Ruined by Reading


Posted in Book Reviews by M on August 29, 2009

Title: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Authors: Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Pages: 352
Rating: 4/5

(From Amazon) Forget your image of an economist as a crusty professor worried about fluctuating interest rates: Levitt focuses his attention on more intimate real-world issues, like whether reading to your baby will make her a better student. Recognition by fellow economists as one of the best young minds in his field led to a profile in the New York Times, written by Dubner, and that original article serves as a broad outline for an expanded look at Levitt’s search for the hidden incentives behind all sorts of behavior. There isn’t really a grand theory of everything here, except perhaps the suggestion that self-styled experts have a vested interest in promoting conventional wisdom even when it’s wrong. Instead, Dubner and Levitt deconstruct everything from the organizational structure of drug-dealing gangs to baby-naming patterns. While some chapters might seem frivolous, others touch on more serious issues, including a detailed look at Levitt’s controversial linkage between the legalization of abortion and a reduced crime rate two decades later. Underlying all these research subjects is a belief that complex phenomena can be understood if we find the right perspective.

Freakonomics isn’t economics in a traditional sense. To me, it seems more like sociology and plenty of data and statistics.

A large part of this book addresses the nature vs. nurture debate. What makes a good parent or a good student? What effect does a name have on ones outcome? It also talks about the testing gap between blacks and whites, which I found to be the most interesting and important discussion in Freakonomics. If random facts is your thing, there’s plenty of that too, including the history of the KKK and an explanation on how crack gangs operate.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s written in such a way that it keeps your attention and never goes over the readers head.


2 Responses

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  1. S. Krishna said, on August 30, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I enjoyed this one as well. It was easy to read, yet you learned something. Nice review.

  2. Veens said, on September 10, 2009 at 2:20 am

    I am not sure! But maybe i can give it a try!

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