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The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do
Eduardo Porter

Retail Price: $27.95
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Format: Hardcover, 304pp.
ISBN: 9781591843627
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
Pub. Date: January 4, 2011

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

Many of the prices we pay seem to make little sense. We shell out $2.29 for a coffee at Starbucks when a nearly identical brew can be had at the corner deli for less than a dollar. We may be less willing to give blood for $25 than to donate it for free. Americans hire the cheap labor of illegal immigrants to fix the roof or mow the lawn and vote for politicians who promise to spend billions to keep them out of the country. And citizens of the industrialized West pay hundreds of dollars a year in taxes or cash for someone to cart away trash that would be a valuable commodity in poorer parts of the world.

The Price of Everything starts with a simple premise: there is a price behind each choice that we make, whether we're deciding to have a baby, drive a car, or buy a book. We often fail to appreciate just how critical prices are as motivating forces shaping our lives. But their power becomes clear when distorted prices steer our decisions the wrong way.

Eduardo Porter uncovers the true story behind the prices we pay and reveals what those prices are actually telling us. He takes us on a global economic adventure, from comparing the relative prices of a vote in corrupt São Tomé and in the ostensibly aboveboard United States to assessing the cost of happiness in Bhutan to deducing the dollar value we assign to human life. His unique approach helps explain
  • Why polygamous societies actually place a higher value on women than monogamous ones
  • Why someone may find more value in a $14 million license plate than in the standard-issue $95 one
  • Why some government agencies believe one year of life for a senior citizen is four times more valuable than that of a younger person.
Porter weaves together the constant-and often unconscious-cost and value assessments we all make every day. While exploring the fascinating story behind the price of everything from marriage and death to mattresses and horsemeat, Porter draws unexpected connections that bridge a wide range of disciplines and cultures. The result is a cogent and insightful narrative about how the world really works.


"Porter's book is an enthralling look at the prices we put, consciously and unconsciously, on everything from a gallon of gas to a spare kidney. Everyone could learn something from this wise and clever book. I did."
—Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist; author of The Undercover Economist

"Everything in the world comes with a price, but what does a price mean and how is it set? This riveting narrative is the best book on these very human and very important questions. There is an interesting nugget on virtually every page."
—Tyler Cowen, coauthor of the Marginal Revolution blog

"A fascinating journey through what we see every day-but do not think about enough. Eduardo Porter makes you think hard about the corporate interests at work behind the veil of prices (and much more). Just because people are willing to pay does not mean that the price is right-in any sense of the word."
—Simon Johnson, coauthor of 13 Bankers; professor of entrepreneurship, MIT Sloan School of Management

"Porter discusses the role of economic value not only in determining the cost of a premium cup of coffee, but also how in much different individuals and society are willing to pay to reduce the likelihood of death from, say, disease or car accidents, and even the economic logic behind who marries whom and bargaining between the sexes in marriage. I highly recommend this book to everyone who would like an often amusing and yet highly insightful discussion of how choices are made, essentially over the whole range of human behavior."
—Gary Becker, economist and Nobel laureate

"Price, an 'unacknowledged legislator' of human behavior, has found its poet in Eduardo Porter. The Price of Everything is a wise, illuminating, and necessary book."
—Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)

"Eduardo Porter unlocks the economic puzzles of daily life like a master safe cracker. The Price of Everything is clever, stylish and full of surprising insights. In other words, priceless."
—Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit: A History of Economic Genius

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About the Author

Eduardo Porter writes about business, economics and many other matters as a member of The New York Times's editorial board. He has also worked as a journalist in Mexico City, Tokyo, London, São Paulo, and Los Angeles. He was editor of the Brazilian edition of América Economía and covered the Hispanic population in the United States for The Wall Street Journal. He lives in New York

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