Explaining the logic of life for all time seems daunting, but Tim Harford tackles it with characteristic simplicity and shows that we’re more rational, in more situations than we realise.
He begins with gambling and addiction, both of which have elements that can be explained by the economist’s favourite; gaming theory. He tackles the world of dating, and finds we’re rational even when we’re romantic. The fields of work is also examined, including the very rational reasons for your boss earning so very much more than you do.
He dares to discuss racism, and depressingly finds that there is also a rational component to some racism as he discusses Thomas Schellings model of segregation. The model suggests that if even a slight preference for one’s own race exists across a population then segregation is inevitable. Sounds implausible? It’s demonstrated in the video below.
Where the book is weaker, and he admits that the evidence here is thinner, is in the last chapter where he looks at the broad sweep of history.
All in all it’s a good book, with plenty of information to help you astonish your friends. “Did you know that cities are less polluting rural areas?” ought to get the debate rolling.