I am Not as Turned On
By Arnold Kling
I think that a good teacher could use some of the examples to illustrate economic thinking. However, a non-economist reading the book on his own easily could come away with the impression that economics is about coming up with clever arguments for contrarian positions on things that seem to have little to do with economics. We do some of that, perhaps a lot of it, but I don’t think that it’s our comparative advantage.
The title essay argues for greater infidelity among otherwise-monogamous persons. If this essay persuades you, then you might want to venture out of the economics ghetto a bit. If nothing else, try Deirdre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Virtues, which is a much more difficult read, but worth the effort.
Other essays take more mainstream economic positions, such as arguing that sweatshops in poor countries are better than the alternative. However, Landsburg does not tell readers when he is expressing traditional economics and when he is going off on his own. Sometimes, he seems to me to be merely contrarian, as when Tyler Cowen becomes Tyrone. For my taste, Landsburg takes clever contrarianism well past the point of diminishing returns. Bryan and Tyler like the book, perhaps because for them the point of diminishing returns to this sort of cleverness is much farther away on the horizon.