cover image Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism

Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism

Richard A. Posner, Gary Stanley Becker, . . Univ. of Chicago, $29 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-226-04101-8

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.)