Synopses & Reviews
Steven Landsburg's writings are living proof that economics need not be "the dismal science." Readers of The Armchair Economist
and his columns in Slate
magazine know that he can make economics not only fun but fascinating, as he searches for the reasons behind the odd facts we face in our daily lives. In More Sex Is Safer Sex
, he brings his witty and razor-sharp analysis to the many ways that our individually rational decisions can combine into some truly weird collective results -- and he proposes hilarious and serious ways to fix just about everything.
When you stand up at the ballpark in order to see better, you make a rational decision. When everyone else does it too, the results, of course, are lousy. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of individual sanity and collective madness. Did you know that some people may actually increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases when they avoid casual sex? Do you know why tall people earn more money than shorter competitors? (Hint: it isn't just unfair, unconscious prejudice.) Do you know why it makes no sense for you to give charitable donations to more than one organization?
Landsburg's solutions to the many ways that modern life is unfair or inefficient are both jaw-dropping and maddeningly defensible. We should encourage people to cut in line at water fountains on hot days. We should let firefighters keep any property they rescue from burning houses. We should encourage more people to act like Scrooge, because misers are just as generous as philanthropists.
Best of all are Landsburg's commonsense solutions to the political problems that plague our democracy. We should charge penalties to jurors if they convict a felon who is later exonerated. We should let everyone vote in two congressional districts: their own, and any other one of their choice. While we're at it, we should redraw the districts according to the alphabetical lists of all voters, rather than by geography. We should pay FDA commissioners with shares of pharmaceutical company stocks, and pay our president with a diversified portfolio of real estate from across the country.
Why do parents of sons stay married more often than parents who have only daughters? Why does early motherhood not only correlate with lower income, but actually cause it? Why do we execute murderers but not the authors of vicious computer viruses? The lesson of this fascinating, fun, and endlessly provocative book is twofold: many apparently very odd behaviors have logical explanations, and many apparently logical behaviors make no sense whatsoever.
"Economics books full of 'uncommon sense' are more common after the success of Freakonomics, but this rambling survey of hot-button and quotidian issues viewed from a libertarian economic perspective doesn't measure up. Landsburg (The Armchair Economist) is sometimes pleasantly counterintuitive, but too often simply contentious. In using cost/benefit calculations to argue in favor of racial profiling or why we shouldn't care about the looting of Baghdad's museums, he strains to celebrate 'all that is counter, original, spare and strange.' While positing multiple solutions to interesting problems, he forces logical readers to confront uncomfortable positions as in the title essay, urging chaste citizens to sleep around, thereby diluting the pool of potential sex partners with AIDS. But the chapters typically conclude without resolution at one point, the author shrugs: 'It's not easy to sort out causes from effects.' One suspects that a rival economist could swiftly debunk many of Landsburg's arguments for instance, his chapter praising misers (who produce but don't consume) depends on the assumption that all resources are fixed and finite. By the time he makes the head-scratching case that 'it's always an occasion for joy when other people have more children,' the reader may be in the mood for some plain old common sense." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Long before the 'pop economists' there was Steven Landsburg, writing funny, jargon-free, shocking, and true essays on our material circumstances. But Landsburg knows something that other authors of bestsellers on the subject don't. He knows everything. Economics is not the study of money; it's the study of value. Everything is determined by our values. The science of everything is what economics is. And here, in More Sex, what the reader will find is -- everything." -- P. J. O'Rourke
"Steve Landsburg proves once again that he is better than anyone else at making economics interesting to noneconomists. Landsburg is provocative and playful in his mission to demonstrate how an understanding of economics will change the way you live your daily life. I loved this book."-- Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
"Steve Landsburg is one of my favorite economics writers, and his new book is no exception. While I don't always agree with him, he usually gets me thinking, and he always entertains."-- Greg Mankiw, former Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and author of Principles of Economics
About the Author
Steven E. Landsburg is a Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester. He is the author of More Sex Is Safer Sex, The Armchair Economist, Fair Play, two textbooks on economics, and over thirty journal articles in mathematics, economics, and philosophy. He writes the popular “Everyday Economics” column in Slate magazine and has written for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.
Table of Contents
Preface: Unconventional Wisdom
PART I: The Communal Stream
1. More Sex Is Safer Sex
2. Be Fruitful and Multiply
3. What I Like about Scrooge
4. Who's the Fairest of Them All?
5. Children at Work
PART II: How to Fix Everything
6. How to Fix Politics
7. How to Fix the Justice System
8. How to Fix Everything Else
How to Fight Fires
How to Fight Crime
How to Prevent Accidents
How to Fight Pollution
How to Solve the Kidney Shortage
How to Fight Grade Inflation
How to Shorten Waiting Lines
PART III: Everyday Economics
9. Go Figure
10. Oh No! It's a Girl!
11. The High Price of Motherhood
PART IV: The Big Questions
12. Giving Your All
A Defense of Pure Reason
13. The Central Banker of the Soul
14. How to Read the News
The Sack of Baghdad
Global Warming, Local Crowding
My Barnes and Noble Trade Deficit
An Outsourcing Fable
The New Racism
15. Matters of Life and Death
16. Things That Make Me Squirm