Cover of WTF?! by Peter T. Leeson
An Economic Tour of the Weird
Peter T. Leeson


October 2017
264 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503600911



Step right up! Get your tickets for WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird! That's right! This rollicking interactive tour through the museum of social oddities is guaranteed to house the world's weirdest practices—sure to make you say "WTF?!" Did you know that "pre-owned" wives were sold at auction in early modern Britain? Or that accused criminals in Liberia drink poison to determine their fate? How about the fact that, for 250 years, Italy criminally prosecuted cockroaches and crickets? Do you wonder why? Then this tour is just for you!

Join WTF?!'s cast of colorful characters to navigate the museum with guide and economist Peter T. Leeson. As you wander from exhibit to exhibit and overhear Leeson's riotous exchanges with the patrons, you'll learn how economic thinking reveals the hidden sense behind seemingly senseless human behavior. Leeson demonstrates that far from "irrational" or "accidents of history," humanity's most outlandish rituals are ingenious solutions to pressing problems—developed by clever people, driven by incentives, and tailor-made for their time and place. As the tour teaches: what varies isn't people, but the environments and constraints within which they operate. Along the way, you'll learn how to use an economic lens to uncover the logic behind any weirdness you encounter in your own life. Can you handle getting schooled by the strange? Better hurry, the tour is about to start!

About the authors

Peter T. Leeson is the Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University. He is the author of the award-winning The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates (2009) and Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better than You Think (2014). He can be reached via his website

"WTF?! is the most interesting book I have read in years! Peter Leeson displays his unique talent: unearthing mankind's seemingly craziest behaviors, and then showing that these behaviors, against all odds, ultimately make perfect sense. WTF?! is like Freakonomics on steroids."

—Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the bestselling Freakonomics book series

"This book has a surprise—not to mention a puckish joke—on every page. It's strange, it's fascinating, and it's one of the most original books I've ever read."

—Tim Harford, author of Messy and The Undercover Economist

"Your initial reaction might be WTF!? How can medieval trials by ordeal, wife sales, and divine curses all boil down to rational economic behavior? But, Leeson will lead you deftly through the logic and history behind these seemingly senseless rituals. Keep an open mind and this book will surprise, teach, and entertain!—Andrei Shleifer, Harvard University

"A fascinating tour of some of the world's strangest customs and behaviors, led by a brilliant, funny, and eccentric tour guide dedicated to the proposition that no matter how strange it looks, there's always a reason for it—and a lesson to be learned by discovering that reason. It's okay to gawk, says our tour guide, but it's even better to empathize and, armed with Leeson's insights, there's no reason why we can't do both."

—Steven E. Landsburg, University of Rochester, author of The Armchair Economist