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Authors @ Google presents Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer discusses his book The Mind of the Market as part of the Authors @ Google series.

How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-traders? Why are people so irrational when it comes to money and business? Dr. Michael Shermer argues that evolution provides an answer to both of these questions through the new science of evolutionary economics. Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, (continue reading…)

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Why We Should Trade with Cuba

The new science of neuroeconomics offers
new insights into old political problems

The 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat expressed a principle applicable in the 21st century: “Where goods do not cross frontiers, armies will.”

In my new book, The Mind of the Market, I describe in detail how in the modern world of nation states, economic sanctions are among the first steps taken by one nation against another when political diplomacy fails, as when the United States enforced them on Japan after its invasion of China in the 1930s, and these became a prelude (among other factors) to Japan’s retaliatory bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and our involvement in the greatest war in history. More recently, economic sanctions were imposed by the U.S. and Japan on India following its 1998 nuclear tests, and more recently by the U.S. on Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. (continue reading…)

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The Mind of the Market on Tour

Michael Shermer read from and talked about his new book, The Mind of the Market, at various venues during his book tour in January 2008. Shermer discussed how economic and evolutionary theory speak the same language, and how our hardwired human biology affects modern economics. READ MORE about the book

National Capital Area Skeptics, Arlington, VA (January 12th, 2008)

LISTEN to part 1 (audio podcast)
LISTEN to part 2 (audio podcast)

Tattered Cover, Denver, CO (January 17th, 2008)

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Where Goods Do Not Cross Frontiers, Armies Will

Where goods do not cross frontiers, armies will. How a Science of Good and Evil Reveals a Solution to Global Tribalism

In Rob Reiner’s 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s character — the battle-hardened Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup — is being cross-examined by Tom Cruise’s naive rookie Navy lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, defending two Marines accused of killing a fellow soldier. He thinks Jessup ordered a “code red,” an off-the-books command to rough up a lazy Marine trainee in need of discipline, and that matters got tragically out of hand. Kaffee wants answers to specific questions about the incident. Jessup wants to lecture him on the meaning of freedom and the need to defend it: “Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.” (continue reading…)

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The Ignoble Savage

Science reveals humanity’s heart of darkness
magazine cover

In 1670 English poet John Dryden penned this expression of humans in a state of nature: “I am as free as Nature first made man … /When wild in woods the noble savage ran.” A century later, in 1755, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau canonized the noble savage in Western culture by proclaiming that “nothing can be more gentle than he in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the pernicious good sense of civilized man.”

From the Disneyfication of Pocahontas to Kevin Costner’s eco-pacifist Native Americans in Dances with Wolves and from postmodern accusations of corruptive modernity to modern anthropological theories that indigenous people’s wars are just ritualized games, the noble savage remains one of the last epic creation myths of our time. Science reveals a rather different picture of humanity in its natural state. In a 1996 study University of Michigan ecologist Bobbi S. Low analyzed 186 preindustrial societies and discovered that their relatively low environmental impact is the result of low population density, inefficient technology and lack of profitable markets, not conscious efforts at conservation. Anthropologist Shepard Krech III, in his 1999 book The Ecological Indian, shows that in a number of Native American communities, large-scale irrigation practices led to the collapse of their societies. (continue reading…)

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