Make It Count 

This month's East Bay best-sellers investigate fallacious assumptions and soul-crushing petty humiliations.

Our take on this month's best-sellers at East Bay independent bookstores, including Analog Books, Bay Books, Black Oak, Cody's, Diesel, and Pegasus.

There's no word in the English language less sexy than 'economics.' Yet the success of Freakonomics has transformed 'the dismal science' into this year's trendiest genre. This is the new economics, so it's less about stats and calculators, and more about feelings and behavior. In Deep Economy (Times Books, $25), Bill McKibben recommends that we drop-kick this whole industrial revolution thing and return to feudalism. That's not exactly how he puts it, but his proposals — that we abandon densely packed cities and move out to self-sufficient cohousing in small organic farming communities, each of which produces its own power, grows its own food, and mints its own currency — pretty much emulates medieval fiefdoms. With one key difference: These will be utopian communistic fiefdoms, see, where decisions will be made by committee, not by some overbearing local lord. The manner in which this solution is to be forced on an unwilling world is not made clear. Thomas C. Schelling's 1978 classic Micromotives and Macrobehavior (Norton, $15.95) was one of the reasons he was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economic Science. Don't let the textbooky title deceive you: It's a breezy exploration of the fun side of economics — behavioral economics, in which experts with clipboards and Coke-bottle glasses try to diagnose why we do what we do. Schelling analyzes decisionmaking vignettes such as traffic jams and theater seating, and pinpoints how, left to their own devices, people often make individual choices that end up ruining things for everybody. If you want to keep up with the eco trend but you're the type who prefers Perez Hilton to Alan Greenspan, Todd G. Buchholz' gossipy New Ideas from Dead Economists (Plume, $16) dishes the dirt on everyone from Adam Smith (clumsy) to John Maynard Keynes (ugly) to Karl Marx (stinky). If you wear a pocket protector this might not be your cup of Texas Tea. 'berPower (Norton, $13.95) examines the insurmountable economic clout and cultural dominance that America wields over the globe. Its author, Josef Joffe, is a leading German journalist and fellow at the Hoover Institution. But he actually approves of American dominance! Much of this book is spent gleefully mocking European resentment of big, mean, shallow, boorish, violent America: a series of ridiculous stereotypes that Joffe demolishes. US military might keeps Europe safe, he argues, and American consumers keep the European economy afloat, and American technology leads the way for everyone, and so without the hated United States, Europe would be in the metaphorical toilet. One thing's for sure: Joffe won't be invited to many Berkeley cocktail parties.


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