Economics is often perceived as a coldly rational and theoretical analysis of numbers. However, before he wrote the The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith explored The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He understood that, whether buying a house, choosing between romantic attractions, or participating in the current economic crisis, we, as individuals and as a nation, are making subtly imperceptible comparisons and choices that create a curious logic behind our human behavior. By exploring our emotions and the marketing gimmicks that exploit them, Dan Ariely’s insightful and fascinating Predictably Irrational (Harper Perennial, $15.99) provides case studies and illustrations which clearly place economics in the realm of social science.
The Travels Of A T-Shirt In The Global Economy: An Economist Examines The Markets, Power, And Politics Of World Trade (John Wiley, $18.95) is An Omnivore’s Dilemma for apparel. From seed to shirt, Georgetown University business professor Pietra Rivoli skillfully traces a cultural and historical travelogue from the 1790s to 2009 as technological innovations, genetic engineering, human rights campaigns, and foreign policy agreements have transformed the arenas of farming and manufacturing. This Revised and Updated Second Edition revisits many of the characters and topics from the first edition, and adds material on environmental issues, popular resistance to free trade, and current U.S. trade policy.
Shortly after Ben Bernanke stepped into the role of Fed Chairman, the Great Panic commenced. Bernanke, a relative newcomer to Washington, spent the bulk of his career in academia dissecting the Great Depression and, according to David Wessel’s account, In Fed We Trust (Crown Business, $26.99), the one thing Bernanke knew as a Depression scholar was that he would not allow history to repeat itself. Wessel gives a thorough retelling of the early days of the Great Panic as the Bernanke triumvirate—with Timothy Geithner and Henry Paulson—desperately try to keep ahead of the collapsing markets in their attempt to prevent the global meltdown from spiraling into a full-blown economic depression. Wessel’s account isn’t Indiana Jones but it is a chilling reminder of how close we came to complete economic collapse.