Last issue, Marc Epstein wrote an article with the eye-catching title “Book spurs analysis of the economics of drinking.” While I applaud the author’s effort to use economics to uncover surprising facts, he should have done more than read “More Sex is Safer Sex,” an armchair economist book by Professor Landsburg.

His analysis on the costs of partying is nearly correct. There is some attempt made to distinguish total monetary costs from total costs, which includes the monetary costs. If he attempted to place some type of monetary figure on the intangible costs, his estimate would be much higher than $40,000 for all of Rochester’s students on a party night.

The author’s treatment of benefits is much weaker. He simply indicates that the total benefits have to be higher than the total costs and therefore the benefit is greater than the $40,000 costs because people do drink. A better development of the true benefits would have attempted to enumerate the biggest benefits and assign expected monetary values to them.

Regardless, I have not changed his analysis and seem to have ended up at the same conclusion, but there is a very key detail missing. All his article considered were the costs and benefits of the students, which is his perspective on the situation. A little bit more thorough reading of Landsburg’s book would reveal that his analysis does not depend on any one individual’s gains or even those of a particular class of individuals, but on society’s gains. He demonstrates that society would be better off overall if non-promiscuous people had more sexual partners, even though the non-promiscuous people might not be.

For the problem at hand, the University’s costs and benefits should be aggregated with the students to determine if society is really better off through Landsburg’s methods. The benefits to the University would include happier students, a known area where people are drinking, drinking locations with people knowledgeable in how to treat alcohol over-consumption and less security personnel. The costs include displeased parents, property damage and disturbing of other students. An indeterminate factor is the effect on the University acquiring a reputation as a party school with the accompanying increase in revenue from a different type of student.

The above lists are not extensive, but will suffice to illustrate my point. As the University is cracking down on drinking, it is clear that its benefits outweigh its costs. Therefore, only aggregating the two can provide any answer.

I concede that I missed groups that are affected by student drinking, and their interests need to also be taken into account. Regardless, the previous article’s analysis is flawed and whether this new crackdown is good can only be revealed by doing the above-mentioned calculations.

-Eric GilsonClass of 2009

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