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The bestselling persuaders

Behavioural economics has been the toast of both politicians and publishers in recent years. But the emperor’s new clothes are starting to look threadbare

By Tom Chatfield   November 2009

Superfreakonomics By Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner (Allen Lane, £20) On Rumours By Cass Sunstein (Allen Lane, £16.99)

Over the past two decades, economists have been rediscovering human behaviour—real, irrational, confusing human behaviour, that is, rather than the predictable actions of the “economic man” who used to be pressed into service whenever modelling was to be done. It’s a field that has conquered not only the academies but also the bestseller lists and the policy seminars—and that, given the role played by human greed and ignorance in the recent financial crisis, seems either more pertinent or more…

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