WTF?!: An Economic Tour of the Weird

Stanford University Press
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Step right up! Get your tickets for WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird! This rollicking tour through a museum of the world's weirdest practices is guaranteed to make you say, "WTF?!" Did you know that "preowned" wives were sold at auction in nineteenth-century England? That today, in Liberia, accused criminals sometimes drink poison to determine their fate? How about the fact that, for 250 years, Italy criminally prosecuted cockroaches and crickets? Do you wonder why? Then this tour is just for you!

Join WTF?!'s cast of colorful characters as they navigate the museum, led by guide and economist Peter T. Leeson. From one exhibit to the next, you'll overhear Leeson's riotous exchanges with the patrons and learn how to use economic thinking to reveal the hidden sense behind seemingly senseless human behavior—including your own. Leeson shows that far from "irrational" or "accidents of history," humanity's most outlandish rituals are ingenious solutions to pressing problems—developed by clever people, driven by incentives, and tailor-made for their time and place. Can you handle getting schooled by the strange? Better hurry, the tour is about to start!

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About the author

Peter T. Leeson is the Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University. He is the author of the award-winning The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates (2009) and Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better Than You Think (2014). He can be reached via his website peterleeson.com.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Stanford University Press
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Published on
Oct 17, 2017
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781503604490
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 edition

The original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.

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Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss--it's time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates' notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a "pirate code"? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates' search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy--a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers' compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice--their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.

Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history's most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates' trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:

First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it. Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to. Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions. Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day. Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

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Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss--it's time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates' notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a "pirate code"? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates' search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy--a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers' compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice--their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.

Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history's most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates' trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

老婆可以賣、老鼠可以告、滾水可以摸、上帝會詛咒……

靠!什麼鬼?!竟然都跟經濟學有關

 

你知道:

*在十九世紀的英國,「二手的」妻子是拍賣會上的搶手貨嗎?

*直到今天的賴比瑞亞,被起訴的罪犯,會以喝下毒藥來決定是否有罪?

*中世紀的義大利,有長達250年的時間,就算是蟑螂或蟋蟀,也可能會吃上官司?

 

What The Fuck?

 

「靠!什麼鬼?」是我們感到驚嘆時最愛用的發語詞。在這趟「不可思議的經濟學之旅」中,保證你將不斷地說出這幾個字。因為旅程中所介紹的怪異社會現象和人類行為,絕對會令你感到驚嚇又驚奇。這些奇風異俗裡,有的曾經是人類社會組織中最重要的核心活動,有的已經沿用數個世紀,至今依然存在。

 

無所不在的經濟學,沒道理其實有道理

看理性的人類,如何聰明的解決問題

 

經濟學家彼得‧利森是「理性選擇理論」最好的實踐者,他擅長搜索人類歷史中最怪異的習俗,以經濟學的角度,去了解這些表面上看似不可思議的事,其背後隱藏的真義。這一趟經濟學探索之旅,橫跨十二至二十世紀的歐洲到非洲,你會發現無論何時何地,理性的人類,總是能在誘因的驅使,以及信仰、資源的種種限制之下,以妙不可言的方式,尋求最好的解答。而身為本書導遊,彼得‧利森除了生動地描述這些奇怪的現象之外,同時也將啟發隨團的遊客,將理論應用在日常生活中。

 

【專文導讀】

 

林明仁  臺灣大學經濟學系特聘教授兼系主任

 

【名人推薦】

 

作者像是現代版天方夜譚的說故事人,讓我一翻開書就忍不住想知道「然後呢?」但更厲害是他旁徵博引的知識,巧妙連結不同領域專業,跨越時空地自由闡述,沉穩而輕盈,廣博又專精。

這位非典型但備受矚目的年輕經濟學家,能把研究著述做到這麼有趣帥氣,令人敬佩也啟人無數。

──李明璁(社會學家,作家)

 

以「理性選擇」為基礎的經濟分析,對各種人的行為、甚至於對各種生物的行為都能做合理、有趣的解析,已故的1992年諾貝爾經濟學獎得主蓋瑞.貝克(G.S. Becker)手中已做了最佳示範。在他的引導解析下,「帝國經濟學」這個揶揄專詞早已響徹雲霄,其後不少學者承繼發揮,出了許多膾炙人口的小品專書。年輕的經濟學家彼得.利森就是其中一位,2011年《海盜船上的經濟學家》是代表作,七年後再出版這本書傳承了起來,內容既有趣又驚喜,也富獨創性,值得閱讀!

──吳惠林(中華經濟研究院特約研究員)

 

我相信人是理性的,但彼得‧利森(Peter T. Leeson)更能發現到一些以往我們不曾發現的理性事實,他這本書中提到的奇特風俗,竟然也暗藏著經濟學的理性,我只能拍案為之驚奇,真有你的!

這本書帶給我們一些驚奇,在這些不為人知的過往歷史中,他每每可以驗證出,即使這些行為看似多麽無厘頭,卻也暗藏經濟學的理性。也就是說,特異的行為與文化之所以能夠擴散與流傳,真正推動的力量,也許正就是「看不見的那隻手」(好吧,亞當斯密從來沒這麼說過!)。

──鍾文榮(科普經濟學作家,《巷子口經濟學》作者,資深產業分析師)

           

 

《W(什)T(麼)F(鬼)?!》是我近年來看過最有趣的書。彼得‧利森展現了他得天獨厚的天賦:發掘人類看似最瘋狂的行為並非出於偶發,出乎意料地,最終都能合情合理。這本書,就像是加了類固醇的《蘋果橘子經濟學》。

──史蒂文‧李維特 Steven D. Levitt,暢銷書《蘋果橘子經濟學》合著者

 

你一開始的反應可能是「什麼鬼!」──中世紀的熱水審判、販賣老婆、神的詛咒……,最後都歸咎為理性的經濟行為。本書中,利森將幽默、靈巧地帶領你去探索這些表面看似毫無意義的儀式,其背後的歷史性與邏輯性。當你保持開放的心胸,這本書將為你帶來無限的驚喜、知識和娛樂。

──安德烈‧史來佛 Andrei Shleifer,美國哈佛大學經濟學家

 

這是一個引人入勝、世界上最怪奇風俗與人類行為的迷人之旅。旅程由一位出色幽默又古怪的導遊帶領,不論這有多奇怪,這些行為一定有他的道理,並且讓你能從中學習。你可以只是張口瞠目,或是用心體會利森的見解,沒道理我們不能同時這樣做。

──史帝文‧藍思博 Steven E. Landsburg,暢銷書《生命中的經濟遊戲:反常理思考24問》作家,羅徹斯特大學經濟學教授

 

這是我讀過最有獨創性的一本書,既新奇又有趣,每一頁都有驚喜,更不用說包含許多愚蠢的玩笑了。

──提姆‧哈福特 Tim Harford,《不整理的人生魔法:亂有道理的!》,《誰賺走了你的咖啡錢》,《臥底經濟學家》作者。

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