Review: More Sex is Safer Sex

23rd April, 2007

Review: More Sex is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, by Steven Landsburg

A new book has appeared on the tottering pile of popular economics tomes on my desk, and appropriately enough it is a welcome return from the writer who laid their foundation back in 1993 with The Armchair Economist.

Steven Landsburg writes beautifully, is very smart and very creative, and I loved his new book. Some will hate it, but then Mr Landsburg won’t mind that at all: he has long taken a mischievous pride in offending sensibilities.

More Sex is Safer Sex is a collection of short essays – often based on Landsburg’s long-running column in Slate – exposing the economics deep beneath the surface of life. His opening chapter explains that if sexually reserved people slept around a bit more, we’d all be at less risk from sexually transmitted diseases, because we’d spend less time sleeping with a small number of sexually active, very risky partners. Sexual restraint, therefore, is rather like pollution, and it would be nice to find a policy to encourage less of it. Landsburg casts around for a solution but doesn’t find one that totally satisfies him, and then he’s off to the next subject, by which time both the verve of the writing and the edginess of the arguments are obvious.

Subsequent chapters cover politics (give every American an extra vote to cast in a different district, so that voters can punish pork-barrel politics), fire-fighting (let fire crews keep all the property they save, but watch out for arson-for-profit) and jury service (give jurors financial incentives to reach the right verdict, and hold a few fake trials to keep them honest)…

Continued at, subscription free.

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