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The Price of Everything, Eduardo Porter

2011/05/18

In this unique take on economics, finance, valuation, culture, and society, Eduardo Porter addresses the curious costs that are innate in life, and how people manipulate them. With chapters addressing everything from “stuff” to life, happiness, work, and the future, he examines monetary costs as well as the expectations that surround expensive and cheap goods and services. In the introduction, Porter notes that both the rich and poor evaluate the costs and benefits of their choices, and the prices that they determine (in monetary cost, time, resources, etc.) speaks a great deal about their values and situation in life.

Chapter one is about the price of things, and the author begins with the price of coffee, comparing and weighing the many options in and around his office which offer coffee. After relating his decision-making process (proximity, cost, quality), he examines the value of other material goods, and looks at the factors which contribute to market demand and supply. In the next chapter, Porter looks at the price of life by citing insurance rates and payouts, lawsuits regarding loss of life, automobile accidents, and acts of nature. Other chapters examine the correlation between money and happiness, benefits and downfalls of working longer hours and earning more money, and the cost of being religious.

This book addresses a variety of social and cultural issues, and puts them together in a way that will hopefully make you pause and consider for a moment the costs of the small and big things in everyday life. I know as I was reading it, there were several spots where I stopped and said, “Hey, listen to this!” This is a highly readable and provoking read; however, although there are citations in the endnotes, there is not a recommended reading list or bibliography addressing each particular chapter, which would be useful for those wanting to examine some of the issues in depth.

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