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The Mind of the Market

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The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics

by Michael Shermer

The market economy needs no apologists and propagandists. It can apply to itself the words of Sir Christopher Wrens epitaph in St. Pauls: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. [if you seek his monument, look around.]

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, p 850

There is more information in the 261 pages of The Mind of the Market than there is in most books more than twice its size. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage in the sense that the book held the reader's attention even though the fecundity of ideas sometimes bordered on the overwhelming. Michael Shermer, the author of The Mind of the Market, is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and the author of nine previous books. In this book he attempts to capture the "Mind" of the Market while arguing against previous visions of how the market works while surveying scientific theories that he believes may be used to replace these earlier visions. He includes discussions of some of the best known psychological experiments regarding human behavior (Milgram, et. al.) yet his attempt to connect them to an overall theme was weak.

I came to the book receptive to his support of free market economics. His penultimate chapter, entitled "Free to Choose" - a direct reference to Milton Friedman's classic text of the same name - is the culmination of his defense of the market; however I was not convinced that, with all the scientific theories and studies used as examples of "evolutionary" economics and the neuroscience of the market, he made a convincing case. Many of the pieces of the book seemed to just hang there, fascinating little essays on some aspect of science or how "Homo Economicus" no longer exists (or perhaps never did!).

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