By Fareeha Qay­oom



ou must have heard of the law of the instru­ment, attrib­uted to Maslow and Kaplan, ‘if all you have is a ham­mer, every­thing looks like a nail”? Well, Eduardo Porter’s book, ‘The price of every­thing’ is some­thing like that, if all you know is eco­nom­ics, every­thing looks like cost-benefit analy­sis. By every­thing, he means lit­er­ally every­thing, life, death and love, free­dom, reli­gion and cul­ture, par­ent­ing, shop­ping, and garbage. Where you buy your cof­fee, where you plan to live and even the num­ber of kids you plan to have and will it be a boy child or a girl child; it all boils down to prices – and it’s all rel­a­tive.

Eduardo Porter

Eduardo Porter — the author of ‘The price of every­thing’

For exam­ple, the blurb on the back cover reads, “The Price of Every­thing starts with a sim­ple premise: there is a price behind each choice that we make, whether we’re decid­ing to have a baby, drive a car, or buy a book. We often fail to appre­ci­ate just how crit­i­cal prices are as a moti­vat­ing force shap­ing our lives. But their power becomes clear when dis­torted prices steer our deci­sions the wrong way.”

Not that the book is not inter­est­ing. It’s very inter­est­ing; in fact, it’s one of those dry tomes that you don’t want to put down because a. it’s very read­able b. it’s full of fun facts and c. it con­nects the dots in real inter­est­ing ways to make a whole new pic­ture out of an old hat. Nowa­days, time is money. Best of all, it gives you value for your money and indeed time. It’s funny, engag­ing and very, very enter­tain­ing. I enjoyed it and fin­ished it in cou­ple of days flat.

Do I agree with Porter? Am not sure I do. But it sure is inter­est­ing look­ing at the world through his eyes.


Here’s a short excerpt from the book’s intro­duc­tion – enjoy!

price of everything book cover image


The prices are every­where


Any­body who has vis­ited a garbage dump in the devel­op­ing world knows that value is an ambigu­ous con­cept. To most peo­ple in the devel­oped world, house­hold waste is worth­less, of course. That’s why we throw it away. Appar­ently, Nor­we­gians are will­ing to pay about $114 a ton for some­body else to sort their recy­clables from the gen­eral garbage. A sur­vey of fam­i­lies in the Carter com­mu­nity of Ten­nessee sev­eral years ago found they were will­ing to pay $363 a year in today’s money, to avoid a land­fill nearby.


But slightly beyond our imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence, waste becomes a valu­able com­mod­ity. In Kam­boinse, out­side Oua­gadougou, Burk­ina Faso, farm­ers pay munic­i­pal trash haulers to dump unsorted solid waste in their sorghum and mil­let fields as fer­til­izer – bits of plas­tic included. The going rate in 2003 was 400 francs per ton. In New Delhi, a study in 2002 found that waste pick­ers earned two rupees per kilo of PET soda bot­tles and seven rupees per kilo of hard plas­tic sham­poo bot­tles. A child work­ing on foot on Delhi’s dumps could make twenty to thirty rupees per day.




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Book Review: Eduardo Porter’s ‘the price of every­thing’, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rat­ing