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Title: The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World
Author(s): Tim Harford
Number of Referenced Stories: 3

Publication Year: 2008
ISBN: 9780812977875
Dewey Decimal Class: 300
Dewey Decimal Division: 339
Author Website:

Just in Time Stories:
    #404 - u.S. Sugar Tariffs
    #410 - Royal Defined Monopolies
    #411 - Royal Forced Loans: Englands James I and then William and Mary

B's Buzz

From Tim Harford's author website: The paperback of The Logic of Life is published in the US by Random House in February 2009 and in the UK by Little Brown in March 2009.

"Life often seems to defy logic. When a prostitute agrees to unprotected sex, or a teenage criminal embarks on a burglary, or a smoker lights another cigarette, we seem to be a million miles from what we would call rational behaviour. None of this makes sense—or does it? Tim Harford thinks it does. And by weaving stories from locations as diverse as a Las Vegas casino and a Soho speed-date together with insights from an ingenious new breed of economist, he aims to persuade you that we are all, in fact, surprisingly logical. Reading this book, you'll discover that the unlikeliest of people – racists, drug addicts, revolutionaries and rats—comply with economic logic, always taking account of future costs and benefits, even if they don’t quite realise it. It even explains why your boss is overpaid..."

One angle Harford's book doesn’t recognize is that several of his historical stories frame up behavioral (or the chiefly British variant, behavioural) definitions in action—U.S. Tariff, Royal Monopoly, and Forced Loans.  These three referenced Just-In-Time Stories are from our Governmental & Institutional tagged collection titled: A Basis of Power Yet Frequently Ill Advised

Harford’s view, which he describes in the following Amazon note contrasts with the viewpoint of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in both Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics—the sources of three and eighteen stories referenced respectively (available in the store).   

"When I first conceived of The Logic of Life, my aim was to show that a world full of smart people—people like you, that is—doesn’t necessarily look logical on the surface. We eat too much and worry about being fat; drink too much and cringe when we remember; spend too much at Christmas and worry about the bills in New Year. And that’s just the small stuff: what about crime, racial segregation, divorce, [and] big-money politics?

And yet underneath it all there is a hidden logic. It isn’t always pretty, but it's there if you know how to see it. That is what The Logic of Life is all about.” 

A behavioral definition is also a hidden-in-plain sight persuader to simplify change.  We illustrate this through Just-In-Time stories.  For instance, the language of behavioral definitions—distilled and potent—highlights words, phrases or causes to gain insights on each of the seven issues Harford raises:

  • Weight Loss - #506: Maids-a-exercising
  • Drunkenness – Lead: Designated Driver
  • Overspending - #117: The Debt Snowball
  • Crime - #312: Abortion and Crime
  • Racial Segregation - #118: 1st Grade, Riceville, IA
  • Divorce - #704: Women’s Suffrage
  • Big Money Politics - The Ruling Class   
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