Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The best questions

I blogged about Tyler Cowen's Discover Your Inner Economist a couple of days ago and mentioned the Tom Schelling influence. I have just finished Robert H. Frank's The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations of Everyday Enigmas and note that it is dedicated to Tom Schelling, as it should be.

The WSJ (Aug. 3) unkindly linked both books ("Economics for Copycats") with Freakonomics and More Sex Is Safer Sex when there are actually important differences. Reading all of them is not redundant.

Frank covers the most ground, including many (paraphrased) essays by his students from when they were assigned to apply economic thinking to various puzzles. He includes perhaps over 100 of them (I did not count), including some that are oldies (Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?), some obvious ones (Why do women pay more for dry cleaning?) and others that some of us may have not paid enough attention to. For example, why do brides spend a small fortune on wedding gowns, that they will never wear again, while grooms are OK with renting a tux off the rack? Read the book for the explanation.

Friend Heather Neff (not an economist but a female) added that brides also choose unflattering bridesmaids' gowns so that the bride shines all the more. Who knew?

The best questions prompt the best thinking.