131 – WTF?! with Peter Leesson

Peter Leeson is a professor of economics and law at George Mason University, known for his work applying rational choice theory to unusual rituals and superstitions, piracy, and anarchy.

His most recent book WTF?! an Economic Tour of the Weird, dives into some of the strangest rituals and events around the world and explains them using rational choice theory.

In the face of the mainstream popularity of behavioral economics claiming humans are irrational, Peter looks at some of the bizarre, weird, unexplainable, and crazy parts of societies around the world and uses clear economic thinking to explain the logic and rationality behind them.

In this episode, Isaac and Peter dive into some weird examples covered in the book and then some frustrating and confusing behavior from the world around us like the price of razors, or why people speed up when you go to pass them on the highway.


Topics Covered:

  • Peter’s new book WTF?! an Economic Tour of the Weird
  • Ordeals to try accused of crimes in medieval Europe
  • The logic behind ordeals
  • Ball don’t lie
  • The value of oracles
  • The difference between rational beliefs and rational actions
  • Wife selling in 18th century England
  • Why are razors so expensive?
  • Why slow drivers speed up when you go to pass them?
  • Are people rational?
  • Beliefs as a constraint
  • The risk in trying to change beliefs
  • The criminal prosecution of insects and rodents
  • Peter’s upcoming projects (the economics of panhandlers)

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