What We Are Reading Today: Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank

Updated 04 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank

  • Robert Frank explores the surprising implications of those findings to show why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in success

How important is luck in economic success? No question more reliably divides conservatives from liberals. As conservatives correctly observe, people who amass great fortunes are almost always talented and hardworking. But liberals are also correct to note that countless others have those same qualities yet never earn much.

In recent years, social scientists have discovered that chance plays a much larger role in important life outcomes than most people imagine. 

In Success and Luck, bestselling author and New York Times economics columnist Robert Frank explores the surprising implications of those findings to show why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in success— and why that hurts everyone, even the wealthy.

Frank describes how, in a world increasingly dominated by winner-take-all markets, chance opportunities and trivial initial advantages often translate into much larger ones— and enormous income differences— over time; how false beliefs about luck persist, despite compelling evidence against them; and how myths about personal success and luck shape individual and political choices in harmful ways.


What We Are Reading Today: GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History

Updated 14 August 2020

What We Are Reading Today: GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History

Author: Diane Coyle

Why did the size of the US  economy increase by 3 percent in one day in mid-2013—or Ghana’s balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the UK financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008—just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. This entertaining and informative book tells the story of GDP, making sense of a statistic that appears constantly in the news, business, and politics, and that seems to rule our lives—but that hardly anyone actually understands.
Diane Coyle traces the history of this artificial, abstract, complex, but exceedingly important statistic from its 18th- and 19th-century precursors through its invention in the 1940s and its postwar golden age, and then through the Great Crash up to today.
The reader learns why this standard measure of the size of a country’s economy was invented.