A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

Book Review

The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics

by Michael Shermer



Note: this review is of the hardback edition. The paperback came out in 2009 and has the subtitle: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives

Shermer's March to Nirvana

"...markets are moral, and modern economies are founded on our virtuous nature."  --Michael Shermer

I'll begin by letting the reader know where I stand: after reading Mind of the Market (MOM), I trust Michael Shermer on economics as much as I trust Jenny McCarthy on autism. Certainly, Shermer is more entertaining and erudite than McCarthy, but he's no more credentialed or convincing in economics than she is in medicine. When he gave his talk on the work that would be MOM at TAM 5, I told him that I looked forward to reading the new book. I wasn't trying to flatter the master. I know a little about the moral sense school and the relationship between Adam Smith (one of Shermer's heroes) and David Hume (one of my heroes). The talk indicated that he would explore the history of the philosophy that holds that morals issue from natural sentiments or feelings. I expected a discussion of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, and a detailed account of how these 18th century philosophers are the intellectual forefathers of those evolutionary psychologists who find the roots of moral codes and behavior in our biological nature, which is benevolent (altruistic) as well as selfish. And, of course, I expected him to show the connection between the moral sense philosophers and free market economies. Instead, I got a whirlwind ride through a thicket of evolutionary psychology studies and illogical leap after illogical leap to defend libertarianism. Recent events, namely the worldwide collapse of capitalist economies, have inspired Shermer to dig in deeper.

Oddly, atheist Shermer begins his hymn of praise to free market capitalism with a parable from the New Testament. He even refers to Jesus as "the messiah." Matthew 25:14-29 is the story of a master who gives different amounts of money to several of his servants to hold for him while he goes on a trip. Two of them invest the money and double their funds. The servant given the smallest amount of money buries it. They all give their money back to the master, who then gives the money that was buried to the one he'd given the most money to, saying: "For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away." (Shermer mistakenly says that the messiah utters this piece of gibberish, when it is the master in the parable who says it.)

Shermer interprets the parable to mean that "properly investing one's money ... generates even more wealth." The master says to the one who buried the money: "you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest." Personally, I think the story probably has another message, one related to the stories it's sandwiched between (the parable of the ten virgins and the story of the sheep and the goats). But even if the message is mainly about banking and not about the kingdom of heaven or something along those lines, I find it to be another in a long line of inane Biblical stories. Most servants who invest money given to them by their masters lose their investments. Jesus, were he who Christians think he is, would know this. Workers who invest their own 401k monies do significantly worse than those who have their retirement money invested for them by their masters. We don't know what the master in Matthew's parable would have done had the miser put his money in the bank. He wouldn't have doubled his money by today's rates, that's for sure. Would he have been chided for not taking a greater risk instead of being thrown out and called worthless? Why isn't this master interested in what kind of investment his servants made? Doesn't he care if they invested ethically? Is the money all he cares about? By today's standards, the risk takers would have to have lost all the money entrusted to them to deserve their performance and incentive bonuses.

This parable might be seen as justification for eliminating the capital gains tax and the tax on interest or dividends. Only people who hold on to their money should pay taxes. In fact, they should pay more in tax than they possess, according to the parable. Does that make sense? No, not to me either.

Anyway, Shermer goes on to his own point about the "mind of the market." The servant who got the money entrusted to the risk-aversive servant got more than he deserved. The master's reward was irrational. So is the mind of the market. (Or, you could just as easily say, so is the market and skip the pointless mind metaphor.) Two of Shermer's favorite topics, game theory and evolutionary psychology, will be connected to this parable and to almost everything else he has to say about the market. These connections may be enlightening to some, but they just darken the skies for me.

The parable of the irrational master begins the prologue to the book. Also in the prologue is Shermer's announcement that he is advocating a kinder, gentler form of social Darwinism than that of Spencer and those who applied what they understood as Darwinism to social theory in order to justify such things as "enforced sterilization of the mentally retarded in America, and to the Nazi eugenics program that gave rise to the Holocaust." In short, the prologue seems to say that Shermer is going to attempt to defend a form of social Darwinism that sees human beings as primarily irrational animals driven more by emotions that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years than by reason, which has evolved over a much shorter period. At least he recognizes that he's a social Darwinist.

The last third of the prologue is personal history and is for those who might be interested in how Shermer got started as a defender of free market capitalism. His personal history is, of course, irrelevant to supporting the new social Darwinism.

For those who read Shermer because of his history as the publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of such books as Why People Believe Weird Things, this book on evolutionary economics may prove less than satisfying. This is Shermer the libertarian, not Shermer the skeptic. About the only relic of his skepticism to be found in MOM is the reassurance that we don't need religion to support our ethics.

In chapter one, Shermer claims that "free markets are the only way to find out what buyers are willing to pay and what sellers are willing to accept." Free markets might be the best way or the most moral way to find out what buyers are willing to pay and sellers willing to accept, but they are not the only way. What price people will pay or accept for goods or services depends on the circumstances. No economic exchange occurs in a vacuum, as every funeral director knows. Desperate times, times of war, riot, civil unrest, and the like are another way to find out what people are willing to pay or accept for goods. Shooting and killing a union member in front of mine workers on strike is another way.  Shermer writes as if the only alternatives are a free economy or a planned economy (and perhaps a mixed economy). As one reviewer puts it: if the choice is capitalism or the Khmer Rouge, I'll take capitalism. But this is misleading. I would call the U.S. economy a free economy, but there is no such thing as a totally free economy. We're not a communist or socialist economy, but government regulates a lot of things regarding the economy. How free the economy is or should be is debatable, but the bottom line is that a totally free economy could only work if people were generally rational, self-interested, extremely knowledgeable as to what is in their own interest, and moral (i.e., didn't cheat or lie or steal, etc.). People are often irrational, don't often know what is truly in their own interest (and even when they do, they don't always act accordingly), and there are too many liars and cheats among us to try to get along solely on the honor system. Smith's notion, that he shared with other moral sense theorists, that by pursuing selfish ends we unintentionally promote the common good ("as if guided by an invisible hand"), seems to have been falsified many times by history. We need laws and regulations for our free economy. The debate is not whether to have a free economy or not, but where to regulate and how. Some of those laws and regulations are probably driven by our innate sense of fairness, but what is fair in the modern world is something we must use our rational powers to figure out.

Shermer claims that "markets are moral, and modern economies are founded on our virtuous nature." I would claim that markets are neither moral nor immoral, but regulating them is based on what Shermer calls "our virtuous nature," i.e., our emotional aversion to unfairness, cheaters, liars, and the like. Despite the rhetoric about moral markets, Shermer admits that "we need checks and balances and a society based on the rule of law within which markets can be both free and fair." He seems to recognize that, if left to its own devices, markets would be neither free nor fair. The difficult issue is, of course, where do we insert these checks and balances? Shermer doesn't tell us.

Shermer maintains that there is no rational justification for our disdain of such things as excessive wealth, usury, and the "invisible hand" of the market. In my view, most people don't disdain excessive wealth, as long as it was derived fairly and honestly, and especially if it is deserved and is not absurdly disproportionate to what one has done to earn it. Resentment at huge bonuses being paid to CEOs who ran companies that failed, causing the loss of many jobs and retirement funds, was not based simply on the excessive amounts of money involved. The bonuses weren't deserved. They were illogical. If a company fails while you are running the show, our basic sense of fairness tells us that you should not be rewarded. Likewise, our basic sense of fairness tells us when we're being gouged. It should also tell us when things are too good to be true, but we all know how easy it is to rationalize that our man is a genius when he's producing 18% profit while everybody else is losing money.

Shermer thinks Darwin's theory of natural selection is rejected by many people for the same kind of irrational reasons Adam Smith's theory of laissez-faire economics is rejected. The problem with this comparison is that Darwin's theory concerns biological development, while Smith's concerns social development, and hence also moral and political development. When considering Darwin's theory we do not have to concern ourselves with our personal preferences or value systems. The facts are what they are and our value judgments regarding them are irrelevant to their truth or accuracy. When considering an economic theory, we have to concern ourselves with our personal values and preferences, the nature of the unequal distribution of talents, natural resources, geological and geographical factors, and a thousand other things that impact human decision making and choices. Furthermore, the complexity of the modern world makes one appear backward when one appeals to Adam Smith's theory, as brilliant as it may have been for its time, as a basis for today's economics. When one compares the world Smith lived in to the one we live in today, the idea of an invisible hand guiding us by our innate moral sensibilities is laughable. I don't deny that we have natural feelings and emotions that help most of us recognize most of the time when somebody's doing something unfair. But those feelings don't guide markets to be moral by driving businessmen and corporations to be moral; they drive citizens to devise checks and balances so that the market doesn't become the playground of the rich and famous who justify exploiting the rest of us by appealing to the general benefit that comes to the greatest number by having no regulations or restrictions on what businesses may do.

As Shermer points out, often the selfish and greedy figure out that they can gain more wealth by controlling those who make the laws and regulations. (See his brief discussion of government subsidies on page 20.) Even so, he still considers it irrational to believe that a healthy economy "must be heavily regulated from the top down." Everything hinges on this word 'heavily.' It is clearly not irrational to believe that a healthy economy in the world we live in today in the U.S.A. must be regulated to some extent from the top down. We can't just let corporate America have free reign over the economy. No matter how moral Shermer might think the average CEO or corporate manager is, if everything becomes deregulated, the likelihood that we'll have peace and justice on Earth is nil. In any case, if humans are as inherently moral as Shermer thinks we are, any kind of economy should produce a lot of happiness and well-being. Yes, our economy is the result of an evolved complex system. But the analogy with biological systems breaks down when one considers that some of our economy was designed from the top down when our Constitution was ratified. More top-down design came over the past two hundred years in the form of many laws, regulations, and court decisions. Our market economy is not just the result of the evolution of a complex adaptive system. Unlike ecosystems, which Shermer compares an economy to, economies involve conscious decisions, some rational and some irrational (some socially beneficial, some harmful), which have had consequences not all of which have been beneficial to the majority of our citizens.

Shermer's last book. The Science of Good and Evil, attempted to reduce ethics to a science. His latest book continues in the same vein, except that he applies what he considers to be the insights of evolutionary psychology to the field of economics. The result is a simplistic view of both morality and economics.

How simplistic? In addressing the Cato Institute, he stated that he didn't quite get why there was such a fuss about immigration. When he needs workers to clear brush, he drives to the local Home Depot where Mexicans looking for work are standing about. He hires who he needs. If too many people come across the border there won't be work for them and they'll stop coming. That's how a free market works. You don't need walls or laws. The market will find its own level.

Only someone with a fantasy view of the free market and who's never had to hang out in a parking lot, hoping for a job that will pay a few dollars, could talk so flippantly about human beings. Shermer really believes that we would have paradise on Earth if only we had free trade. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for free trade, but not at any expense. Unlike Shermer and his libertarian friends at the Cato Institute, I understand that not all liberals are socialists. In any case, human beings are not just market agents to be exploited by those who happen to have been born into wealthy, advanced communities and who have opportunities and innate talents. He's a big fan of Jared Diamondand well he should be—so he knows that not all societies are created equal and not all failures to achieve a high standard of living for the majority of its people are due to lack of free trade. Some societies don't have much to trade. Why is it fair to exploit their cheap labor force so that the members of another society can buy goods cheaply and live a comfortable life?

Shermer is good at finding examples to illustrate his points, but examples aren't strong evidence when they are selective and systematically ignore the counterexamples. So there are chimps and monkeys and college students who have an innate sense of when some distribution of goods is unfair. Shermer seems to think that that's sufficient evidence to build an ethical system around. He also thinks that when societies got too big to allow informal recognition of moral rules and settlement of disputes, religion and government stepped in to formalize matters. I'd like to see the evidence for this. This myth is on par with the myth of the state of nature where those who have nothing agree to respect private property in exchange for equal protection of the law.

Both governments and religions create rules to express and maintain their power, whatever other rationale might exist for those two institutions. Moral rules might be enforced by governments (e.g., our marriage, drug, prostitution, and gambling laws) or by religions, but moral rules are independent of both. How moral rules work in various societies is a scientific question. Whether any moral rule obligates is a philosophical question and can only be resolved by concepts, not empirical investigation. Unfortunately, many people, ignorant of the history of philosophy, find conceptual analysis boring and unenlightening. They not only don't see its necessity, they consider it superfluous.

Ethics isn't limited to deciding fairness in market decisions and behavior. Furthermore, an ethics based on sentiment might be useful for monkeys or chimps or even college students, but it just won't do for life in a complex industrial society. To claim that those who don't share the moral sentiments of your class are sociopaths is intolerable, philosophically speaking. He told the Cato folks that he didn't believe in that stuff about not being able to derive an ought from an is. He gave no argument because he has no argument. It is not logically possible to validly infer a statement of obligation from statements of fact. There's a reason chimps did not develop ethical beliefs. It has to do with reason, not emotions or feelings. Only rational creatures can develop morals because morals requires an understanding of concepts like duty, obligation, rights, right, wrong, good, and evil. It seems to be a common misconception of those in the social sciences to characterize ethics as rationalizations dreamed up after feelings drive us to find support for our instincts. Even if Aristotle, Mill, or Kant were motivated to develop their ethical systems because they were unconsciously trying to rationalize their instinctive beliefs, their ethical systems stand or fall by their arguments. Their motives are irrelevant to whether we should accept their ethical systems.

Shermer likes to quote Katherine Hepburn in "The African Queen": "Nature is what we were put on earth to rise above." Why should we rise above our nature? Why should we go against our instincts? To say that it is mutually beneficial for us to do so may be a fact, but it doesn't make it morally obligatory. Why are we morally obligated to act in mutually beneficial ways? No set of facts will ever demonstrate that anyone ought to act in ways that are mutually beneficial. To claim that acting in mutually beneficial ways will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number is to beg the question. What moral obligation is there to seek happiness, for oneself or for all mankind? It may be a fact that each of us seeks his or her own happiness, but to say we're morally obligated to seek our own happiness does not follow from that fact. If you want to claim as an absolute value that we should seek to maximize happiness, then claim it as a principle, but don't pretend it in any way is derived from primitive instincts or feelings that we may or may not share with baboons and Capuchin monkeys.

A moral obligation is a duty; it is something one ought to do or forbear. To say you have a moral duty not to steal is to say that you ought not steal. This duty must be based on some principle. To claim that one ought not steal because there is an innate feeling of shame that comes with stealing is a non sequitur. There may be such a feeling, but it does not follow logically from that fact that one ought not steal. You might say that if you don't want to feel shame, don't steal. But that is not the same as saying you have a moral obligation not to steal. You might say that you must obey God's will and God's will is that you not steal. This is called the divine command theory of moral obligation. It is meaningless to those of us who do not believe there is such a being as a god. You might say with John Stuart Mill that you should always do what will bring about the greatest happiness to the greatest number. You might then claim that you have a moral duty not to steal because not stealing leads to the greatest good to the greatest number. But, if you do not accept the greatest happiness principle, then you will not accept that your duty not to steal derives from it. You might believe with Kant that you should do only what you could will anyone in the same situation to also do. You then might conclude that you ought not steal because you could never will that others in your situation steal. But, if you don't accept the principle that you ought do only what you can will everyone to do in the same situation, then you will not accept that your duty not to steal derives from that principle. In any case, you can never logically derive a duty not to steal from a feeling that you ought not to steal. If that were the case, then anything you feel like doing or not doing would be morally justified, which is absurd.

Those innate feelings that lead us to believe that others have acted unfairly have very little to do with what is morally right or wrong. A child who is given a box of candy for her birthday is not obligated to share with her sister any more than a wealthy executive is obligated to share his wealth with the homeless man he meets on the street, even if that person be his own father. The sister might feel outraged at the injustice of the birthday girl hogging all the candy and the father might be outraged at the lack of gratitude or caring in his son, but those feelings have nothing to do with whether there is a moral obligation to share one's property with others.

As much as Shermer likes the bottom-up metaphor of evolution, it won't work for ethics. Does it work for economics? He certainly thinks so and makes a very strong case that an economy that evolves is much better than one that is planned (like communism). But it seems illogical to maintain that since morals evolved along with capitalism, therefore capitalism is essentially moral. The bad guys of capitalism are perverts or sociopaths in his view, and the average capitalist is essentially a moral person with a strong sense of fairness, right, wrong, justice, decency, etc. Shermer must read different newspapers than I do. Bribery, using insider information, cheating whenever possible, underbidding knowing you'll be able to get whatever you want when the client has sunk enough money into a project, and a host of other unethical behaviors seem to be as much the norm as honest dealing. Granted, most people must be mostly moral most of the time or society would collapse. Still, that leaves an awful lot of room for bad behavior.

Shermer has many examples of swell capitalists doing swell things, but he can't just call the cheaters sociopaths and think he's really made his case for capitalism being essentially moral. The simple fact is that just because we evolved with a moral sense it doesn't follow either that we are obligated or that we will believe we are obligated to behave in ways that don't harm others. To say that it is to our mutual advantage not to harm each other adds nothing to the issue of morals. The moral issue concerns what obligates, if anything, behavior. It might be prudent to avoid harming others unless harmed, but that doesn't make it obligatory.

Shermer says his book is "an exercise in consciousness-raising for freedom." It is, but freedom as a value did not emerge from our evolutionary history as part of our nature. Of course it evolved in the sense that all our values have evolved, but to put forth freedom as obligatory rather than as simply a necessary condition for this or that desired end is not something any science can establish. In any case, the fact is that even where there are free markets there is misery. Free markets can't solve all our problems, and while once upon a time we might have expected charity and good will to deal with the problems that free markets can't resolve, that is no longer the case. Charity and good will are not going to treat our mentally ill, our brain-damaged, our physically disabled, our feeble elderly population, our unwanted children, our jobless, or the thousands of maimed and brutalized veterans of our wars.

Shermer might as well call his book an exercise in consciousness-raising for luck. Not everyone is born in a war-free society with fine parents who provide comforts and wise counsel for their children. Not everyone's talents can be utilized and rewarded at every moment in an economy's history. The thousands who are unemployed or underemployed, and unable to meet their mortgage payments, are losing their homes partly due to bad luck, partly due to ignorance, and partly due to greedy bankers. The bankers and the borrowers had plenty of freedom and acted in a mostly unregulated or unpoliced free market.

Shermer has written eloquently about our dual disposition to good and evil, so why does he trumpet only the good of capitalism and write off the evil to sociopathy? He says that "at our core we are moral beings with a deep and intuitive sense about what is right and wrong, and that most of the time most people in most circumstances choose to do the right thing." So, he says, we ought to maximize freedom and "back restrictions on freedom only where absolutely necessary and with great reluctance." It must be nice to have such a positive view of your fellow man, but I can't help but envision drug addicts and career criminals in Los Angeles, Muslim terrorists, or the ethnic cleansers in Kenya or the Sudan reading such Pollyannaish pipe dreams. Everything Shermer says about the wonderful nature and benefits of capitalism depends on the geological, geographical, and political conditions under which it evolves and is maintained. Yes, people are generally moral when they can afford to be. So? What about all those places where sadistic thugs dominate? Does Shermer really believe that the only thing that distinguishes barbarism from civility is the absence of a free market?

In the end, Shermer is a libertarian conservative who sees liberals as tax-and-spend bogeymen and closet socialists. He sees his fellow libertarian conservatives as obliged to help the poor. It is true, apparently, that conservative religious folks give significantly more to charity than liberal non-religious folks as long as you include their contributions to "charities" that do nothing but promote religion and don't consider the gift non-religious folks give them by granting tax-exempt status. But I wouldn't want to construct my political philosophy on this "fact" any more than I would want to build it on facts about monkeys or chimps or our pre-human ancestors. It may be cheaper (take fewer of our tax dollars) to give vouchers to parents so they can send their kids to Bible schools, but I think it's better that the government provide a secular education for its citizens where they can learn proper science and leave the mythology to their parents.

Shermer writes in detail and favorably about the work of Philip Zimbardo, so he should recognize that character depends on circumstance. A free market will have all these Google-types (whose motto is "do no evil" and is Shermer's model for good capitalism) under the right circumstances. Put Google in China and what do they do? They cooperate with the government and suddenly privacy is not so inviolable. Anyway, should we think that the folks at Google do no evil just because that's their motto? Some circumstances we can control and some we can't.

I like my capitalism as much as Joe the Plumber does, but I can't deceive myself into thinking that he needs only freedom to thrive and that my best chance for having him leave me alone to determine my own life hinges on his living in a society where government doesn't restrict his economic activity.

I think in the end Shermer doesn't really believe what he says about the goodness of human beings and the essentially moral nature of capitalism. It is not difficult to read between the lines that he favors what he calls "paternalistic libertarianism." He knows there must be restrictions put on human freedom because people are likely to use that freedom to make the wrong choices for themselves, their communities, their nations, and the world. What is needed, he implies, is guidance from libertarians like himself, Penn, and Teller, or a community of libertarian "experts", to lead us to nirvana. To which I am compelled to say: No thanks.

I used to think Shermer would be the next Carl Sagan, a scientist who would be the foremost public spokesman for rationality and critical thinking in the effort to combat superstition and pseudoscience. His last two books have proved me wrong. He has been blinded by his libertarianism and seduced by the allure of evolutionary psychology to explain everything, including ethics and economics. I think he made a wrong turn and is more likely on the road to perdition than to nirvana.

24 April 2009
revised 5 July 2010

further reading


Paul Krugman: An Irish Mirror Everyone has a theory about the financial crisis....a new research paper by the Irish economists Gregory Connor, Thomas Flavin, and Brian O’Kelly points out, “Almost all the apparent causal factors of the U.S. crisis are missing in the Irish case,” and vice versa. Yet the shape of Ireland’s crisis was very similar: a huge real estate bubble — prices rose more in Dublin than in Los Angeles or Miami — followed by a severe banking bust that was contained only via an expensive bailout....What really mattered was free-market fundamentalism. This is what led Ronald Reagan to declare that deregulation would solve the problems of thrift institutions — the actual result was huge losses, followed by a gigantic taxpayer bailout — and Alan Greenspan to insist that the proliferation of derivatives had actually strengthened the financial system. It was largely thanks to this ideology that regulators ignored the mounting risks.


'The Mind of the Market' by Michael Shermer: Man's true nature meets market economics by Lee Drutman ("But we also have Shermer, the tendentious libertarian, doing logical back-flips unbecoming a self-proclaimed skeptic to marshal human nature's unruly contradictions into a political program of minimal government and extreme market capitalism.")

Review by Lori Lipman Brown (founding director of the Secular Coalition for America) ("Shermer promotes a free market that permits the cheapest goods to make it into the hands of consumers, and he chastises limitations such as antitrust laws and tariffs on foreign goods. But an entirely free market may not be the panacea Shermer claims it to be. Consumers are also producers. When laborers work for less than subsistence wages, they can't purchase the goods being sold....The epilogue of Shermer's book betrays earlier pages showing the effect of environment on an individual's psychological disposition. Shermer leads us to deduce that the masses will fare terrifically in a totally free market because we are all predisposed to make decisions that benefit each other. However, both wealth and poverty are affected more by luck of birth than by what choices we make. Sure, we choose how to respond to our circumstances, but the choices available to an heiress like Paris Hilton are quite different from the choices available to the homeless man who sells me Street Sense newspaper twice a month.")

For Sale: Big Ideas About Humanity By Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University ("If the options are capitalism and the Khmer Rouge, no doubt capitalism wins hands down...[T]o what extent is it morally permissible to interfere with freedom, or can we even use freedom as a concept in a world where we do social science by hooking people up to brain scanners?... Shermer either needs to dismiss moral philosophy as an illusion and a mere byproduct of human evolution, and thus display skepticism, or he needs to grant it credence and take his own moral stance. Descriptive science doesn't tell us whether it is fair to allow kidneys to be bought and sold, even if it helps explain why some people find the practice repugnant. Judgments of right and wrong cannot be avoided, and thus we tread away from the realm of familiar natural science. ")

Michael Shermer's Libertarianism by Massimo Pigliucci ("This is the classic libertarian version of wanting the cake and trying to eat it too.")

Shermer's The Mind of The Market by Timothy Sandefur ("I really should have loved Michael Shermer’s The Mind of The Market because I am not only a libertarian but also fascinated by evolution and its scientific, economic, and philosophical implications. Moreover, I believe sociobiology can provide extremely important insights that offer a grounding for political philosophy on a genuine, objective human nature. And yet I found the book disappointing and even unconvincing. It is chock full of the hasty generalizations and oversimplifications that have led so many people to keep sociobiology at arm’s length. A good science-based defense of libertarianism will have to be much more rigorous than this.")

Review Of Michael Shermer’s The Mind Of The Market by Dan Schneider ("I ... highly recommend the book, despite my knowledge that a large portion of the book is as filled with bunkum as the many sorts of work put forth by religiots, paranormalists, and racists whose ideas Shermer has spent decades debunking.")

Keierleber, Joseph. 2009. "Putting Your Money Where Your Mind Is." Skeptical Inquirer. May/June. (Accuses Shermer of false analogies, reckless reasoning, statistical misunderstandings, and abusing science. Otherwise, he likes the book.)


Ariely, Dan. 2008. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. HarperCollins.

Heilbroner, Robert L. 1999. The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, 7th Edition. Touchstone. First published in 1953.

Kida, Thomas. 2006. Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking. Prometheus.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. 2007.  The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House.

more book reviews by R. T. Carroll

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