The Electric Commentary

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Question:

At times I engage in serendipitous fantasy, by leaving the book on a park bench and imagining what might happen to it, how seditious ideas might change lives around the globe. But lately the practical economist in me has taken over. How should I discard books so as to maximize social welfare?

The surprising answer is here.


  • I had a similar problem when I was reading American Psycho on a trip to Hawaii. Wouldn't you know it, my German professor had mentioned he wrote his dissertation on it. (he studied violent american literature and was an ex-soccer hooligan). The book disgusted me so much I was going to leave on the plane only half-read, but then I changed my mind and threw it out because I didn't want a kid to read it. I probably would have left it lying around in a bar or something though.

    Obviously banning or burning literature is bad, but what about if you are just targeting really bad books and not an ideology? For instance, books where there is too little sword fighting or where the main character is not a dog, or where the main character does not own a dog?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:05 AM  

  • Perhaps instead of just shoving his book onto a random shelf, Mr. Cowen should try going to a used book store, seeing as they actually buy used books and accept donations.

    Paul - Although it appears that you & your wife keep every book, there is the Myopic by that crazy Damen/North/Milwaukee intersection.

    By Anonymous Scott H, at 1:09 PM  

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