WTF?!: An Economic Tour of the Weird

WTF?!: An Economic Tour of the Weird



The Pequod Review:

Peter Leeson's WTF?! is a chatty and irreverent Freakonomics-style guide to human economic behavior. Leeson's humor is engaging — I can see the appeal to general readers — but he leans too heavily into it, and he does it at the expense of providing greater substance to his examples of economic reasoning. Nonetheless, I liked his introduction where he takes a nuanced approach to the question as to whether humans are rational:

I've found that people — all of them, regardless of time or place, religion or culture, wealth, poverty, or anything else — are rational. To be rational, as I see it, means simply to pursue your goals as best you can given your limitations and the limitations of your environment. In this form at least, the claim that people are rational isn't one that most will find hard to accept. Yet the immediate and certain implication is that people don't do senseless things.

One of this tour's purposes is to show you that what seems like senseless behavior actually makes sense, and thus what seems like irrationality is actually rational. Weird social institutions strike you as weird because you're unfamiliar with the constraints that the people who developed them confront. But once you step into those people's shoes and look at their worlds through their eyes, it's easy to see that very unconventional practices reflect the canny pursuit of very conventional goals — ones with which perfectly rational folks like yourself can commune.