Fascinating (if not convincing) - a review of Freakonomics
Feb 27, 2006
One of the advantages of being a hausfrau and mom is that I am in an excellent position to spot pabulum. It is thus, from this elevated position, that I am able to say that `Freakonomics' is such a product --well masticated, massaged and ready for the public.
It is a breezy, easy read and the sort of 'brain candy' that I occasional read to throw myself into sharp relief after having read too many `Thomas the Tank Engine' stories.
That said, while it is easy to read, the actual writing is not all that good, nor that convincing. At least in print, they do not appear to go down every reasonable thread that might make sense to explain a phenomena. And that along with the absence of numerical support leaves me wondering if they have truly done their homework.
For example, the sections on parenting (while amusing and grist for the intellectual mill) were unconvincing. The authors should have documented some real number crunching in an appendices where people could take a gander at it and say to themselves, wow, this guy Levitt has really done his homework. Instead, nothing but a comment about how all the other parenting *experts* base their research on whim and little else. This, of course, followed by our authors doing the same thing.
And despite the claims of all the high power brainwork that went into this book there are parts which leave my poor mom-mind wondering if they aren't just trying to tell us what we want to hear. For example, the whole bit about Real Estate agents ripping us off. Well are they? They say that an agents' own houses (in Chicago) stay on the market for 10 days longer than other peoples and that the agents' houses sell for on average 10 percent more. Oh wow!?! Sort of.
After telling us this in one segment in which they state that this is proof of agents ripping us off, in another segment they state that agents uses terms like `state of the art', `mahogany', and `granite' to describe their homes but not the homes of their clients. Now is it just me or have they just explained away at least part or ALL of this 10% difference.
Certainly if I am looking at two homes and one has been extensively remodeled -every thing else like location and square footage kept constant-- the 60's shag carpet and appliances replaced by granite and Viking equipment, might that not account for 10% difference in sales price?!?
Four Stars. An interesting-- if fluffy-- bit of work that despite all of its flaws, I highly recommend as amusing grist for the intellectual mill.
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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 ...