A Stanford University provost and a star-student and world-class tennis player clash about the virtues of top-down intervention vs. order that emerges from the bottom-up. Along the way, a group of students protest the role of a big box retailer on campus entangling the provost and her tennis-playing pupil. My best novel, I think, this book explores emergent order in the economy and our standard of living.
Improbable as it might seem, perhaps the most important fact for a voter or politician to know is: No one can make a pencil. That truth is the essence of a novella that is, remarkably, both didactic and romantic. Even more remarkable, its author is an economist. If you read Russell Roberts’s The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity you will see the world afresh.
I loved the way Roberts wove into the story examples of what Hayek called spontaneous order that even those who believe that order happens only from the top down would have to acknowledge–from dancers moving unpredictably on the dance floor without ever colliding to the thousands of people and bits of specialized knowledge it takes to make a pencil, which nobody can make by himself. This little book deserves an audience as wide as eventually developed for ‘Economics in One Lesson.’ It conveys similar information in a more nuanced, personal and humanistic way. Nice work.
Alan W. Bock
Orange County Register
Don’t be put off by the title, you just might not be able to put it down. Its brilliance is in its simplicity, and it’s now the first economics book I recommend. Yes, Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom are still the cornerstones, but easy to read? No.
Take a look at the computer screen your eyes are presently (hopefully) fixated on, not to mention the computer mouse you used in order to click on this posting. Did you ever consider how both were made? Could you make either yourself, and if so, how and where would you acquire the various raw materials and parts in order to create them? If the above questions vex you, the George Mason economics professor Russell Roberts’s excellent new novel, The Price of Everything, is for you. Importantly, Roberts does not explain how things are made in this tale as much as he teaches us through a very interesting dialogue between a professor and student that the ‘whole system we call a market economy works as well as it does precisely because of how little we have to know.
The Price of Everything is sensationally good fiction and sensationally good economics.
Deirdre N. McCloskey
author of The Bourgeois Virtues
The Price of Everything illuminates the astonishing economic world we live in. This book could change your life—reading it will give you a sense of wonder about the everyday marvels that are all around us.
The best attempt to teach economics through fiction that the world has seen to date.
Stephen J. Dubner
nytimes.com Freakonomics blog
This is a great story about human, social, and economic betterment brought about by the forces of spontaneous coordination. It’s also about justice and there’s a warm ending. Read and enjoy.
Nobel Prize-winning economist