An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: What Prostitutes and Big-Wave Surfers Can Teach Us About Risk

Allison Schrager wants to change the way you take chances.


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If you think that all economists spend most of their time sitting at a desk plotting supply and demand curves, you haven't met Allison Schrager, author of the new book An Economist Walks Into a Brothel.

As her title promises, she visited the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada to learn how sex workers and their clients manage the risks that come even with legal prostitution. A Ph.D. economist who writes for Quartz, Schrager traveled the country to see how people in high-risk, high-reward fields such as horse breeding, candid celebrity photography, professional poker, and big-wave surfing assess and manage risk. The result is a compelling blend of first-person reporting and high-level economic analysis that gives individuals a new way not to avoid risk, but to make more-informed choices.

"People should feel more comfortable taking risks," Schrager tells Nick Gillespie. "We don't really give people the tools to feel comfortable with risk taking, but you really do need to take risks to make your life move forward and any aspect of your life, [whether] it's a relationship or your job." Their aren't any guarantees in life, she explains, but there are definitely smarter and dumber ways to take risks.

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Jim Epstein.

To listen to separate, longer podcast that Nick Gillespie recorded with Schrager, go here now.

Photo credits: s_bukley/Newscom, Blainey Woodham/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Scott Serio/Cal Sport Media/Newscom, Steve Marcus/REUTERS/Newscom, Erich Schlegel/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Richard Hallman/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Tony Heff/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

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