Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Richard Robb, Willful: How We Choose What We Do (Yale University Press: 2019) Reviewed for Choice Magazine

Richard Robb, Willful: How We Choose What We Do (Yale University Press: 2019)
Reviewed for Choice Magazine
Ronald F. White, PhD

The history of philosophy is rife with works that address the old distinction between freedom and determinism of human thought and/or human action. Classical/Neoclassical economists embrace “rational choice theory” in order to explain, predict, and/or control consumer behavior. While this new book does not seek to disprove rational choice theory, it does seek to add another dimension, which we might call, irrational (or non-rational) choice theory. Thus, Robb reduces human action to two categories: rational “purposeful acts” that are performed in anticipation of pleasurable consequence in the near/distant future;” and irrational and/or non-rational acts that are performed because they are (or appear to be) “good for themselves.” If that sounds familiar, it does harken back to the old philosophical distinction between “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” value.  Although this book is well-written and rife with interesting examples, and perspectives, it does reflect state-of-the-art research. The most egregious research omissions include reference recent books by:  Cass R. Sunstein on social and political “influence;” and.  Mark van Vugt on “biological and cultural evolution.” Despite, it’s obvious scholarly deficiencies, it is rife with interesting examples and puzzles that might inspire other economists to take into account more rigorous, interdisciplinary approaches to understanding consumer behavior.          

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review

Exposing the 20 Medical Myths: 
Why Everything You Know About Health Care is Wrong 
and How to Make It Right  

By: Arthur Garson Jr., MD and Ryan Holeywell  
(Rowman & Littlefield)

This is a concise, up-to-date, rigorously referenced analysis of twenty of the most troublesome “myths” that continue to misguide the American public’s views about health care. Most of the myths discussed are well-known by scholars, and have been “busted” by other previous works. Like other works within this “myth-busting” genre, this book often relies on a rigorous comparison between the health care systems in the US, Canada, and Europe. Of those 20 myths, the first and last are highly representative: Chapter 1. “US Health Care is the Best in the World.” And, Chapter 20. “There is No Health-Care System That Will Work for the United States.” Other US issues include: preventative care, doctor shortage, malpractice, and emergency room treatment. The authors argue that public acknowledgement these twenty myths is necessary for sustained long-term planning and reform. Critics might observe that the book omits many other important myths, especially a variety of “myths” related to the education of US health care professionals. Nevertheless, this is a highly recommended textbook for undergraduate and graduate students, health care policy scholars, the general public, and anyone who still believes that health care in the US is the best in the world.

Reviewed for Choice Magazine by: 
Ronald F. White, PhD
Mount St. Joseph University