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More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics Hardcover – April 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Later prt. edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416532218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416532217
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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.

Customer Reviews

So, if Martin decided to have more sex, Joan would be safer today!
Alexandru Salcianu
It's hard to tell, because he throws out many of his crazy ideas with little support or comment.
Dave Hitz
This book was completely mindbending and was so good that I stayed up until 5:30 to finish it.
Roland Martinez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Alexandru Salcianu on September 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Reading this book is a clearly useful exercise: recognizing incorrect arguments is a useful (and sometimes very fun) skill!

The "unconventional wisdom" from this book is actually a collection of comically oversimplified, misleading, inconsistent, and unverified "theories" (yes, all quotes are intended).

Oversimplification: chapter 6 has six pages plus five additional lines. Its title? Very modest: "How to fix Politics"! Initially, I thought Landsburg is joking, but, no, in the next chapter, the equally modest "How to Fix the Justice System" (22 pages), Landsburg reassures us: "Am I serious? Of course I'm serious!"

Misleading: let's look at the chapter that gives the title of the entire book. As the example goes, Martin and Joan (who like each other very much) plan to leave together from the company Christmas party. But Martin gets scared by an AIDS-awareness ad and decides to skip the party. Joan finds herself alone at the party and leaves with Maxwell, who's HIV-positive. So, if Martin decided to have more sex, Joan would be safer today! Landsburg, a professor of economics at Univ. of Rochester, generalizes this into "More Sex is Safer Sex"! Before you start celebrating, please read on. What he's actually proving is the less interesting statement "if the total quantity of sex (defined as different couples) were equal, then a more uniform distribution of sex maximizes safety". For people who like graph theory, "in a graph with a constant number of nodes and edges, the diameter is likely to be bigger if the node degrees are equal". Notice that this is a quite boring result, clearly not one to generate big sales :) It is also a useless result, as it uses the baseless assumption of a constant quantity of sex (after all, Joan could have gone home alone).
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162 of 201 people found the following review helpful By Dave Hitz on June 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was expecting something thoughtful and thought-provoking, like Freakonomics or Blink, but instead I found lots of half-baked suggestions that seem intended to shock rather than enlighten.

Here's an example. Landsburg argues that the big barrier for people getting their first loan is that banks don't believe they will pay, so he argues that "If the government wants to provide meaningful assistance to first-time home buyers, it should probably consider capital punishment for late mortgage payments." That would prove their intent to pay, and make banks feel safer. Does he really believe this? It's hard to tell, because he throws out many of his crazy ideas with little support or comment.

Another suggestion is that Congressmen should be assigned to constituents alphabetically, one representing names starting Aa-Am, another An-Be, and so on, because that would create less incentive for bridges to nowhere. What kind of legislation can you pass to unfairly advantage people whose names start with B? But he completely ignores the issue of representing constituents with common interests, or how a congressman could go about meeting people spread evenly over the whole country. Perhaps there's a nugget of a good idea, but given that he ignores any potential downsides, you can't really tell.

At first these crazy suggestions were amusing, but as they kept coming, I wondered: Is he serious or just screwing around? The crazy unsupported ideas made me skeptical of the ones he seems to be trying to defend more seriously, because it seems he's more interested in shocking people than in reach seriously supportable truths.

In the end, I felt that I hadn't learned much -- just watched a smart guy ramble about with little serious intent.

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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lowell Prescott on June 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Landsburg's arguments are certainly provocative, but his style (both of argument and of writing) get in the way of enjoying this book. It reads like what it is: a series of magazine articles collected somewhat arbitrarily under a provocative title.

His complex arguments with multiple assumptions are presented as if they were simple arguments with no unstated assumptions. Many are reduced to three or four terse sentences. I found myself thinking more about his starting points than his conclusions.

In fact, I would not say that I either agree or disagree with his conclusions. Some seem inevitable, others seem insane. There are at least a couple that I believe could be demonstrated as blatantly false (if the underlying assumptions were enumerated and evaluated). But mostly I feel like I do not have enough supporting information to make a truly informed response.

If his goal was to teach readers how to use economic principles in decision-making, the goal was not met. If his goal was to show how making decisions using economic principles leads to surprising conclusions, again it was not met. If his goal was something else, it is difficult to discern. Ultimately, I see little point for this book. It was only modestly entertaining.

But I think the biggest sin in these essays is that they are all logic and no heart. Throughout all of the "cost-benefit" reasoning, there is no acknowledgment that feeling good about a decision (regardless of its soundness) must be tallied in the "benefit" column.

Yes, this is irrational (see
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