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NOT-SO-DISMAL SCIENTISTS

THE ECONOMICS OF LIFE
By Gary S. Becker and Guity Nashat Becker
McGraw-Hill -- 329pp -- $25


TICKING TIME BOMBS
Edited by Robert Kuttner
New Press -- 350pp -- $14


Two new collections by writers of BUSINESS WEEK's Economic Viewpoint column consider subjects as varied as baseball and the decline of civic life, and from affirmative action to ``couch potato democracy.''

Gary S. Becker's book, The Economics of Life, includes more than 130 of his Economic Viewpoint columns written since 1985. In the collection, the 1992 Nobel laureate demonstrates his well-known talent for extending ever further the frontiers of economics.

Becker weighs such questions as: ``Why not let immigrants pay for speedy entry?'' and ``Why don't we value schooling as much as the Asians do?'' He terms the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s policy against paying college athletes a ``serious restraint of trade.'' And, reflecting on the spread of legalized gambling, he avers that it probably won't prove to be a tax windfall but should be a setback to organized crime.

Becker says he began writing his columns both to influence public policy and to reach a broad audience. He also believes ``students have unnecessary difficulties learning economics because textbooks generally do not have enough good examples of real-world applications....'' In these pieces, the real world is very much at hand.

Robert Kuttner's Ticking Time Bombs is a collection of essays from The American Prospect, a journal Kutner co-edits. Tracking a host of deferred problems, along with the ``ill-considered'' remedies being offered in Washington, Kuttner says that only by reestablishing an ``activist government and robust politics'' can the U.S. avoid a societal explosion.

Among the contributors analyzing ``the new conservative assaults on democracy'' are Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Lester Thurow (on the ``corrosive'' war against inflation), Harvard University sociologist Theda Skocpol (on the decline of volunteerism), and Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley (on ``liberalism's third crisis''). Kuttner provides an introduction that ties the essays' many themes together.



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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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