Free Market Madness: Reviews

“Books in Brief” Reviews Free Market Madness — David K. Hurst (Issue 55, Summer 2009)

In Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature Is at Odds with Economics–and Why It Matters, [Peter Ubel] argues specifically with the libertarian, free market evangelists who tout the unregulated marketplace as the solution to all ills. His book is an accessible guide to the evidence that people do not behave as microeconomists would like them to, and to the implications of this for public policy…Ubel’s academic perspectives are leavened throughout the book with stories from his experiences as a physician, through which he has firsthand encounters with smokers who can’t quit and overweight people who can’t diet. It is this combination of the theoretical and the practical, along with the author’s ability to move smoothly between the two, that gives the book its charm…(Read the rest here)

Healthhabits: How the Free Market Makes You FAT and Why “Big Food” Likes It That Way — Chris Pearson (April 7, 2009)

Why are more and more of us getting fatter and fatter? Is it…

  • genetics?
  • epigenetics?
  • too many carbs?
  • too much fat?
  • the wrong kind of fat?
  • the wrong kind of carb?
  • not enough exercise?
  • the wrong kind of exercise?
  • toxins in our water, air, food?
  • income level?
  • lack of will power?
  • lack of knowledge?

or is it because “Big Food” wants us to be fat? Now, before someone labels me as a conspiracy theorist, hear me out…

  • Food producers earn more profit from processed foods – i.e potato chips v.s. potatoes
  • Processed foods (high calorie, high glycemic index and low nutrient value) increase your appetite
  • Your increased appetite causes you to eat more food
  • And when you eat all of the food in your house, you have to rush out and buy more food
  • And the food producers make more money

And, there’s nothing wrong with that…It’s a free market

Or, is it?

According to Dr. Peter Ubel, in his new book – Free Market Madness – food producers spend a lot of money learning why you buy the things that you buy…So, how do you defeat all of the psychological tricks that the food producers and marketing gurus are throwing at you?

  1. Before you go to the supermarket, decide what food you NEED. (if you’re confused about which foods you NEED, here’s a cheat sheet – vegetables, non-processed protein, fruit, non-inflammatory fats, spices, herbs)
  2. Write out your food list.
  3. And then stick to that list

That’s it…(Read the rest here).

Doctor Writes Bracing Political Prescription — Carol Goar (February 4, 2009)

Western society has a long tradition of doctors speaking out against poor sanitation, environmental degradation, war, oppression and poverty and unhealthy products…The American internist has just published a book entitled Free Market Madness. Its central thesis is that consumers don’t – indeed can’t – make rational choices in today’s marketplace. They damage their bodies, their finances and their well-being to keep the economy humming…Ubel speaks as both a doctor and a behavioural economist…Even for skeptics, Free Market Madness is a useful and stimulating book. It is loaded with information about the ways manufacturers, retailers and advertisers manipulate tastes and appetites. It forces readers to ask if willpower is really enough to keep them healthy…(Read the rest here)

The Library Journal — Elizabeth L. Winter, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta (February 1, 2009

Dr. Ubel (director, Ctr. for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine, Univ. of Michigan) takes on the intersection of markets and behavioral economics in this look at why humans don’t always act in their own rational self-interest, and what, if anything, government should do to protect us from ourselves when we choose against what is best for our well-being. Particularly concerned with urgent health matters such as America’s obesity epidemic, Ubel employs behavioral economic research to demonstrate how irrational factors often trump the rational self-interest traditionally assumed to be the foundation of most human decisions. He argues that free markets should be thoughtfully tweaked to take into account both the rational and the irrational factors that determine our choices. What appears to begin as an antilibertarian diatribe turns out to be a measured, moderate, and nuanced argument. This book will cause readers to contemplate the delicate balance between freedom and living well, and what sorts of policies may enable society to accommodate both at the expense of neither. Grounded in research yet accessible to a broad audience, Ubell’s book is recommended for public and academic collections in economics and current affairs. (Read the original here).

Michigan Radio — Jack Lessenberry’s “Freedom” Essay (January 29, 2009)

Unbridled free-market economics were largely out of favor between the time the New Deal started and Ronald Reagan became President in 1981. Since then, however, we’ve celebrated the market. Our leaders have generally held the view that government regulation was bad, and that we’ve had way too much of it…But while it is easy and popular these days to expose the silliest of the Bush administration’s economic banalities, Dr. Peter Ubel has tried to something deeper and more controversial in his half-sobering, half-entertaining book, Free Market Madness. The good doctor is not just challenging the right of the Enrons of this earth to steal our pension funds. He’s questioning to what extent we ought to be trusted with free choice at all…(Read the rest here)

Barnes and Noble Review — Ariana Green (January 26, 2009)

It’s time a writerly physician weighed in on how free markets encourage obesity, and that’s just what Peter Ubel does. Adding to the spate of popular books on human irrationality, Ubel makes a case for restraining markets that have gained more territory than they deserve. His argument is nuanced: far from shunning capitalism, he describes how better policies could help people get back on track…In the same way books like The Paradox of Choice and Predictably Irrational present numerous studies to underscore how humans make poor decisions, Ubel’s book chronicles various experiments showing that we can’t quite keep our hands out of the (proverbial and actual) cookie jar, unless we get some help from Uncle Sam or some other agent who values our well-being over company profits. Ubel discusses how American irrationality also makes for a bloated health care system, long commutes, and other downers someone’s got to fix. Though the book’s message — that the free market puts us in a position to harm ourselves — is sobering, the prose is peppered with tasty recipes for improvement. Ubel will help you think twice about your own decisions, making you realize how little control you actually have…(Read the original here)

The New York Times: Your Inner Financial Advisor is Swayed by Fear — Paul B. Brown (January 10, 2009)

WHILE waiting for the markets to settle down, and for publishers to rush versions of “Personal Finance 2.0,” the post-2008 apocalypse edition, to stores, it’s a good time to ponder how to decrease our investing mistakes the next time around…Many traditional economic theories are based on the assumption that people make rational decisions. But Dr. Ubel, a physician who directs the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan, surveys the psychological and economic literature and finds countless examples of otherwise rational people acting irrationally, especially about numbers and finances…Dr. Ubel’s fundamental premise seems sound: We are not as rational as we would like to believe, especially in economic matters. That is something to ponder before making an important investment decision.

800CEOread: Jack Covert Selects-Free Market Madness (January 8, 20009

There has been a rash of behavioral economics books published recently that challenge the traditional view that human economic behavior is essentially rational. While most of the other books in the genre are subtler in their critique of that view, with titles like Nudge, Sway and Predictably Irrational, Ubel openly challenges the ways he believes traditional economics have failed us. Despite the book’s title, though, Ubel is in no way anti-free market. He recognizes the tremendous wealth “of both opportunity and of consumer goods,” that free markets have created, but also recognizes their fallibility…(Read the rest here)

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