The Surprising Design of Market Economies

Overview

The "free market" has been a hot topic of debate for decades. Proponents tout it as a cure-all for just about everything that ails modern society, while opponents blame it for the very same ills. But the heated rhetoric obscures one very important, indeed fundamental, fact—markets don't just run themselves; we create them.

Starting from this surprisingly simple, yet often ignored or misunderstood fact, Alex Marshall takes us on a fascinating tour of the fundamentals that shape ...

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The Surprising Design of Market Economies

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Overview

The "free market" has been a hot topic of debate for decades. Proponents tout it as a cure-all for just about everything that ails modern society, while opponents blame it for the very same ills. But the heated rhetoric obscures one very important, indeed fundamental, fact—markets don't just run themselves; we create them.

Starting from this surprisingly simple, yet often ignored or misunderstood fact, Alex Marshall takes us on a fascinating tour of the fundamentals that shape markets and, through them, our daily economic lives. He debunks the myth of the "free market," showing how markets could not exist without governments to create the structures through which we assert ownership of property, real and intellectual, and conduct business of all kinds. Marshall also takes a wide-ranging look at many other structures that make markets possible, including physical infrastructure ranging from roads and railroads to water systems and power lines; mental and cultural structures such as common languages and bodies of knowledge; and the international structures that allow goods, services, cash, bytes, and bits to flow freely around the globe.

Sure to stimulate a lively public conversation about the design of markets, this broadly accessible overview of how a market economy is constructed will help us create markets that are fairer, more prosperous, more creative, and more beautiful.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
Offers keen insights into urban planning, public works, and even the history of New York’s onetime ambivalence toward a professional police force.
Huffington Post
Conventional economics wittingly or unwittingly provides cover for the One Percent, by professing that ‘the market’ operates benevolently on its own. Alex Marshall gives us an entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written antidote to this dangerous abstraction.
Library Journal
Markets are created by people and can be changed by people. As journalist Marshall (Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities) argues, markets neither spring suddenly into being nor should they be set free—rather, they are designed within physical, legal, and cultural structures. He challenges readers to reevaluate common misconceptions about market economies by examining the building blocks of society. With his careful analysis of the history of law, infrastructure, education, and culture, Marshall shows how these forces influence market formation and make economic life possible. The chapter on cooperatives versus corporations is especially interesting. With this book, Marshall hopes to shift popular thinking away from market regulation to market design, which he believes will help create a more prosperous society. VERDICT For readers willing to challenge the status quo, this book will wrap their minds around a new way of thinking about markets and economies.—Bonnie A. Tollefson, Cleveland Bradley Cty. P.L., TN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292756755
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2014
  • Series: Constructs Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

From the way roads and rails shape our cities to the way laws shape our economies, Alex Marshall has long sought and explored the underlying systems that shape our worlds. A journalist, writer, and former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, he is the author of How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken and Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities. Marshall is a Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association in New York. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Metropolis, Planning, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Slate, Salon, Architecture, Revue Urbanisme, and many other publications.
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Table of Contents

Introduction. The Designer Disappears: Markets and Their Makers
Section One. On the Books: The Markets We Make by Law
1. Coming into Being: In Praise of Markets
2. Me and Mine: Property, the First Market
3. Lex Non Scripta: The Laws We Don't Make, or, the Common Law
4. I Am My Brother's Keeper: Cooperatives
5. Trust: How We Cooperate to Compete
6. Staking Claims on the Mind: Intellectual Property
7. Little Commonwealths: Corporations and the State That Creates Them
8. The Future of Corporations

Section Two. Infrastructure: The Markets We Make by Hand
9. From Highways to Health Care: Progress through Infrastructure
10. Making Places
11. The Great Nineteenth-Century Train Robbery
12. A Socialist Paradise: The American Road System
13. Waiting for a Train Station
14. What We Did Before: Path Dependence and Markets
15. Police and Prisons: Freedom, Security, and Democracy
16. Why Don't You Make Me? Government and Force

Section Three. Seeding the Fields: The Markets We Make in Our Minds
17. Common Tongue, Common Culture, Common Markets

Section Four. The Markets We Build Abroad
18. By Your Bootstraps: Developing Countries and Markets
19. Last Night upon the Stairs: International Law

Section Five. Looking Forward: Making Better Markets
Conclusion. Making Better Markets

Afterword. My Own Story: A Circuitous Journey
Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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