Unexpected Economics

Course No. 5657
Professor Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
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Course No. 5657
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Course Overview

Why are we choosing to have fewer children, even as we put more time into raising each one? Why are we so often willing to follow the herd and the opinions of strangers when making important decisions, even when those decisions are deeply personal? Why do people bother to vote in elections even when they believe their vote can't possibly influence the outcome?

Most surprising: Why are questions like these increasingly attracting the attention of economists?

Economics is a field most people think of as having to do with international trade balances, gross national products, unemployment projections, and other issues involving our own finances, our country's, or the world's. In recent decades, though, economists have been turning their lenses on issues well outside these traditional boundaries, focusing on one "unexpected" subject after another. They're asking how we choose our spouses, for example, or why we select particular places to worship, or what goes into our decision to designate ourselves as organ donors on our driver's licenses. Indeed, the latest thinking to come from the field of economics can offer us a fresh perspective on every area of life in which the interactions of personal choice, motivation, and perceived outcome—the very heart of economics—play essential roles.

The 24 fascinating lectures of Unexpected Economics will help you grasp as never before the ways in which these mechanisms for making choices operate even in areas in which you may never have considered the forces of economics to be at work. Delivered by acclaimed economist and popular Great Courses Professor Timothy Taylor—managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the most widely distributed journal of academic economics in the world—Unexpected Economics puts to rest the oft-quoted misconception of economics as "the dismal science." Instead, you'll take part in a wide-ranging and enjoyable investigation of how economic thinking—whether applied personally, nationally, or globally—relates to, and sheds fresh light on, just about everything.

Using findings from recent Nobel Prize winners and rapidly evolving leading-edge fields like behavioral economics, Professor Taylor looks at subjects ranging from discrimination and natural disasters to charity and risk-taking, and even whether terrorism can be considered a "career choice." As you roam with him across this fascinating landscape, you'll discover unique vantage points from which to survey and understand these exciting and vital territories being explored every day by economists. And you'll gain a deeper understanding of the role of choice in your own life, whether choices you've made for yourself, or those made for you by leaders you've entrusted with that authority.

Broaden Your Net of Choices

It's no accident that economists' recent and growing attention to an increasingly broader range of topics has produced not only a variety of international honors and recognition within the discipline but also popular best-selling books. And there's no arguing with how the resulting insights and findings have radically changed our thinking about how and why decisions—whether personal, national, or global—are made. Or how they can give anyone in a position to make or evaluate those decisions a powerful tool for "broadening the net" of choices and determining the best course of action.

It's the holiday season and you're gift shopping. How useful might it be to really understand why a particular person is on your list, and what motivations for giving might truly be in play as you make your selection?

A government official is charged with addressing the tremendous shortage of available kidneys for those desperately needing a transplant. What factors go into designing a policy that will not only satisfy the needs of new donors, but also those of the political players whose approval is needed?

Every four years, the Olympic Games present a global stage for athletic competition. But they are also just as much a cooperative endeavor. What factors go into striking the right balance needed to ensure success? And what lessons do the Games hold in enhancing our understanding of that same competitive-cooperative balance in business and work life?

A Fascinating Look at the Hidden Role of Economics

Teaching in a friendly style, Professor Taylor offers numerous examples of the hidden role of economics—with its constant dance of incentives and tradeoffs—in every aspect of life, including these:

  • A provocative look at obesity in America, including the counterintuitive role of income, the impact of five key food preparation and preservation technologies, and some surprising revelations about who really bears the costs obesity imposes on society
  • The role of "information cascades" in forming public opinion and influencing people to fall in with the herd—even when the information is absolutely wrong—and how such a cascade meant decades of medically incorrect treatment for stomach ulcers
  • How changing mores have made once-deplored markets and economic transactions acceptable, from surrogate pregnancy to the purchase of life insurance, a practice once believed by some to be elevating oneself above God
  • The changing economic and social forces that have altered the balance of incentives for men and women when it comes to marrying versus remaining single, how many children to have, and whether to seek a divorce

Economic Elements Worth Noticing

A masterful economist with a powerful ability to explain the particulars of economics in commonsense language, Professor Taylor is the consummate guide for this fresh perspective on the relationship between economics and your world. With the same engaging style that has earned him teaching awards, he illustrates one of the main takeaways from Unexpected Economics: That in a world in which each of us is constantly seeking to balance our wants and needs, the key elements of the economist's worldview are always with us—and always worth noticing.

Drawing on everything from psychology, history, and political science to philosophy, statistics, and game theory, these lectures are an enjoyable and rewarding way for you to learn how economics is rooted in seeking to understand not just trade and finances but the essence of how and why human beings make actual decisions.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The World of Choices
    In this introductory lecture, encounter a definition of economics far broader than the one understood by most people. Also, learn that economics is about the choices you make in every aspect of life, their consequences, and the degree to which the realm of choice itself is larger than you would think. x
  • 2
    A Market for Pregnancy
    History demonstrates that most people are creatures of their own time in terms of what they will accept as appropriate economic transactions. Focus on three once-banned examples now seen as partly or completely ordinary: interest payments, life insurance, and the so-called "baby market." x
  • 3
    Selling a Kidney
    The discussion of forbidden transactions continues with a provocative look at the controversy over the buying and selling of human organs like kidneys or livers. No matter where you stand on the issue, this consideration of benefits and costs offers a fresh perspective from which to consider your views of medicine and longevity. x
  • 4
    Traffic Congestion—Costs, Pricing, and You
    Can economic analysis do anything about traffic? This free-wheeling examination of the choices that produce both the problem and solution reveals an example of the "tragedy of the commons" and looks at how the city of London addressed the issue with a strategy of "congestion pricing." x
  • 5
    Two-Way Ties between Religion and Economics
    Although links between religion and economics may seem counterintuitive to many, the possibility has interested economists ever since the work of Adam Smith. This lecture explores how several different aspects of religion may in fact contribute to the underpinnings of the real-world economy. x
  • 6
    Prediction Markets—Windows on the Future
    Can the likelihood of a future event be predicted? If so, how? Plunge into the world of prediction markets, where people place bets on what will happen, and get some surprising answers—in areas that include elections, Oscar winners, and the performance of new products. x
  • 7
    Pathways for Crime and Crime Fighting
    Step beyond the traditional nature-versus-nurture argument about the causes of crime to examine the problem from an economic perspective. Grasp how incentives and tradeoffs affect the decisions of both criminals and law enforcement and how policymakers might better take them into account. x
  • 8
    Terrorism as an Occupational Choice
    Is there a causal relationship between poverty and terrorism, or a pathway to terrorism originating in a lack of education? Discover some surprising answers as you turn your attention to the choices and incentives economists find when examining how terrorism and its practitioners find each other. x
  • 9
    Marriage as a Search Market
    By looking at the many factors that go into marriage—from the "market" where people find their spouses to the forces that influence their choices about remaining together or splitting apart—you'll gain fresh insight into why marriage patterns have shifted so dramatically. x
  • 10
    Procreation and Parenthood
    Beginning with the work of Thomas Malthus, explore the many ways in which our child-bearing patterns have changed, including a current theory that actually sees children as a kind of luxury good, where an increase in income translates into an even higher investment in one's children. x
  • 11
    Small Choices and Racial Discrimination
    Take a close look at how discrimination against African Americans manifests itself in various markets. Learn about the different analytical perspectives set forth by economists like Becker, Schelling, and Arrow; the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and three different approaches to achieving equality. x
  • 12
    Cooperation and the Prisoner's Dilemma
    A discussion of the classic Prisoner's Dilemma and its application to the market economy leads to a surprising conclusion: Competition and cooperation are not opposites. Instead, they are interlocking, with market competition the ultimate example of socially cooperative behavior. x
  • 13
    Fairness and the Ultimatum Game
    Turn your focus to the world of "laboratory economics," where game exercises like the "ultimatum game," "dictator," "punishment," "trust," "gift exchange," and others help cast fresh light on key aspects of economic behavior. Learn how perceived fairness and other motivating factors can affect real-life markets. x
  • 14
    Myopic Preferences and Behavioral Economics
    Myopia can refer to more than eyesight. Grasp the impact of setting aside the long-term view in favor of the shorter one, a pattern whose consequences can be seen not only in personal finance, but in health care, time management, and many other aspects of behavior. x
  • 15
    Altruism, Charity, and Gifts
    Is charity always altruistic, or is giving really motivated by disguised self-interest? Examine the many possible motivations for charity, societal steps to support it, and the imbalances that occur when a recipient's valuation of a gift is markedly different from that of the giver. x
  • 16
    Loss Aversion and Reference Point Bias
    How a choice is framed significantly affects which alternative is chosen, even when either will produce identical results. Grasp why this is so through concepts like loss aversion and reference dependence, and see how public "nudge" policies might be used to influence those choices. x
  • 17
    Risk and Uncertainty
    An eye-opening exploration of how economists see risk introduces behavioral descriptions like risk-neutral, risk-seeking, and risk-averse, along with the most useful way to realistically evaluate probabilities and make decisions. Learn how this knowledge factors into public policy subjects like energy and finance. x
  • 18
    Human Herds and Information Cascades
    Most of us understandably "run with the herd" when making decisions outside our personal expertise. Although this often leads to correct choices, it can also draw us astray. Learn the dangers of "information cascades" and how to avoid joining herds headed in disastrous directions. x
  • 19
    Addiction and Choice
    In a provocative examination of a controversial subject, learn how some economists have analyzed drug addiction as a chosen behavior—and therefore subject to analysis of costs, benefits, and incentives, much like any other personal choice. x
  • 20
    Obesity—Who Bears the Costs?
    American men and women have both gained an average of more than 20 pounds since the early 1960s. Address the reasons for this increase, the role played by economic factors, and the implications for public policy, including who really pays the costs obesity imposes. x
  • 21
    The Economics of Natural Disasters
    The damage natural disasters do to people and property is not just a matter of fate. Explore how the answers to economic questions about socially appropriate investments in advance planning and preparation for rapid response can influence the impact of a natural disaster. x
  • 22
    Sports Lessons—Pay, Performance, Tournaments
    Although sports account for a far less significant piece of the economy than most people assume, it does provide economists with especially clear examples with much broader applicability. Grasp what sports can teach us about issues like pay and promotion, valuing talent, and providing incentives for top performance. x
  • 23
    Voting, Money, and Politics
    What happens when voting—its costs, incentives, even its very rationality—is subjected to the scrutiny of economists? Understand the real impacts on this defining principle of democracy from factors like voter ignorance, money, special interests, and turnout. x
  • 24
    The Pursuit of Happiness
    If happiness is indeed the ultimate incentive for the choices we make, is there any way to measure it? This concluding lecture examines several ways in which economists have sought to define and measure this elusive goal and the ways in which the results might influence our choices. x

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Your professor

Timothy Taylor

About Your Professor

Timothy Taylor, M.Econ.
Macalester College
Professor Timothy Taylor is Managing Editor of the prominent Journal of Economic Perspectives, published by the American Economic Association. He earned his Master's degree in Economics from Stanford University. Professor Taylor has won student-voted teaching awards for his Introductory Economics classes at Stanford University. At the University of Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of...
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Reviews

Unexpected Economics is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 54.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing! In this series of 24 lectures, Professor Timothy Taylor applies a strictly economic analysis to a wide variety of topics, from selling an organ to obesity to drug abuse. Overall, he comes out as trying too hard to be off the beaten track by ignoring arguments that are not economic. It is hard to believe that any human being would consider only pecuniary factors in, say, deciding to have children or not! Perhaps, Professor Taylor is not really taking himself too seriously? What makes matters worse for the listener is that he tends to be long winded and speaks with an aggravating tone of voice, except at the start of some lectures when he is clearly trying not to. Though there is substance to these lectures, it appears best to pass this series and spend time on better offerings by the Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No longer intimidated by economics Not sure what drew me to this course, but whatever it was, I'm grateful. My favorite chapter related to myopic preferences and I found it fascinating enough to listen to it more than once, and convinced my husband to listen as well. I recommend this class and expect others will be equally pleased with the unexpected economics in everyday life.
Date published: 2017-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding for extended interstate travel This is the first of the CD audio format that I have purchased. Found it excellent for travel and extended time in the automobile specially this topic that does not require lots of graphics or illustrations. Would definitely purchase again
Date published: 2017-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really fascinating stuff This course has a lot in common with the one titled "Behavioral Economics." Both have to do with the interplay between human behavior and economics. The professor in this course (actually, in both courses) explains things clearly and concisely. Very nicely done!
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unexpected Economics I am about two thirds thru this lecture series and I truly enjoy these lectures. He can bring out economic insights which are valid and does not offend at the same time. I have always liked economics and this lecture series confirms my affection.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from An OK Attempt to get Economics in yourBlood As an economics grad., I am schooled in the lingo, concepts and history of modern economics. So, this course was a little bit of a let down for two reasons: Normally, Tim "The Teaching Man" Taylor is measured, careful and traceable in his delivery and his material is worthy of some modicum of academic rigor. In this most recent "unexpected Economics" course, I can only give it a passing grade. Such reviews are often subjective. And, as I've read other's reviews who praised either the professor or the material, I will try to be objective. Tim's delivery is at issue as he seems constricted, tense, pent up and ready to explode. His delivery comes off in much the same manner as when one purses the neck of an inflated party balloon and lets the air escape as a high-pitched screech. So, too is the material "stretched" in an attempt at showing economics all around, under and in everyday life. Many good, sound economic concepts are touched upon but only in the guise of trying to make the square peg of these tenets fit into the round hole of his examples. The attempt at making the relatively dry subject of economics into applicable and interesting gemstones of mass appeal and interest does not succeed. A good course when purchased "on sale." This is not faint praise. It is, after all, a rather lazy and easily digested way to be exposed to the arcane world of economics...a lot easier than climbing a rock wall.
Date published: 2017-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting presentation of non-traditional econom This is an interesting lecture about economics applied to non - monetary markets. If you are an economics major or a major economics junky you probably know most of this stuff, but for the rest of the world, this is a nice intro to the concept that economics is about more than money.
Date published: 2016-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Economic Reasoning At Its Best So much for economics as the dismal science----,Professor Taylor puts that characterization to bed! He does a super job in applying economic reasoning to every day problems, and clearly notes that 'reasoning', not mathematics or jargon, is the key tool of the economist. Too bad economics isn't taught this way more often.
Date published: 2016-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Various Interesting Ideas As a preliminary note, I would not recommend this course unless you already have a basic understanding of economics. The Great Courses has a basic economics course taught by the same professor that should be a prerequisite to this class. This course is essentially a grab bag of economic ideas and concepts applied to a host of various situations including sports, voting, marriage, and even pregnancy and happiness. Each lesson is interesting and usually has some bit of trivia. The main criticism of this course is that it lacks a connecting thesis other than the broad idea of economic principals being applied to various life situations. The course tends to lack overall cohesion. That being said, I still enjoyed the course and felt like I walked away with some bit of knowledge after each lesson. Further, I enjoyed the "applied economics" lessons sprinkled throughout the course, such as discussions about how economics plays into decisions such as purchasing life insurance. Also, the professor does a very good job presenting in an enthusiastic and clear manner.
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, articulate and insightful The is a wonderfully interesting course taught by a very clear and articulate economist. It is easy to see that he is an award winning teacher. The multiple topics are a collection of marvelously intriguing interpretations of common situations done according to economic principles. The course does not require a prior course in economics, and does not provide rigorous explanations, but the discussions are not dumbed down. The arguments as presented mostly all make sense, though from my perspective the professor is a bit too unsympathetic to the problems of addiction and too tolerant of the market in government that politicians make with special interests. Overall, continuously entertaining!!
Date published: 2015-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite great courses lecturer I have been listening to the great courses for many many years and Professor Taylor is my favorite. Admittedly I like economics, but he is always very engaging and I learn a lot. I think I listened to one of his courses three times I buy these lectures to learn and I always learn much from Professor Taylor. I usually listen at the gym with multiple TVs on in front of me. With some courses I have to struggle to pay attention to the lecture - not with Professor Taylor.
Date published: 2015-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from casually interesting course The course isn't as engaging as some of the other Business & Economics courses I've watched. I preferred Thinking like an Economist and Money Management Skills. The info in this particular course is not as practical as in the other two courses.
Date published: 2015-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal lecturer This is the fourth TGC title given by Professor Taylor, the others being "Economics 3rd edition", "History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th century", and "Legacies of Great Economists". Professor Taylor is, simply put, an outrageously good lecturer. The thing I found most likeable in his teaching method is that you do not feel you are being lectured to – that is to say it is not a top down sort of deal where the lecturer shoots out the data and the student accepts it. Instead, when he tries to make a point, he shows the arguments that support accepting the point, but no less strongly he emphasizes the weak points. Sometimes he himself says that he is not certain how conclusive the research has been on topics he is covering. So instead of data being passed from teacher to student, it feels much more like sitting down in a café with a good, well informed friend, and listening to new fascinating concepts. In fact, it felt like there was a DIALOGUE being carried out, with Professor Taylor explaining the points and then answering the questions you would have asked had you actually been sitting in the cafe with him (definitely not an easy feat to pull off). You decide if you buy the arguments or not… As for the content of the course – I found it to be absolutely fascinating. The course deals with many different topics that you would not normally associate with economics, this is why it is called "UNEXPECTED economics". Some of the topics were not new to me, having heard them in other courses. One such batch, are topics that fall under the field of behavioral economics and include for example the prisoner's dilemma, the ultimatum game, and more (lectures twelve to eighteen). Nearly all of these topics are also covered in Professor Huettel's excellent TGC course "behavior Economics: when psychology and economics collide" which I have heard prior to this course (though chronologically it was released later in the TGC than "Unexpected Economics"). Even so, Professor Taylor's insights into these topics made it well worth the time to hear the discussion again. Honestly, I think that for many of the TGC audience behavioral economics is a field of which they have at least some inkling. Some of the other topics discussed WERE absolutely new to me and, true to the title, unexpected and surprising. Such topics looked at areas on the face of it totally unrelated to economics, but analyzed using economic methodologies. In some of the lectures, Professor Taylor forces us to look at issues that almost all of us tend to have a strong moral stance on, and to present different challenging approaches to them. A good example is the baby market; unconventional production of babies. People who want babies and can't have them suffer grievously. If you take this into consideration, then some solutions that until recently struck most as morally offensive tend to make sense as time passes. Male genetic seeds (I had to phrase it like to get it through the TGC profanity filter) and egg donations (or indeed commerce), in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood have all become acceptable to differing degrees. This is mostly because the irrepressible urge of some to have babies was so intense that they were willing to fight and change public opinion. In time, some of these baby production technologies have become mainstream. Another interesting, and perhaps more challenging example, is the organ market. Professor Taylor asks us: if you know that without an organ donation you are going to die while there are people out there who can donate an organ to you without suffering any severe medical ailment or taking on a large risk, doesn't it make sense morally to encourage such transactions? Furthermore, there are many people who have an excess in kidneys, but some are in serious deficit financially; would allowing people to trade a kidney for money not be a the classic win-win solution? Now, obviously, taking such an approach poses difficulties: would it not create a society where the poor are more apt to walk around with only one kidney? On the other hand, why should letting the poor benefit from selling organs be so repulsive, don’t doctors make a lot of money from organ transplantation? Many of the questions seem very distasteful, but allowing some of these methods – Professor Taylor argues – could save a lot of lives and a lot of human suffering. Among other unexpected topics that are covered using this unique economic perspective are the fight against national obesity, strategies in fighting against crime and traffic congestion. Even the study of happiness is not overlooked… This was the final lecture and I found it to be both interesting and extremely funny – Taylor giving a very good performance. This course has been fantastically interesting and has introduced me to a different perspective on many far ranging topics on the face of it far flung from economics. I am very glad I decided to hear it.
Date published: 2015-02-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Course Having listened to other courses by Taylor, I was a bit disappointed by this DVD course compared to his others. As some reviewers noted, this course is all about applying economics to areas in which one wouldn't expect it to apply. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much. However, each lecture made me think about the topic and resulted in much introspection. Because of its thought provoking nature, I'll give this course 4 stars. Be warned that economics is NOT a hard science. Therefore, it shouldn't be compared to physics or chemistry where there are usually right and wrong answers. Economists can say what the "rational" choice is, but defining rational and finding it in nature are both difficult, if not impossible, tasks. So, this course explains how an economist would approach a number of different scenarios. Do such approaches ever apply in real life? Only sometimes. But that doesn't mean economics isn't worth studying. Having more ways to approach thinking about problems is better than fewer approaches or no approach at all . Taylor is his usual, energetic lecturer. He clearly loves economics and is excited to share his knowledge. I've listened to two of his other courses and enjoyed them immensely.
Date published: 2015-01-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Information free course. Like a bad freshman philosophy course, a definition that is very restrictive and not a correlate of reality is driven into many different areas to give insight. Brooking no other way of seeing the topic, this straight jacket of thought plows through complex forms just repeating the definition. BUT the original definition is incomplete and narrow and today intellectually weak after years of finding the rationality of economics is overblown. Go to other courses.
Date published: 2014-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not the best I generally like courses taught by Prof Taylor however this course seems to present a bit less value than other courses by the same professor. A diverse number of topics are discussed in the course while in my opinion sufficient substance is lacking in some courses. In many courses, after the topic is introduced, its not hard to guess the following material for someone a bit knowledgeable about economics. This produces the feeling that you are taking a course about a topic you already know, which is very off putting. On the other end, course is not without value. While trying to support presented material with evidence Prof Taylor discusses about a psychological experiment or a real life event which may be interesting. Depending on your knowledge about economics, this course offers you less or more in terms of value. I recommend this course for a novice in economics, think twice before purchase if you are somewhat knowledgeable.
Date published: 2014-09-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting. "Unexpected Economics" is the application of economics into areas a person does not generally think are economic issues. I would recommend you look at the titles of each lecture to see if these are topics you would be interested in. The basic idea is that people respond to incentives and in a world of scarcity, people make choices that they think will serve them best. Economic principles are then applied to each of these sets of choices. I enjoyed the professors presentation style: serious at times, jovial at times, lots of facts, lots of practical examples. My only complaint is that the material seemed a bit stretched out in order to make 24 lectures out of the topic. I had listened to "Modern Economic Issues" first, so a number of the topics had been discussed in those lectures. I think that I would have liked this course more if I had not already been familiar with some of the material (they are taught by different professors). Out of the two I prefer "Modern Economic Issues", it has more depth and variety.
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Economist Gives Fair Warning Professor Taylor's course is valuable, introducing those of us unfamiliar with modern economics to current models and practices. But more than that, it's fun, showing relationships between unexpected topics in a familiar light or familiar topics in an unfamiliar light. As a learning experience to widen ones grasp of the various viewpoints available, I recommend it highly. The viewer has to avoid painting Professor Taylor with the brush commonly used to burnish economists. Consider his discussion of the relationship between economic behaviour and happiness seeking. Like all economists,when his model of economic behavior differs from the behaviors exhibited in the real world, he bemoans the “irrationality” of the individuals, not the fact that his model is defective. In the “hard” sciences such as chemistry or physics, when one's model does not agree with experiment, the scientist corrects the model. In physics, for instance, instead of complaining that real pulleys exhibit irrational friction which his model does not, the physicist seeks the source. The soft sciences, like economics, can afford this flexibility because so much of the field is speculation and opinion instead of experiential knowledge. The error is endemic to the field, not Professor Taylor. Of course, one has to keep in mind that all economists, not just Professor Taylor, attempt to be ultimately super-rationalist, allowing no hint of ethics or morals to influence their models. He wonders why there is no market for organs for transplants if there exists a supply of organs (the poor) and a supply of customers (those dying of organ failure who could afford the transplants, i.e. The rich). After all this is the basis for exchange. The fact that the same supply and demand rule applies to political assassinations and child pornography seems not to worry economists. Addiction is likewise treated as an economic choice for the addict. Addiction is presented as the addict's choice among alternatives. Professor Taylor's economics has no room for social, cognitive or physiological excuses, although, for some reason, he does allow a genetic component for the overweight. The professor's presentation is knowledgeable, enjoyable, and fast moving. He is obviously expert and just as obviously cannot be held responsible for factors that are an inherent part of his field. In short, a course to add to your list, whether your wish to be a more informed player in the real world economy or merely to be warned about an over-reliance on statistical behavior without a solid, underlying model of the world the statistics are supposed to represent.
Date published: 2014-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation and material Professor Taylor has designed 24 interesting lectures covering a wide range of relevant topics. He discusses each topic clearly and concisely, bringing many interesting views on each. He has a traditional lecture style, but still manages to maintain your interest. He does not go into detail about each topic, but gives a great overview of the ideas in each. I was particularly interested in the meeting of Psychology and Economics in the middle lectures. Explanations of the "Ultimatum Game", "Prisoner's Dilemma" and biases in decision making were particularity good. I also enjoyed his lecture on Sport and Economics, using the "Money ball" notions of value in sports and how this links with business. Overall, a highly recommended course of relevant Economic analysis.
Date published: 2013-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended Without Hesitation! [Audio Version] This was my third course from Professor Taylor (I reviewed ‘Economics 3rd Ed.’ and ‘America and the New Global Economy’). I can’t quite say that this course is better than the previous ones, but I can say ‘Unexpected Economics’ is certainly just as good as the other two. Taylor is fun, interesting, enthusiastic, and once again hits the ground running in his almost breathless and unique fashion. He’s a gifted speaker––you can often hear the smile in his voice. While the course slowed down for me at Lecture 5 (Religion and Economics), it picked up speed again for the remaining lectures. I found myself eager for each new topic. Lecture 14 on ‘Myopic Preferences and Behavioral Economics' was a slam dunk––and for me was worth the price of the entire course. (But I wish he had dug deeper into current US problems and issues like national healthcare and Social Security.) My only beefs, minor ones, are Taylor’s reminding us too often that he is Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. I also grew a tad weary of his citing so many Nobel laureates (more than a dozen are listed in the Guide Book). The Nobel Prize has become less prestigious and increasing controversial over the past several decades. Taylor’s making us so aware of the almost-celebrity status of economic superstars sometimes caused me to wonder who he was leaving out. I am grateful for professors like Taylor. In my college days, economics was indeed dreary. Taylor makes economics interesting and exciting. That takes real talent. I can recommend this course without hesitation.
Date published: 2012-09-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Presentation, Broadly Focused The content of this course is harder to rate than most Great Courses that I have taken. The subject caught my attention based on Professor Taylor’s earlier general survey course entitled simply “Economics”, which was an excellent introduction to, and/or review of, the principles of both the theory and practice of the field of economics. The present course is not intended to further the student’s understanding of economic theory, but is rather an analysis of how and why people make choices in their everyday lives. Some principles of economics are applied, such as supply and demand, price sensitivity and game theory, but the emphasis is on the economic and non-economic factors that motivate people to make both big and small lifestyle choices. The lecture headings give the prospective student a clear idea of the topics covered, most notably choices involving marriage, religion, obesity, charity giving, addiction, sports and politics. Professor Taylor, a gifted speaker who holds his audience’s attention admirably, offers a variety of explanations for human behavior, most quite rational, but occasionally a bit surprising. Despite the 2011 date of this course, one area where his discourse seems to have been overtaken by political events is in the penultimate lecture, “Voting, Money and Politics”. In 2012 most Americans would argue that there is now far too much money in U.S. electoral politics, yet Taylor points out that that the $5 billion spent on recent elections for all levels and branches of government combined is a miniscule percentage of our $14 trillion GDP, an accurate fact, but is it a reasonable comparison? In assessing a citizen’s decision whether or not to vote, he accurately points out that a single individual’s vote virtually never determines the outcome of even a local election, let alone a state or national one, though he fails to mention that Florida came pretty close in 2000. More importantly, he also implies that financial contributions by individuals do not materially affect election results, which is certainly no longer true in the post-Citizens-United era. Overall this unusual approach to economics in our lives is presented in an interesting and provocative manner, making it well worthwhile to anyone intrigued by what motivates human behavior, with results that are often “unexpected”, as the course title clearly states.
Date published: 2012-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Discussion audio course Prof. Taylor presents a good discussion of various issues presented by current topics. Prof. Taylor discusses many current topics in this course. Most of the discussions are clear and thorough. Unfortunately, the course falls short as he provides no underlying framework for his discussion. His course guidebook is set up in a similar manner -- with bullet point after bullet point with no outline or other structure to be found. I would suggest that students considering this course first consider TTC's course "Thinking Like an Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision Making" by Prof. Bartlett. Despite "Thinking's" smaller size (12 lectures), there is considerable overlap between the courses. Also, Prof. Bartlett spends the first three or four lectures providing an overriding framework to economic thought which I found very helpful. I would still recommend this course to those who have already completed Prof. Bartlett's course as Prof. Taylor does have the time in this course to cover the issues presented by topics that aren't addressed by Prof. Bartlett's course.
Date published: 2012-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In the spirit of Freakonomics... In the spirit of books like Freakonomics, Predictably Irrational, and Nudge, this course applies "economic thinking" to issues that you would not normally think of as economics: kidney transplants, marriage, charity, obesity, etc. I would say that the course is best for people who already have some background in how to think like an economist - or have an analytical personality. Prof Taylor's presentation is very good. He keeps the course interesting with lots of anecdotal stories. Some people may be uncomfortable with an analytical approach to thinking about emotional issues such as terrorism, natural disasters, and organ transplants, but that is to point of the course -- to teach people to think rationally about issues that are often driven by emotion. Given this, Prof Taylor does an excellent job of being sensitive to this potential analytical/emotional clash.
Date published: 2012-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Very Qualified 5-Star This is not a course for anyone wanting to learn about basic economics. Neither is this a course for those with a good foundation in economics to acquire new information in the field. While there are bits and pieces of this scattered throughout, the main thrust of the course is an examination of various contemporary issues through the lens of economics. As such, it has more in common with Robert Whaple's "Modern Economic Issues" than it does with Prof. Taylor's regular "Economics" course (both of which are very fine courses). Prof. Taylor is very clear from the outset that other fields of study, such as psychology or sociology, have different explanations for much of what he is presenting and that his economist's view is merely one approach among many. With that qualification in mind, the course is an excellent presentation of how economists think when they are thinking as economists.
Date published: 2012-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun & introspective but soft Video download review. ©2011. Guidebook 159 pages. First off, I have to say I really like Tim Taylor. He’s Mr. Congeniality and just an all-around fun, informative guy. I got the video, but in hindsight, audio would be the better choice for many customers as there aren’t enough substantial graphics to justify video. The Guidebook was very well done and the resources at the end are comprehensive. Most of the articles are available online and are definitely worth following up on. For me that is an added value because I do tend to follow up on the ones of interest to me. Some of the lectures are worthy of five stars, but some aren’t quite up to the task; they’re a little soft or simply introductions to moral decision making. One thing I loved about the course it that it provides alternative ways of looking at issues that might otherwise escape the average man/woman on the street. This course isn’t so much about money and finance, but more about making decisions in a world of scarcity. Secondly, I think many of these lectures would serve quite well as models for debating strategies. These are fun enough to watch or listen again, especially after following up on the readings. It’s a fun, quick, and easy course to finish. But, comparatively speaking, it’s a little soft.
Date published: 2012-04-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from unexpected economics professor T. Taylor speaks a lot but nothing substancial comes out. I try many times to attend this course but couldn't. I wanted to learn something and I realise I was hearing his own opinions. so I would qualify this course as mostly entertainment.
Date published: 2012-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Great Teacher All teachers have their quirks, but Taylor is the most clear, personal, insightful teacher I've studied with in Great Courses - and that's saying a lot, because there are some very good ones. The course topics overlap somewhat with Freakonomics, if you've read that book; but it brings so much new material, and along with it Taylor's excellent insights, that I did not feel I was wasting even a moment of time spent in this course.
Date published: 2012-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Timothy Taylor is my hero After listening to some of his earlier works, I was very excited about this. It reminds me of "freakonomics", but feels a bit more. Although naturally less "complete" or "informative" than his other lectures, this is maybe the more entertaining. I still hope for more economics lectures from Professor Taylor, whichever format.
Date published: 2012-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly relevant and enriching I am a fan of Professor Taylor. Privilege to have access to this great expert through the TTC. This is a very good course and shines a light on how economists can shed light on "everyday" issues affecting society. The lectures on crime, terrorism, congestion, religion and health/obesity were really outstanding. They allowed me to have a wider grasp of some of the issues that these important policy areas demand. The basic truth is that there are rarely any simple answers and proposed solutions always involve trade offs that have to be quantified honestly-unfortunately a rare occurence in modern politics. The one area of disappointment was that the accomplanying booklet was very thin- i would have liked more detail- not a transcript but more detail. This seems to be happening with newer TTC courses that i have purchased and that is not a welcome trend for me. To summarise, i have listened to three of Professor Taylors courses and they are all required listening and he is a humourous and very good lecturer.
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening The course provides a stimulating view of topics that I would not have associated with economics. I cannot always agree with the perspective as it seems to go to the other extreme of unduly diminishing the role of psychological considerations in decision making, but it prompted me to start viewing the issues in a more fact- and number-based light, which will, I hope, improve the objectivity of my judgement.. The professor is great.
Date published: 2012-02-29
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