Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, 2005
Hardback, from the library.

You should know
I know nothing about economics. Chris was an economics major, but hasn’t read the book, so his expertise didn’t help much.

You may have heard about this book or its authors. They’ve written (both here and in the articles that inspired the book) some pretty controversial things. For instance, they suggest that the reason the crime rate has dropped in the last few decades is because abortion has been legalized.

One of the things that has made Levitt, the economist of the pair, famous is his tendency to ask how things are connected, even if they don’t appear to be. Schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers, for example, both work under the possibility of incentives – and as a result are both tempted to cheat. Real estate agents and hate groups both thrive on the control of information.

It’s all right.
The reason this review took so long is because I just had nothing to say about this book. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t make much of an impression. Sure, the chapter on baby names provided some fun trivia that I can use next time I’m at a party, but I completely forgot about the chapter on drug dealers. I also wouldn’t recommend it if you have a hard time separating numbers and morality; the writes say multiple times that citing the numbers is not the same as endorsing the behavior, but if you’re offended by statistics that might that conflict with your beliefs, you might want to stay away from this one.

The rest of the Internet
The official Freakonomics website.
The Wikipedia entry.
Malcolm Gladwell at weighs in on the book.

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