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More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional…
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More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics (2007)

by Steven E. Landsburg

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On the bandwagon with Freakonomics. Thinking about things from an economic standpoint – i.e., from the way the world actually works as opposed to the way numerous interest groups would like it to work – is always a laudable pastime; the catch being that economists usually don’t know the way it actually works either. In this case, most of the hypotheses proposed are pretty reasonable – alas, though, they are just hypotheses and testing them by experiment ain’t gonna happen.


Ironically, the lead essay in this collection (and also the title for the whole book), More Sex is Safer Sex, is one of the weakest. It was presumably chosen on the assumption that a book with “sex” in the title will sell better; if only my first scientific paper had been titled “Chronostratigraphic accuracy of Ordovician ecostratigraphic correlation and sex” I might be famous today. Author Steven Landsburg clumsily explains his premise with an anecdote involving a hypothetical office Christmas party; a later explanation works somewhat better – suppose you have a community of 1000 married couples and five prostitutes. The women are all content to remain monogamous; the men, however, “need” an additional sexual partner annually. The prostitutes will get a workout and potentially infect everybody with STDs. However, if the women or a reasonable fraction of them cheat, all the men can be satisfied and everybody will stay healthy. Landsburg comments that of course there are some assumptions; I should think so.


The remainder of the essays are similar; some ideas that make you think; many unstated assumptions or failures to account for confounding factors. An interesting one involved a way of thinking about outsourcing jobs overseas; suppose John Doe invents software to perform some valuable service – the example Landsburg uses is automatically analyze MRI scans. People who were previously employed analyzing MRI scans lose their jobs, but for everybody else MRI scan analysis is now cheaper. On investigation, however, it turns out that there’s no fancy software in John Doe’s setup at all; all it does is send the MRI scans to doctors in Mumbai who analyze them and send back the results. In one case, John Doe is a clever inventor and consumer benefactor; in the other he’s an evil and unscrupulous business owner sending American jobs overseas. However, the two situations are economically identical. Landsburg expands somewhat by commenting that John Kerry’s website contained references to keeping “American” jobs for “Americans”, presumably to the enthusiastic approval of his supporters; if, however, Kerry had stated he wanted to keep “white” jobs for “whites”, there would have been a different reaction. The conclusion is “Think Globally” only applies to polar bears, not jobs.


Landsburg’s comment on Third World child labor will also raise hackles among the politically correct; the issue is not one of 13-year old Egyptian girls working all day weaving carpets versus 13-year old Egyptian girls going to school; it’s between weaving carpets and starving. Landsburg is especially hard on American college students with expensive educations and high-tech gadgets “protecting” children in Third World countries from earning enough to eat.


Pretty good overall except for the unfortunate title essay; these were originally written for magazine or newspaper consumption and are thus short and to the point, with the caveat that this sometimes leaves some of the assumptions unstated. Picked mine up in the remainder bin at Barnes and Noble for $2.70 and well worth it. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 15, 2017 |
Questo libro parla (anche) di sesso, perchè fa vendere. Per il resto, parla della parola "autocompiacimento" nelle sue diverse declinazioni, associata alla parola "speculazione da tavola calda" che raggiunge vette insperate. A questa, la consuetudine del "relativismo intellettuale" declinata ad ogni conclusione rende superflua la lettura.
Irritante come una zanzara tigre intrappolata in un bagno pubblico, e altrettanto utile.
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Provocative and thought-provocative. As an a entry-level book on economics, I enjoyed it much more than the oft-touted Freakonomics. ( )
  Kuiperdolin | Nov 11, 2009 |
I read The Armchair Economist and More Sex is Safer Sex back to back and remember them both as cost/benefit analysis stretched to its utmost. Which can be fun if you do not take it too seriously. There are also some suggestions for establishing added incentives for judges and juries, as well as firemen, that reminds me of Rube Goldberg contraptions and are all good for a broad smile. In short I think Landsburg is good, very good, with a tongue in his cheek that I suspect he just might not have - well maybe he has. ( )
  jahn | Jun 23, 2009 |
I still have not read Freakonomics but this book is supposededly similiar. I absolutely loved this book! I really liked the section on "how to fix everything else". It just seems like such simple solutions to everyday economics, but sometimes it is so radical that it doesn't seem like it would work. ( )
  KristenZ | May 10, 2009 |
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To Homeport
in all its manifestations

and

to Lisa
the best surprise of my life
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PREFACE:
Unconventional Wisdom
 
Common sense tells you that promiscuity spreads AIDS, population growth threatens prosperity, and misers make bad neighbors. I wrote this book to assault your common sense.
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Makes provocative suggestions for tackling difficult modern issues, from using promiscuity as a method of spreading disease to charging juries for exonerating convicted felons and giving rescued property to firefighters.

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