Author Steven Levitt is a recently graduated chef from the Culinary Institute of Elitist Capitalism, AKA The University of Chicago. Freakonomics is a kind of nouvelle cuisine version of economic modeling and game-theory as practiced by the disciples of Milty Friedman, but rather little of the book is spent on economic recipes per se, once the basic assertion has been made that "incentives' are the yeast that cause all human behavior to rise. Rather, Levitt puts everything from soup kitchens to swimming pools through the blender of statistics -- the very sort of statistical analysis used by the authors of The Bell Curve and discredited by Stephen Jay Gould in the book The Mismeasurement of Man, the very sort of statistics that can be used to prove that the older you get in Miami, the more likely you are to be Jewish.
Levitt's basic dough: Start with John Stuart Mill and every other 19th C liberal social theorist. Knead thoroughly into a sticky paste. Add a handful of candied fruit in the form of the more radical 19th C postulators - Fourier, Henry George, Bellamy, and Karl Marx as understood before the Russian Revolution. Soften the dough with as much Thorstein Veblen as you can remember. Spice it with generous amounts of scorn for "them" - anthropologists, psychologists, and others who think that human behavior is shaped by more impulses than acquisition and that specific cultural 'memes' play a role. Half-bake the dough in a journalistic oven with the temperature set on SELL. Frost the loaf with an icing of Ayn Rand super-individualism. But don't expect the finished cake to be much different from cakes you've eaten before. There's nothing new in Freakonomics except the smirky style.
Honestly, many readers might find this book stimulating, or over-stimulating, depending on their prior convictions. Go on! Read it! But read it with the same skepticism you'd apply to the gospel of any other religion than your own - Shinto, Islam, Swedenborgian, Leninist, Maoist. This is a book where the reader will be easily tricked into mistaking polemics for proof.
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 ...