The first half of of inner economist caught my attention. It has definitely not been boring or dry or pedantic. Even less so than undercover economist. I think for the most part economics has done about all it can do in terms of monetary economics. In a lot of my classes I hear the same (albeit sound and very insightful) principle applied and here little to nothing in the field of cutting edge economics. Perhaps is everything really was ruled by rational behavior than perhaps everything really could be broken down to matters of dollars and cents. Or maybe not, without throwing us into utilitarian nightmares.
That is why I am always grateful to read a book like this where the assumption of rationality on the part of the actors is challenged. Cowen uses this very economic reasoning to determine when rationality does and does not hold, and for what reasons. I think he really stretches economics to new frontiers, even challenges long-held principles. My example of this is how he completely trashes the idea of the market failure of "adverse selection" within insurance. This principle is incompatible with his base theory which is people's self image and the signals that they (intentionally or otherwise) send out. Specifically he is applying his "parking tickets parable" to this sector of life. where different people have various self-images and they are made manifest with someones behavior an d spending habits. This also burrows from his "dirty dishes parable" where some things are intrinsically valuable, that is fall apart if they an attempt is made to bring them into the world of dollars and cents.
Cowen cites a lot of psychologists in his research. If economics is to continue as a highly renown science, it should do more things like this. As opposed to merely discovering cause and effects in rational behavior but should also discover what other kinds of factors motivate behavior, as Cowen discusses the need for control, and then determine the cause and effect of behavior patterns such as that.
The chapter I found hard to read was the one one art, ironically enough, myself being the theater and art lover that I am. He seemed to ramble on and on for an inordinate amount of time about his own tastes and while there was some, there was not much applicabilty to the world at large. I felt this chapter and unnaturally stretched. It probably would have been better as a sub-set of a chapter, a third of a chapter or something. I did enjoy his observation about how an art form gets more accessible when in can be mass distributed. Which happen to music when the recording industry got big. we went from classical to rock and roll. I daresay the same is happening in visual art, with the emergence of "stick-art."