Should I read Akerloff & Shiller’s Phishing for Phools?

Here are eight on-line reviews. Three broadly negative:

  • Arnold Kling’s review: “Akerlof and Shiller are Nobel Laureates, which they earned with previous research. That is what makes this book so disappointing. People may enjoy reading Phishing for Phools, but it is lacking in real intellectual nutrition. It is the literary equivalent of a Cinnabon.”
  • The Economist: “Readers are merely left with the impression that there are lots of nasty people about—and perhaps that they may themselves have been phished.”
  • Alex Tabarrok in The New Rambler: “a disappointing foray into behavioral economics from two recent Nobel Prize winners. … Akerlof and Shiller have both made enormous contributions to economics but one will find in this book little of the analytical rigor or attention to evidence that earned them their laurels.”

Three more mixed reviews:

  • Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution: “My main complaint about the book is that its chooses easy targets and doesn’t puncture enough sacred cows.  … I wonder to what extent what the authors call “The Resistance and its Heroes” is in fact another example of…phishing for phools.”
  • Cass Sunstein in the New York Review of Books: “Their extraordinary book tells us something true, and profoundly important, about the operations of the invisible hand. But the largest views can lose focus.
  • Siddharth Singh at com: “They leave one question unanswered: how can the preferences of a regulator, or even a set of regulators, be superior to those of the ones being regulated?

With one broadly positive review in the Financial Times and one super positive one in the Times of Higher Education:

  • Robin Harding in the Financial Times: “The style of Phishing for Phools will be familiar to fans of Shiller’s work: light on jargon and pacy enough not to outstay its welcome. The authors tell some engaging tales, although usually at the remove of a fellow academic’s research. There is not much grime or anguish, dialogue or doubt.
    The brilliant, catchy title will sell Phishing for Phools. Indeed, it is almost as if Bob and George want to tempt the monkey on the shoulder of the book-buying public. They give their readers a breezy ride through some modern behavioural economics — and if they leave them hungry for a little more nutrition, well, what clever marketer does not?”
  • Victoria Bateman in the Times of Higher Education: “George Akerlof and Robert Shiller’s brilliant new book”

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