February 12, 2008
News & Opinion: More Sex is Safer Sex
More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics by Steven E. Landsburg, Free Press
A fair warning about entering Landsburg's backwards world of counter-intuitiveness: prepare to have your common sense bombarded to the point of irritation. Writer of the "Everyday Economics" column in Slate magazine, and author of The Armchair Economist, Landsburg here embarks on a bender of devil's advocacy, arguing the likes of more promiscuity diluting the pool of potential partners with AIDS, and overpopulation benefiting the worldwide community.
Along the way he assaults more than a few logical faculties, but if you're the kind that likes like your sense served "uncommonly," and prefer philo-economical quips along the lines of "condom use itself is underrewarded," then you may have a little armchair economist in you.
Landsburg's ceaseless adherence to cost/benefit based outlook may indeed outrage readers (he warns as much in the intro)--such as when he suggests the government was unwise in bringing money into post-Katrina New Orleans--but the stance isn't anti-aid as much as it is opposition to a natural inclination of accepting topics at face value. After all, what sense does a federal disaster program make, if everyone shares the same flood risk?
Likewise, when Landsburg parallels the archaeological treasures of Baghdad's National Museum to trash he should have cleaned out of the garage, a collective head shake may be in order.
Though, how much sincerity he brings to such arguments is up to the reader to decide, and with tongue most often placed firmly in cheek, the point doesn't seem like persuasion as much as a demonstration that there are two sides to every coin--and in Landsburg's world, even the chance the coin will land on its lip. As he states, the book is a "celebration of all that is counter, original, spare, and strange."
Shooting from the hip, Landsburg's work is a revelation that sometimes the view from the armchair offers, maybe not the best perspective, but certainly the most devilishly fun.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.