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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Prof. Peter Leeson

Prof. Peter Leeson (Ph.D., George Mason University) is  the Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University. Formerly, Professor Leeson was a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, a Visiting Fellow in Political Economy and Government at Harvard University, and the F. A. Hayek Fellow at the London School of Economics.



In the preface of your 2009 book on piracy (The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, Princeton University Press), you asked your girlfriend to marry you. That’s a risk that most people wouldn’t take. Were there any economic principles at work in taking such an unusual approach to that decision (consciously at the time or now looking back after a few years)?

There are economic principles at work in taking every decision! The one guiding that decision: Of the proposal alternatives then available to me, which one would Ania appreciate the most – maximize her “proposal profit”? I think I got pretty close, and we’ll have been enjoying the returns for nine years come this spring.

Your just-published book (WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird, Stanford University Press) highlights many superstitious practices and their rational economic effects. Many people would think of superstitions as inherently irrational. Should we re-define “superstition” in light of your findings?

How about we redefine “irrational” instead? Something like this, “The pervasive, false belief according to which people do not always pursue their goals as best they can given their limitations and the limitations of their environment. See also, superstition.”

If I’d like to become an economist, what’s the biggest mistake I should avoid?


Don’t confuse economics with the technical tools often used by economists – or with psychology. Also, don’t confuse a counterfeit Cohiba Behike with the real thing: the former tastes like crap and won’t do anything for you; the latter is sublime and will (in a few years, my young friend!) make you a better economist.

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