Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Price of Everything

The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity

Russell Roberts
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Price of Everything
    Book Description:

    Stanford University student and Cuban American tennis prodigy Ramon Fernandez is outraged when a nearby mega-store hikes its prices the night of an earthquake. He crosses paths with provost and economics professor Ruth Lieber when he plans a campus protest against the price-gouging retailer--which is also a major donor to the university. Ruth begins a dialogue with Ramon about prices, prosperity, and innovation and their role in our daily lives. Is Ruth trying to limit the damage from Ramon's protest? Or does she have something altogether different in mind?

    As Ramon is thrust into the national spotlight by events beyond the Stanford campus, he learns there's more to price hikes than meets the eye, and he is forced to reconsider everything he thought he knew. What is the source of America's high standard of living? What drives entrepreneurs and innovation? What upholds the hidden order that allows us to choose our careers and pursue our passions with so little conflict? How does economic order emerge without anyone being in charge? Ruth gives Ramon and the reader a new appreciation for how our economy works and the wondrous role that the price of everything plays in everyday life.

    The Price of Everythingis a captivating story about economic growth and the unseen forces that create and sustain economic harmony all around us.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2028-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Author’s Note
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Thinking Outside the Box
    (pp. 1-6)

    “Sold out.”

    Sold out? Home Depot sold out of flashlights? It was impossible. How could they be sold out?

    “What do you mean?” Ramon Fernandez asked.

    “Sorry,” the clerk replied. “This place has been a madhouse for the last two hours. I wish I could tell you there are more in the back. But there aren’t. They’re gone. Every one of them. Come back in a few days.”

    Earlier that evening, Ramon and Amy had been making dinner when the floor began to shake. The earthquake seemed to go on and on, the glasses and plates rattling and tinkling on...

  5. 2 Out of Control
    (pp. 7-16)

    In Ruth Lieber’s office, bookshelves went floor to ceiling and on some of the shelves, the books were lined up two deep, with more books wedged sideways into the gaps above the books. In the middle of the room, ziggurats of books soared up from a large library table.

    Every decade or so, to the amusement and teasing of her colleagues, Ruth cleared off her desk and the table in the center of the office. One September, years ago, shortly after she had done a summer cleaning and the office was fairly tidy, Ruth found a student sitting at the...

  6. 3 Birds of a Feather
    (pp. 17-28)

    Ramon met Heavy Weather and some of his friends for lunch that Sunday at a Thai place in Palo Alto off of University. Everybody in Berkeley knew Heavy Weather but no one knew whether he was closer to thirty or fifty. Some said that his parents had been radicals back in the 1960s, that they had been into some very heavy stuff with the Panthers and they had done jail time. Some said that Heavy Weather had made those stories up, that he was just a perpetual grad student in sociology with a wistful longing for the glory days of...

  7. 4 Inconceivable
    (pp. 29-51)

    At Ruth’s next class, Amy told how she had been at the marsh when the flock of birds had pursued the hawk.

    “They darted and danced as if they had been programmed. No one in control, yet the flock had a life of its own. The wind is blowing and the hawk is moving, yet somehow, the flock held together. As if,” and here Amy hesitated, searching for the right words, “it looked like the flock was under the control of a master puppeteer whose goal was to keep the birds flying together.”

    “A bunch of birds flying together,” Ruth...

  8. 5 Leaning on the Gardener
    (pp. 52-63)

    Ruth Lieber wasn’t surprised to get a phone call from Robert Bachman, class of ’77, chairman and CEO of Big Box. A man who liked to control everything, even things he has no control over, calling someone who he thinks should have control over something she knows she can’t control.

    “Ruth? Bob, here.” No last name. Just Bob. But he was right. She knew who it was.

    “Bob! Great to hear from you. How are you?”

    “Not as good as I was yesterday. I’ve got a little problem in the Bay Area and it’s drifting awfully close to my favorite...

  9. 6 Mea Culpa
    (pp. 64-76)

    There’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. This maxim, attributed to every successful leader since Moses, often entered Ruth Lieber’s consciousness in her job as provost. It was at the front of her mind, two days after the Big Box protest, as she sat listening to Bob Bachman lecture her about how lucky she was that everything turned out OK.

    Part of Ruth Lieber’s job was to make someone who thinks he’s very important, feel even more important. This wasn’t easy, but she did the best she could. She praised Bob...

  10. 7 The Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs
    (pp. 77-103)

    Early one May morning on the Stanford campus, only a few people were even awake. But at least one was not only awake, but working. He took the fuzzy ball in his left hand. He cradled it for a moment, then hoisted it up and flipped it into the air higher than you’d think he could possibly reach. But he could reach it. He brought the racket up and over the ball with a deceptively languid motion. Boom. Somehow, the campus managed to sleep on. Another ball. Up. Reach. Boom. Then another and another and another.

    He did this for...

  11. 8 A Night in the Cemetery
    (pp. 104-114)

    Ruth Lieber lived on one of those quiet Palo Alto streets to the south of the Stanford campus east of El Camino. Not a big house and not a small one—a house that in a medium-sized American city in the Midwest or the South would be worth maybe $250,000 but in Palo Alto was worth a great deal more.

    Every year, at the end of her senior seminar, Ruth invited the students over to her house for dinner. White wooden chairs were spread around the backyard. A long table held platters of grilled chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, and...

  12. 9 The Price of Everything
    (pp. 115-128)

    The next morning, when Ramon Fernandez finished running laps around the Stanford track, he was surprised to find Ruth Lieber leaning against the low fence surrounding the track, looking as if she were waiting for him. Was she waiting for him?

    “Hello, Ruth. Thanks for dinner last night.”

    “My pleasure. You ought to marry that girl.”

    “Amy?” Ramon laughed. “Are you serious?”

    “What’s so crazy about it? She’s a gem. Plus, I saw the way she looked at you. I saw the way you looked at her.”

    Ramon laughed again.

    “Look, Ruth. Before I get I married I think I...

  13. 10 No Host No Problem
    (pp. 129-149)

    Ruth and Ramon walked over to an outdoor coffee place next to the library, not far from Ruth’s office in the Economics department. On the way, Ruth asked Ramon about how his tennis practice was going and how he thought he might do this summer at Wimbledon. Their conversation and gestures and movement added to the feeling of vibrancy that made Stanford feel so alive, people walking, students on bikes seemingly swarming everywhere, whizzing miraculously at high speed without crashing into each other, weaving in and out of the people on foot like Ruth and Ramon, and in the middle...

  14. 11 The Weaver of Dreams
    (pp. 150-165)

    Life after college is like tennis, Ramon thought to himself, cringing at the very thought of having such a silly thought. You have to know when to go to the net and when to play the baseline. Life after college is like tennis. You have to keep your eye on the ball. Worse. Much worse. Maybe it’s like a tennis tournament. Whether you have a high seed or a low seed, you always have a chance. That’s a lie. Life is like the locker room before a tennis match. Even the greatest player puts his pants on one leg at...

  15. 12 A Wild and Precious Life
    (pp. 166-173)

    Ruth Lieber woke early on graduation day. She pulled up her e-mail and looked over the final version of the schedule for the day that her assistant had sent her late the night before. The day kicked off with breakfast with Bob Bachman and the dean of Arts and Sciences. She wasn’t sure how to handle that. Warn Bachman of what was coming later? Let events take their course? Maybe Ramon’s speech would turn out to be harmless. But if Ramon gave a rabble-rousing speech that vilified Big Box, then Bachman would be doubly furious. She decided to roll the...

  16. 13 How’s It Going to End?
    (pp. 174-190)

    It was twenty years before Ramon Fernandez discovered what Ruth Lieber really had in mind all those times the two of them had talked economics that spring when Ramon was graduating and preparing for Wimbledon. Ramon was in the Bay Area on business. He flew into San Jose on a perfect August day, rented a car and, before heading into San Francisco, stopped off in Palo Alto for a taste of nostalgia. Even without Amy, it was sweet to visit the Baylands and feel the wind whipping across the Bay and the marsh, the swallows on the wing and the...

  17. Sources and Further Reading
    (pp. 191-200)
  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 201-204)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 205-205)