Russ Roberts, The Price of Everything:

I recently read Russ Roberts's new novel, The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity. For those who don't know Russ's work, his novels are quite unusual. He writes novels that are designed to illustrate economic themes and concepts. Russ is an unusually clear and lively writer--especially for an academic economist--and he actually manages to pull off the feat of writing interesting novels that illustrate economic concepts.

Russ's last book was The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance. That book illustrated basic economic thinking and the economic approach to questions. I liked it a lot.

I liked The Price of Everything even better. The main focus of the price of everything is to illuminate Hayek's idea of spontaneous order and the value of the price system as an information mechanism that enables individuals to coordinate their plans better. As a novel, the book uses the fictional narrative arc of the story to illustrate the way in which independent human actions are coordinated and evolve into a emergent order that no one sees.

The other (related) point of the novel is to illustrate and update Leonard Reed's famous essay "I, Pencil." That story is used to show the "unplanned" nature of coordination in a global economy.

I found the book quite enjoyable and filled with marvelous stories and illustrations of the principle of spontaneous order and the price system as a mechanism for coordination. My sense is that concept is often elusive for many people.

I think that the book is really ideal for those who are looking for a fun introduction to economic thinking. This would be, say, high school students or even incoming law students who did not take economics in college but would like to get a little sense of economic reasoning before law school. Russ's great gift is to use simple stories to illustrate complex economic ideas. If that's the sort of thing you are interested in, I recommend it highly.