Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Economists Are Not Real People and Other Lessons From My Recent Reading

I just finished reading More Sex Is Safer Sex, by economist Steven Landsburg, and was reminded just why economists are not real people.

Actually, I may be painting with too broad of a brush, since Landsburg isn't just an economist, he's a libertarian economist, which means he's doubly nuts.

Now, in theory, aspects of libertarianism thinking should appeal to me -- I generally want to leave people alone, and be left alone.

However, like many economists and libertarians, he goes off the rails and into his own little libertarian economist-land where:

* People have perfect information
* People can accurately gauge the costs and benefits of their actions
* People act rationally based on that information
* Market prices truly reflect the value of things

Since I got a C in Econ (barely), I should probably stop here. I will just say that economists are not real people the same way that game theorists are not real people.

Other books I have read of fairly recent vintage (last 6 months or so):

* Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, David Zucchino: This book depressed me. Not because the startling strategic success of the invasion only serves to highlight the lack of post-invasion planning and incompetent implementation that's landed us in this fiasco now. Nor because of the loss of human life.

It depressed me mostly because the book prominently features captains and majors, all are my age or even younger, who have responsibility and leadership over hundreds or thousands of lives, whereas I can barely take care of my own.

* The Road, Cormac McCarthy: This one didn't depress me. Instead, I felt despair. And hunger. Maybe because I'm in year ten of my ongoing existential crisis, but the thought of an entire world that's gone so far bad that death is a welcome alternative... it just gets me.

Stylistically, the short and choppy fragments and phrases bothered me. I got used to it, but I can't say that I enjoyed that bit.

Oh, and I read it before it made Oprah's Book Club.

Other than that, there have been some zombie books (which I'll talk more about some other time).

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