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This must be a scholarly book if we accept that 75 pages of notes for 179 pages of text is a measure of scholarship. Phishing for Phools: The economics of manipulation & deception dives into the truths, half-truths, spins, embezzlements and bezzles that are embedded in the American economic system. That word bezzle was a new word for me. Apparently, it was made up by John Kenneth Galbraith and it means that a person in charge of something of value is illegally taking a portion for themselves but before it is known to be missing. The portion taken is defined as the bezzle. A legal owner of property may feel that it is behaving properly while their factor is bezzling a tiny portion.

This book is about the bezzling that is being perpetrated against us in our daily lives in what appear to be all of our commercial transactions. It covers many examples of how that is done in various situations such as the purchase of cars, houses, credit cards, phood, pharma, tobacco, alcohol, bankruptcy and more. This widespread “phishing” challenges the standard economic model that the free market will always lead to the greater good by Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

The authors explain various questionable practices that take advantage of people’s informational and psychological weaknesses. They say that if a potential exists for some advantage to be taken and there is money to be made, then someone will step forward and supply that need, to create a “phishing equilibrium.” The implication is that the need is often fulfilled by the bezzle. What the capitalist system does well is to expose needs and provide a way to satisfy those needs for money. A little bezzle helps grease the gears of commerce. The authors call this conning of the public phishing for phools.

Apparently phishing for phools is the new paradigm for legitimate economic transactions?