From Publishers Weekly
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. (Apr.)
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Economist Landsburg sets out to explain extraordinary findings and logical arguments about the economics of everyday life. In the same vein as the recently popular Freakonomics
, this book aims to assault common sense using the tools of evidence and logic to describe reality. Drawn from evidently popular response to the author's magazine column, the book's title and lengthy first chapter on sex and AIDS could be found tedious by some. Yet his wisdom in subsequent chapters is thought-provoking. His ideas on beauty and ugliness, why insurance rates in Philadelphia are so high, compassion and economic considerations, gains from population size, daughters and divorce, concentrating charitable giving to one recipient, and views on Social Security are a few topics the author tackles with a lighthearted perspective. He tells us, "These are carefully considered arguments about important issues. But they're also surprising arguments, and surprises are fun. This book will give you new insights about how the world works." Mary WhaleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved