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Uncommon Sense

Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism

Uncommon Sense

Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism

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, 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.

384 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Economics and Business: Economics--General Theory and Principles

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Economics


“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.”

Lawrence Lessig

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

Elizabeth Taylor | Chicago Tribune

“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 | New York Times

"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."


Table of Contents

Introduction to Becker-Posner Blog

I. Sex and Population

1. The Sexual Revolution

2. Gay Marriage

3. Polygamy

4. Sex Selection

5. Immigration Reform

6. Putin’s Population Plan

Afterthoughts to Part I

II. Property Rights

7. Kelo and Eminent Domain

8. Pharmaceutical Patents

9. Grokster, File Sharing, and Contributory Infringement

10. Orphan Drugs, Intellectual Property, and Social Welfare

11. Organ Sales

12. Traffic Congestion

13. Privatizing Highways

Afterthoughts to Part II

III. Universities

14. Plagiarism

15. Tenure

16. For-Profit Colleges

17. Ranking Higher Education

Afterthoughts to Part III

IV. Incentives

18. Fat Tax

19. Trans Fats Ban

20. Libertarian Paternalism

21. Chicago and Big Boxes

Afterthoughts to Part IV

V. Jobs and Employment

22. Judicial Term Limits

23. Economics of the Revolving Door

24. CEO Compensation

25. Income Inequality

26. Corporate Social Responsibility

Afterthoughts to Part V

VI. Environment and Disasters

27. Tsunami

28. Major Disasters

29. Federalism, Economics, and Katrina

30. Post-Catastrophe Price Gouging

31. Global Warming and Discount Rates

32. Efficient Water Conservation

Afterthoughts to Part VI

VII. Crime and Punishment and Terrorism

33. Capital Punishment

34. Doping Athletes

35. Drunk Driving

36.Internet Gambling

37. Preventive War

38. Ethnic Profiling

39. Privatizing Security

40. Antiterrorism Allocations

41. Collective Punishment

Afterthoughts to Part VII

VIII. The World

42. Economic and Political Freedom

43. Size of Countries

44. Hamas, Palestine, and Democracy

45. Google in China

46. Economics of National Culture

47. Microfinance and Development

48. World Inequality

49. Foreign Aid

Afterthoughts to Part VIII


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