Price Of Fish

The Price of Fish: A New Approach To Wicked Economics & Better Decisions examines the world’s most abiding and wicked problems: sustainability, global warming, over-fishing, overpopulation, the pensions crisis - the list goes on. But what is it that makes them so wicked? Certainly they are messy, circular, aggressive and peculiarly long-term issues; but often our own over-simplified reading of the causes is what makes such problems so abiding.

“To live successfully with each other in a shrinking planet”, Michael and Ian propose a four ‘stream’ route to better understanding: through choice, economics, systems and evolution. Each stream focuses on an area of knowledge that the authors have identified as important in learning to make sense of the way the world really works – and to live better within it.

This ambitious book draws on five years of Michael’s Gresham College lectures as Professor of Commerce as well as material developed by both Michael and Ian during their time at Z/Yen. Readers get to see the world and its problems from an integrated perspective that helps them make better sense of their own choices and decisions.

The Price of Fish won the Gold Medal in the Finance, Investment and Economics category of the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards. IPPY awards recognize excellence and reward authors and publishers who “take chances and break new ground.” Medallists in the 2012 awards were chosen from over 5,000 entries.


ISBN: 978-1-85-788622-1
UK Price: £12.99 (Physical), £8.99 (Kindle Version)
Format: Available in Paperback, Hardback and Kindle format
Size: 137 x 25 x 216 mm, 336 pages
Publication: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011


In Translation


Origami Koi


“We have all discovered, painfully, that there are some areas, important to our existence, where price signals have worked badly or not at all. Financial markets are one. Deep sea fishing – part of the tragedy of the commons - is another. This book is a challenging contribution to understanding these failures”.

— Vince Cable
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

“Today’s economic systems are complex and adaptive. Existing economic models tend to be simplified and rigid. It is little wonder economists are in the doghouse, with their tails between their legs. Mainelli and Harris’s book should help coax the hound from the kennel, tail wagging.”

— Andy Haldane
Executive Director, Financial Stability, Bank of England

“I spent years ensuring that the price of Scottish salmon could include a responsible approach to the environment. Mainelli and Harris help us all understand the critical nature of the problems – and the urgent need for solutions before it is too late.”

— Lord Jamie Lindsay
Chairman of Scottish Agricultural College & Chairman of UKAS

“What has life to do with the price of fish? Practically everything according to witty polymaths Mainelli and Harris. The book forks through loads of theories on economics, commerce and human behaviour, and is always fresh and entertaining, even when covering well-known ground. For fishing in the muddy turmoil of international markets take this modern equivalent of The Compleat Angler with you.”

— David Shirreff
Economist Writer

“Politicians cling on to today’s economic orthodoxies like grim death – unwittingly hastening the collapse of the global economy in the process. The ironic and illusion-busting insights of Mainelli and Harris could be just the ticket in wrenching those politicians back to reality.”

— Jonathon Porritt
Founder Director, Forum for the Future

“This book is – in the best sense of the word – ‘wicked’. Elliptical, provocative, discursive, infuriating, good for a Notting Hill dinner party – not unlike the authors.”

— Andrew Hilton
Director, CSFI

“I defy anyone not to enjoy this presentation of global issues explained in an innovative way with amusing anecdotes and analogies.”

— Sir David Lewis
Former Lord Mayor of London, former Chairman & Senior Partner, Norton Rose.

“The authors identify real ‘wicked’ problems from the geopolitical to the personal and provide both a practical and academic framework for discussing them. The resulting dialogue about a more robust theory of commerce should resonate with academics, policy makers and business people.”

— Sir Paul Judge
Benefactor of Cambridge Judge Business School

“It’s clear that virtually every global system, from finance to mass media and ecosystems to commodity markets, is creaking. Worse than that, the current structures on which our planetary, social and financial health are based have all proved to be expensive, damaging and perverse failures. In a planetary economy crying out for fresh thinking, smart analysis and, crucially, pragmatic optimism, anything Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris have to offer is not only worth a look but arguably a must-read. I recommend this book to anyone who thinks there must be cleverer ways in which civilisation can manage its future.”

— Brendan May
Environmentalist – Founder, Robertsbridge Group, UK Chairman, Rainforest Alliance, and former CEO, Marine Stewardship Council.

“For someone who is not a professional economist, Michael Mainelli thinks more cleverly about economics than anyone else I’ve met or read. I have never had a discussion with Michael without feeling that I’ve learned something new. ‘The Price of Fish’ will provoke, enrage and intrigue people. But above all it will enlighten.”

— Douglas McWilliams
Chief Executive, Centre for Economics and Business Research

“In this thought-provoking and enlightening book, Mainelli and Harris highlight a point that economists too often forget: that economics is, at its heart, the study of human behaviour, and that both commerce and its wicked sister, finance, mean nothing unless they are connected to people and society.”

— Bill Emmott
Editor of The Economist 1993-2006, author, and conceptual fisherman.

“Your mother used to tell you that fish is good for the brain. Reading this terrifying analysis will prove her right.”

— Stephen McDowell
Editor-in-chief, Interactive Investor Group.

“This book shows how unpicking something as innocent as the price of fish reveals an interconnected world of “wicked problems”, unravelling which will be vital to squaring the demands of a rising population with climate change and resource depletion.”

— Gerard Wynn
Environmental Markets Correspondent, Reuters News.

“From their background of economics, law, accountancy and leading edge work for defence, academic and research institutions, Michael and Ian have proved adept in presenting to commercial enterprises and interested laymen the complicated interactions in the real world of those theories and disciplines with human foibles, accelerating technological change, general noise and interference from misguided politicians with agendas and incompetent bureaucrats, causing unintended consequences and manifest disasters in the global financial and commercial affairs of society. Refreshingly they tell it as it is and we are all the better for it.”

— Jack Wigglesworth
Founder and former chairman, LIFFE (now NYSE Euronext Liffe).

“Academics tend to be locked into their own disciplines, unable to apply different ways of thought or ask different questions. The Price of Fish is a lucid and provocative challenge to many ways of thinking about our world; it will be read by, and will benefit, anyone who realises that apparently simple questions conceal, and require, complex answers which draw on wider knowledge than most of us possess.”

— Professor Sir Roderick Floud
Provost, Gresham College.

“Crazy but worth your attention.”

— Sir Willie Purves
Former Chairman, HSBC.

“Mainelli and Harris offer in the ‘Price of Fish’ an original and insightful look at the big and important long-term issues facing society today, the ‘wicked’ problems. Better yet, they provide a framework to analyze these issues: choice, economics, systems, and evolution. Policy makers need to read this book.”

— Donald J Smith, Boston University
Author of “Bond Math: The Theory Behind the Formulas”.

“As one of the world’s largest fish buyers I lived on a daily basis with this ‘Wicked Problem’. Michael’s and Ian’s contribution is a welcome insight to complex commercial decision making.”

— Mike Parker
Former Deputy CEO, Findus Group, Europe’s largest seafood processor.

“The Price of Fish recognises the importance of competition within a complex world of consumer choice and evolving markets. Mainelli and Harris give policy-makers a richer framework for decision-making, one that applies from finance to scarce resource management and beyond.”

— Charlie McCreevy
Former EU Commisioner and former Irish Minister for Finance.

“Mainelli and Harris are very bright fellows. It shows in this elegant and witty approach to resource economics which tackles all those dangerous issues which arise when Mother Earth and the market collide.”

— Richard D North
Fellow, Social Affairs Unit and Media Affairs, Institute of Economic Affairs

“Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris are among the most interesting lateral thinkers on key economic issues of the day. They succeed brilliantly in making their provocative ideas comprehensible to mere mortals.”

— John Plender
Columnist, Financial Times

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