The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters

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Princeton University Press, 2010 - Business & Economics - 296 pages
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To many, Thomas Carlyle's put-down of economics as "the dismal science" is as fitting now as it was 150 years ago. But Diane Coyle argues that economics today is more soulful than dismal, a more practical and human science than ever before. Building on the popularity of books such as Freakonomics that have applied economic thinking to the paradoxes of everyday life, The Soulful Science describes the remarkable creative renaissance in how economics is addressing the most fundamental questions--and how it is starting to help solve problems such as poverty and global warming. A lively and entertaining tour of the most exciting new economic thinking about big-picture problems, The Soulful Science uncovers the hidden humanization of economics over the past two decades.

Coyle shows how better data, increased computing power, and techniques such as game theory have transformed economic theory and practice in recent years, enabling economists to make huge strides in understanding real human behavior. Using insights from psychology, evolution, and complexity, economists are revolutionizing efforts to solve the world's most serious problems by giving policymakers a new and vastly more accurate picture of human society than ever before. They are also building our capacity to understand how what we do today shapes what the world will look like tomorrow. And the consequences of these developments for human life, for governments, and for businesses are only now starting to be realized--in areas such as resource auctions, pollution-credit trading, and monetary policy.

The Soulful Science tells us how economics got its soul back--and how it just might help save the planet's.

 

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Contents

The History Detectives
13
What Makes Economies Grow?
39
How to Make Poverty History
68
PROLOGUE TO PART TWO
103
ARE INDIVIDUALS FREE TO CHOOSE?
105
Whats It All About?
107
Economics for Humans
128
Information and Markets
156
PROLOGUE TO PART 3
185
NATURE MARKETS AND SOCIETY
187
Murderous Apes and Entrepreneurs
189
Economy versus Society
213
Why Economics Has Soul
242
References
273
Index
289
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About the author (2010)

Diane Coyle is a writer and Harvard economics Ph.D. whose books include "Sex, Drugs and Economics: An Unconventional Introduction to Economics" and "The Weightless World: Strategies for Managing the Digital Economy". A member of the BBC Trust and the UK Competition Commission, and a visiting professor at the University of Manchester, she also runs an economic consulting firm, Enlightenment Economics. A former economics editor of the "Independent" newspaper, she lives in London.

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