[T]here are two technologies for producing automobiles in America. One is to manufacture them in Detroit, and the other is to grow them in Iowa. Everybody knows about the first technology; let me tell you about the second. First you plant seeds, which are the raw material from which automobiles are constructed. You wait a few months until wheat appears. Then you harvest the wheat, truck it to California, load it onto ships, and sail the ships westward into the Pacific Ocean. After a few months the ships reappear with Toyotas on them.
International trade is nothing but a form of technology. The fact that there is a place called Japan, with people and factories, is quite irrelevant to Americans’ well-being. To analyze trade policies, we might as well assume that Japan is a giant machine with mysterious inner workings that convert wheat into cars.
Steven Landsburg, The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life, New York, 2012, pp. 252-253
Often the best way to make sure you’re being logical is to express your arguments mathematically. Early in this century, the eminent economist Alfred Marshall offered this advice to his colleagues: when confronted with an economic problem, first translate into mathematics, then solve the problem, then translate back into English and burn the mathematics.
Steven Landsburg, More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, New York, 2007, p. 174
Richard Dawkins (one of my very favourite writes) has written an entire book called The God Delusion to refute the claims of religion. His arguments strike me as quite unnecessary, because nobody believes those claims anyway. (Do we need a book called The Santa Claus Delusion?) Indeed, Dawkins undercuts his own position when he points to statistics showing that, at least on a state-by-state basis, there is no correlation between religiosity and crime. His point is that religion does not make people better; but he misses the larger point that if religion doesn’t make people better, then most people must not be terribly religious.
Steven Landsburg, The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics, and Physics, New York, 2009 , p. 58