert Frank breaks down many of the questions we have all asked ourselves ("Why do drive-thru ATMs have braille buttons?") and many we haven't ("Why are NYC taxis yellow, but in almost all small cities they are green or white?") and gives the answers in simple economic explanations. I was an Econ major in undergrad, but an economics background is certainly not needed to enjoy this book. I recommended the book to my fiancee (a lawyer) and my best friend (a chemist) and both loved it. The Economic Naturalist is perfect for anyone curious about how economics affects our everyday lives, and it's all accomplished without any math or equations... just common sense.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    According to professor Robert H. Frank, economics pedagogy is a scandal. A basic economics course at a university costs thousands of dollars, yet when students are tested six months after their final exams they do little better than those who never took the class. Often they do worse. One study asked students a simple multiple-choice question about opportunity costs. Answering randomly gave the students a 25% chance of being right, yet only 7.4% answered correctly. The students shouldn¿t be too embarrassed, though. Out of a sample of economists at a professional gathering, only 21.6% knew the right answer. Fed up with these dismal results, Frank tried something new. He told his students to write short essays applying economic principles to puzzling social phenomena. (¿Why do women¿s blouses cost more to launder than men¿s?¿ ¿Why are milk cartons square while soda cans are round?¿) The result was engaged students, real learning and this marvelous, popular little book. We recommend it enthusiastically.

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