Saturday, January 29, 2005

Weekend Edition: More Sex is Safer Sex

Thanks to my friend Neal Young (professor of computer science at UC Riverside) for pointing me to the writings of Steven Landsburg, professor of economics at The University of Rochester and regular columnist for Slate.

By unflinchingly applying economic concepts to everyday personal choices, Landsburg has written some very provocative essays. His next collection of essays features "More Sex is Safer Sex," an analysis of how promoting monogamy can make sex more dangerous for everyone. If that sounds counterintuitive to you, I recommend you read the long but engaging essay, which I promise is PG-rated. When you're done, consider how Landsburg's take relates to more traditional social network analyses of sexual behavior, such as this recent post.

Landsburg's argument largely boils down to this: If a market is dominated by a few shady operators, then any honest person takes great risk when entering the market. But if enough honest people take that risk on occasion, then they mostly end up interacting with other honest folks, and the likelihood of an honest person meeting a shady operator falls precipitously.

If that argument doesn't get you out of the house on a Saturday night, perhaps it will at least convince you that ventures like e-Bay (which invite great masses of mostly honest people into occasional commerce with each other) are doing much more to make life safer than we may be giving them credit for.

...

After arguing why most of us should enjoy more sex with more sexual partners, Landsburg then argues that we should severely limit the number of charities that we donate to. Does this guy know how to start an argument or what?

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