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Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism

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Overview

On December 5, 2004, the still-developing blogosphere took one of its biggest steps toward mainstream credibility, as Nobel Prize–winning economist Gary S. Becker and renowned jurist and legal scholar Richard A. Posner announced the formation of the Becker-Posner Blog.

In no time, the blog had established a wide readership and reputation as a reliable source of lively, thought-provoking commentary on current events, its pithy and profound weekly essays highlighting the value of economic reasoning when applied to unexpected topics. Uncommon Sense gathers the most important and innovative entries from the blog, arranged by topic, along with updates and even reconsiderations when subsequent events have shed new light on a question. Whether it’s Posner making the economic case for the legalization of gay marriage, Becker arguing in favor of the sale of human organs for transplant, or even the pair of scholars vigorously disagreeing about the utility of collective punishment, with reference to Israel’s battles with Hezbollah and Hamas, the writing is always clear, the interplay energetic, and the resulting discussion deeply informed and intellectually substantial.

To have a single thinker of the stature of a Becker or Posner addressing questions of this nature would make for fascinating reading; to have both, writing and responding to each other, is an exceptionally rare treat. With Uncommon Sense, they invite the adventurous reader to join them on a whirlwind intellectual journey. All they ask is that you leave your preconceptions behind.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
The best way of getting into the economics of what is known as the 'Chicago School' without paying tuition.

— Elizabeth Taylor

New York Times
An excellent book . . . . For anyone who wants a quick and easy crash course on Chicago economics-style thinking, this book is as good as it gets. . . . I read nearly the whole book in one sitting.”

— Steven D. Levitt

Choice
"In December 2004, Gary Becker and Judge Richard Posner, two intellectual superstars, created a weekly Internet blog  that examines a wide variety of topics with the tools of economics. This book culls from the blog's first 28 months 49 posts that they consider their best, most interesting, and most lasting. Becker and Posner do not persuade by using authority or clever rhetoric--they write in a dry academic style--but they attempt to make a clear, logical case for their positions using economic reasoning. Occasionally they discuss conventional economic topics, but more often they write about broader and more provocative issues such as sex and population, universities, crime and punishment, the environment and disasters, and a miscellany of world problems. Both write on each issue; they usually agree with each other, but not always. The book's primary appeal is that it shows how two first-rate economic thinkers analyze issues. . . . Highly recommended. All levels and libraries."
Lawrence Lessig

“In the vast wasteland that most assume the blogosphere to be, Becker and Posner's work is a gem. Authentic, responsive, and enormously fun, it should be read both in real time, and in the reflection of a published work.”
Chicago Tribune - Elizabeth Taylor

"The best way of getting into the economics of what is known as the 'Chicago School' without paying tuition."
New York Times - Steven D. Levitt

“An excellent book . . . . For anyone who wants a quick and easy crash course on Chicago economics-style thinking, this book is as good as it gets. . . . I read nearly the whole book in one sitting.”

Choice
"In December 2004, Gary Becker and Judge Richard Posner, two intellectual superstars, created a weekly Internet blog  that examines a wide variety of topics with the tools of economics. This book culls from the blog's first 28 months 49 posts that they consider their best, most interesting, and most lasting. Becker and Posner do not persuade by using authority or clever rhetoric--they write in a dry academic style--but they attempt to make a clear, logical case for their positions using economic reasoning. Occasionally they discuss conventional economic topics, but more often they write about broader and more provocative issues such as sex and population, universities, crime and punishment, the environment and disasters, and a miscellany of world problems. Both write on each issue; they usually agree with each other, but not always. The book's primary appeal is that it shows how two first-rate economic thinkers analyze issues. . . . Highly recommended. All levels and libraries."
New York Times
"An excellent book . . . . For anyone who wants a quick and easy crash course on Chicago economics-style thinking, this book is as good as it gets. . . . I read nearly the whole book in one sitting."--Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics blog, New York Times

— Steven D. Levitt

Chicago Tribune
"The best way of getting into the economics of what is known as the ''Chicago School'' without paying tuition."-Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune

— Elizabeth Taylor

Choice
"In December 2004, Gary Becker and Judge Richard Posner, two intellectual superstars, created a weekly Internet blog that examines a wide variety of topics with the tools of economics. This book culls from the blog''s first 28 months 49 posts that they consider their best, most interesting, and most lasting. Becker and Posner do not persuade by using authority or clever rhetoric--they write in a dry academic style--but they attempt to make a clear, logical case for their positions using economic reasoning. Occasionally they discuss conventional economic topics, but more often they write about broader and more provocative issues such as sex and population, universities, crime and punishment, the environment and disasters, and a miscellany of world problems. Both write on each issue; they usually agree with each other, but not always. The book''s primary appeal is that it shows how two first-rate economic thinkers analyze issues. . . . Highly recommended. All levels and libraries."--Choice
Publishers Weekly
Nobel Prize–winning economist Becker (Human Capital) and U.S. Court of Appeals judge Posner (How Judges Think) apply economic perspectives to a wide range of contemporary issues in these unwieldy essays culled from their jointly written blog. Social problems ranging from terrorism and pre-emptive war to Internet gambling and steroid use are subjected to analysis yielding surprising arguments; for example, they argue that drunk-driving laws penalize behavior that is not criminal (drinking) instead of the harmful outcome (accidents) and ask, “Why punish the 99-plus percent of drunk driving that is harmless?” The book is most compelling when addressing the legal aspects of eminent domain and pharmaceutical patents, much less so when it pans over national and global issues like ethnic profiling, where the arguments feel well-worn. Despite some valuable insights, the writing itself is ponderous and lacks the references and rigor to make it genuinely academic, but comes across as too dense for good blog writing. And even though the authors acknowledge that their audience might be unfamiliar with the economic principles they apply, their only concession is a brief overview of economics in the introduction. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226041018
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Pages: 373
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary S. Becker (1930-2014) was University Professor at the University of Chicago with a joint appointment in both the economics and sociology departments. He was the author of many books, including Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis and The Economics of Discrimination. He collaborated with Richard Posner on the Becker-Posner Blog, which formed the basis for their book Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism. Becker was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.
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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Becker-Posner Blog 1

Pt. I Sex and Population 11

Pt. II Property Rights 53

Pt. III Universities 103

Pt. IV Incentives 133

Pt. V Jobs and Employment 165

Pt. VI Environment and Disasters 203

Pt. VII Crime and Punishment and Terrorism 251

Pt. VIII The World 315

Index 367

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