Misbehave on Sept 30

You would be forgiven for wondering why economics is considered a social science when there is nothing sociable about it. To most economists, people make life messy with their unpredictable ways, and so economists say they are "misbehaving", says American behavioural economist Richard Thaler in his new book, Misbehaving.

Join senior writer Cheong Suk-Wai in pondering this on Sept 30 from 6.30pm at the Central Public Library at B1 National Library Board Building in 100 Victoria Street.

Singapore-based economist Bart Remes, who is 50 and has lived here for 15 years, has this to say about Thaler's book: "I couldn't agree more that current economic thinking is based too firmly on the assumption of rationality with excessive model building and number crunching as a result.

This was not always the case. The most important tool that economists use to try and make sense of the world around us, that is, the supply and demand graph, was created by Alfred Marshall at the University of Cambridge in 1890, slightly more than 100 years ago.

Yet for thousands of years, people have traded goods and services without the need of a supply and demand graph. Even today, when business is negotiated, the parties involved do not have such graphs in front of them. This is because individuals choose according to value, and value is always subjective. It exists in our minds, not in mathematical formulae."

If you would like to share your views on Thaler's book, e-mail them in not more than 100 words to suk@sph. com.sg.

We will publish the best contributions on The Big Read page.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'Misbehave on Sept 30'. Print Edition | Subscribe