The hidden side of the " Unexpected Publishing Phenomenon" remains unexplored
Aug 10, 2005
Hmmm. A very *interesting* (in the sense of the Middle Eastern curse) kettle of fish.
I'm not sure what co-author Dubner's role is here - either to act as an alter ego for Levitt, allowing reproduction of fawning extracts from various newspaper articles written about Levitt throughout the book (as sole author Levitt wouldn't be able to get away with this without heaping hubris on his head), or perhaps to take the material he had from his original article and pad it out into a volume just fat enough (and no more) to justify publication as a hard-back, in which case Levitt had pretty much nothing to do with this book at all. I suspect a bit of both.
Most of the few points made in this book are, at best, only moderately interesting, and there are very few of them: Freakonomics doesn't even remotely live up to its billing, managing only to explore the hidden side of about five completely discrete, and only moderately uninteresting, topics (statistical evidence that there's cheating in Sumo Wrestling, anyone?) Indeed, the sumo cheating data wasn't especially compelling: it seems to me there is an entirely innocent explanation for wrestlers who have already "qualified" losing an abnormally large number of bouts to statistically weaker fighters who have not: a "qualified" wrestler simply has no incentive to try particularly hard, where as a non-qualifying wrestler does. That analysis doesn't involve any collusion at all.
Elsewhere, Levitt's theorems only really work where there are huge quantities of data covering all conceivable aspects of the topic at hand. Most of the time, this just isn't the case, which is why the hidden side of everything remains, even to Levitt and Dubner, hidden.
In the cases where the data are available - like Baseball - others have done a much more compelling job of writing the economist's expose. For example, try Michael Lewis' outstanding Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
Mean time, this one joins Lynne Truss's Eats Shoots & Leaves as the latest in a long line of quick-buck publishing pan-flashes.
Perhaps the money I've wasted on this book can be put, through this review, to some good use: saving yours.
Freakonomics is a refreshing, thoroughly enjoyable, easy reading, fast paced, witty and cynical breath of fresh air! Levitt and Dubner offer up a series of pointed, thought provoking essays composed in jargon-free layman's language that are loosely connected through a theme revealed in the book's sub-title - the hidden side of everything! Incentives, or disincentives and deterrents, are examined as to their effectiveness in achieving the outcomes anticipated by those … more
This book gave me alot of insight about things that I never would have thought about. The story about Drug Dealers living with their mothers makes you really think about how things are so superficial on the outside, but if you look closer and examine them you will be very surprised!
Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. InFreakonomics(written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald's, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don't really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner's 2003 profile of Levitt inThe New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written. In a book filled with bold ...