May 12: Want to Dazzle at Cocktail Parties? Brush Up on Economics, Prof Says | Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics

May 12: Want to Dazzle at Cocktail Parties? Brush Up on Economics, Prof Says

Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Ever found yourself at a party stuck in a conversation about economics and worried the entire time that you’ll say the wrong thing? Cocktail Party Economics, a new book by a University of Guelph professor, aims to help the average person navigate through those often tricky conversations that can pop up while networking or simply meeting with friends.

“People talk about economics at cocktail parties all the time,” said economics professor Eveline Adomait. “This book provides you with the information you need to hold a meaningful conversation about a market economy.”

The book not only provides basic economic information but will also help readers communicate effectively to avoid turning a friendly conversation into a heated debate, said Adomait.

“People have strong feelings about what is right and what is wrong when it comes to economics, and sometimes misunderstanding someone or not accurately communicating what you want to say can spur an argument,” she said. “I am trying to educate the average person so that, when they engage in conversations surrounding economics, they are speaking the same language and communicating their thoughts accurately.”

Her book tackles big ideas -- supply and demand, scarce commodities, marginal value, monopoly power -- in a fun and accessible way.

Each chapter introduces a character’s situation and then relates it to an economic concept.

“The stories help the reader understand which concept is being covered in each chapter and also help to make somewhat dry topics more interesting,” said Adomait.

In one chapter, a couple has attempted in vitro fertilization several times without succeeding. Adomait illustrates how the time and money they spend on IVF indicates the value they place on human life, and discusses how this value may differ from one couple to another. Similarly, she writes, consumers place different values on products, and the market is driven by these values.

In another chapter on specialization and trade, a woman decides to take a break from acting, knowing it will be difficult to find roles during her pregnancy. Specializing in raising a family is her most rational choice. Similarly, writes Adomait, a country’s rational choice is to specialize in producing a product more efficiently to trade with other countries.

Each chapter ends with a summary on a cocktail party napkin to help readers recall basic economic concepts.

“Overall there is a general dislike for economics,” said Adomait. “I hope this book will not only help people feel comfortable with talking about economics but maybe even encourage them to like it.”

For more information on the book visit the Cocktail Party Economics website.

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