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What’s your story?
by Daniel Akst
Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events,
by Robert J. Shiller, Princeton University Press, 2019


f you’re in business, perhaps the most important question you can ask
yourself is, “What’s your story?”
Stories are how we make sense of the world and understand one
another, and asking questions is how we begin to construct our stories. It’s
hard to imagine any business leader — or enterprise — could last very long
without being able to answer such questions as, “Who are we? What business are
we in? How do we want the world to see us?”
The same goes for political leaders. Without a compelling story, a candidate
doesn’t give voters a reason to get excited — or to cast a ballot. Compelling stories
are also the means by which candidates seek to define one another, and the stories
they use can be as brief as a few words — a tag, really, as in “There you go again”
or “Willie Horton” or “liberal.”
What’s surprising, perhaps, is that the gearheads in academic economics
departments may finally be getting wind of all this. If they are, much of the credit
must go to Robert J. Shiller, the Yale economist who won the Nobel Prize in his
field in 2013. Shiller’s iconoclastic new book, Narrative Economics, ranges across Illu



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