Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shermer's The Mind of the Market

Has anyone here read Michael Shermer's The Mind of the Market? I found it deeply puzzling, but perhaps I was primed to think it would be something other than it is. I expected a defense of libertarianism, but what I got was a very good book on the biological basis of decision-making, cataloguing some of the most interesting illusions and fallacies to which our cognitive faculties are subject. It reminded me very much of Tavris and Aronson's Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), a book to which Shermer refers several times.

Granted, all of the cognitive science is sandwiched between two thin chapters seemingly devoted to a defense of libertarianism, but not only is the defense transparently inadequate (not necessarily wrong, but far too quick and shallow), but the remainder of the book, while not irrelevant to economics, certainly is irrelevant to any case for libertarianism. It is almost as though the parts of the book defending libertarianism were intended as an elaborate joke—as a practical demonstration of some of the cognitive fallacies discussed in the bulk of the book.

With this said, I think Shermer has produced another fine book all-in-all, and perhaps the kind of thing I would like my future "Principles of Sound Reasoning" students to read.

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