|Born||February 24, 1954|
|Institution||University of Rochester|
School or tradition
Steven E. Landsburg (born February 24, 1954) is an American professor of economics at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. From 1989 to 1995, he taught at Colorado State University. Landsburg is also an outspoken commentator on economic, legal, and political issues whose comments have sometimes been regarded as controversial.
Landsburg was an undergraduate at the University of Rochester.
Writings and work
Commentary and opinions
Landsburg wrote a column on "everyday economics" for Slate magazine from 1996 to 2008. The subjects of the columns were diverse and often drew on current affairs. In them, Landsburg discussed the national debt, the obesity crisis, payments to Hurricane Katrina evacuees in New Orleans and salary caps in the NFL. Landsburg also discussed recent research in micro-economics and its implications, as in an article on the value of mobile phones and driving, the (career) cost of motherhood, and whether or not daughters (as opposed to sons) cause divorce.
Landsburg also addressed legal issues: in a Slate column from 2003, he proposed punishing jurors when a jury's decision is later "proven" to be wrong, such as when an acquitted defendant later admits to committing the crime. If a jury's judgment is later "proven" to be right, Landsburg suggested the jurors should be financially rewarded.
Landsburg has been particularly critical of mainstream environmentalism having devoted both Slate columns and book chapters (in The Armchair Economist) to attack environmentalist principles. As a self-described "hardcore libertarian", Landsburg emphasizes the importance of individual choice. This position extends to health care, and his view that those who choose no insurance should not receive potentially life-saving treatment. This position was asserted partly as a response to an article published by Daily Kos.
Landsburg supports free trade and opposes protectionism, and his writings in the topic have appeared in various newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Landsburg's comparison of protectionism to racism in Forbes magazine prompted a response from Pat Buchanan. On April 8, 2005, Landsburg debated protectionism and free trade with John Gibson on the Fox News Channel's The Big Story. Before the 2004 presidential election Landsburg stated that he planned to vote against John Kerry because of his belief that John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, was a "xenophobe" due to his opposition to free trade. He compared Edwards' views to David Duke's racism.
In March 2012, Landsburg supported some of pop radio personality Rush Limbaugh's attacks against a Georgetown University student, Sandra Fluke Fluke spoke before Congress advocating mandating birth control coverage in some insurance programs, citing their use in preventing ovarian cysts. "There are really good arguments for subsidizing and bad arguments for subsidizing [birth control]," Landsburg said during an interview with WHAM-TV. "However, [Fluke] didn't bother to make any. She made no argument. She simply said she wanted it subsidized." On his blog, Landsburg discussed Limbaugh's calling Fluke a "slut", and said "A far better word might have been 'prostitute' (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex...The right word for that is something much closer to 'extortionist'." Landsburg's comments drew a rebuke from University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, who said he was "outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion", and a silent protest from thirty UR students who formed a line between him and his students during one of his classes.
In a blog post from March 20th, 2013 titled "Censorship, Environmentalism and Steubenville," Landsburg wrote that it was difficult to make an argument, from strictly economic principles, against the rape of an unconscious victim, if the benefits (to the rapist) exceed the costs (to the victim). "As long as I’m safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault," he argued, "why shouldn't the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?"
Many students and faculty at the University of Rochester claimed that Landsburg's "thought experiment" was offensive and potentially dangerous, in that it called into question whether or not the rape of unconscious individuals should be illegal. Some protesters pointed out that the young men charged in the Steubenville rape case (to which Landsburg's post directly refers) claimed not to have known that it was illegal to have sex with an unconscious, unconsenting partner—an ignorance that, according to protesters, Landsburg's thought experiment was helping to perpetuate.
A petition calling on the University to censure Landsburg received several hundred signatures; this petition, along with a student-led protest outside Landsburg's classroom, attracted national media attention. In response, Landsburg issued an apology in which he said that he had assumed all of his regular blog readers would know that he found rape repugnant, and that the point of the post was to illustrate the paradoxes that arise when trying to prove such obvious conclusions from first principles.
Landsburg's articles in academic journals have dealt with many fields, including algebraic K-theory, module patching, quantum game theory, philosophy of science and, moral philosophy.
Selected publications follow.
- K-theory and patching for categories of complexes, Duke Mathematics Journal, Vol. 62, No. 2, March 1991, pp. 359–384.
- Relative Cycles and Algebraic K-Theory, American Journal of Mathematics, Vol. 111, No. 4, August 1989, pp. 599–632.
Landsburg teaches intermediate and advanced microeconomics at the University of Rochester. He was promoted from adjunct associate professor to professor during the 2005–2006 academic year and in 2007 he received the University's Professor of the Year in Social Sciences award.
Landsburg lives in Rochester, NY. He has one daughter, named Cayley, who was featured in his book Fair Play.
- Price Theory and Applications (1989)
- The Armchair Economist (1993)
- Macroeconomics (1996)
- Fair Play (1997)
- More Sex is Safer Sex, The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics (2007)
- The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics (2009)
- A Mathematical Introduction to General Relativity and Cosmology (unreleased)
- Articles By Steven E. Landsburg
- Should we punish juries that get it wrong?
- The Volokh Conspiracy
- Do the poor deserve life support? – By Steven E. Landsburg – Slate Magazine
- What to Expect When You’re Free Trading – New York Times
- Xenophobia and Politics – Forbes.com
- Is Protectionism Racism?
- FOXNews.com – Is Buying American Racist? – John Gibson | Judge Napolitano | John Gibson | Big Story Weekend
- Slate votes. – Slate Magazine
- The Wall Street Journal Online – Leisure & Arts
- The Wall Street Journal Online – Leisure & Arts
- "Rush to Judgment", 2 Mar 2012
- Class Description Lookup
- Professor of the Year recipients honored – News
- About Professor Landsburg via University of Rochester
- Steven Landsburg's personal webpage
- The Big Questions Blog
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Landsburg's column at Slate
- Price Theory and Applications
- City News Interview of Landsburg: Part One, Part Two
- New York Times review of More Sex Is Safer Sex