Review: Levitt and Dubner’s Freakanomics

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

There are at least two ways you can read Freakanomics – as a fun and interesting little book that uses data to tell us little things about ourselves and the world. Or, you can see it as econometrics gone apeshit and finally taking over the world. I kind of view it as both.

I really enjoyed reading this. I think Levitt has developed some useful tools that can tell us some interesting stuff about the way little corners of our world are organized. I also think it is a little bit batty to think we can use economic models to prove a causal relationship between abortion laws and crime rates. There might be something there, but in order to come to a conclusion about two subjects so complex, Levitt must have had to control for so many other factors that I doubt his research is all that reliable. In comparison, the section on the economics of the street level drug trade is fascinating and probably close to accurate. The researchers were looking at a relatively small data set, sure, but I think it is still probably tells us at something useful about how that world works.

I guess what I find most interesting about this one is the effect it has had on the culture. Economics is so hot right now. Everyone is into it, it is the undergraduate degree on the rise and plenty of those kids decided they liked economics by reading Levitt’s book. I am not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but it is definitely a trend we can track, at least in part to this book. In the end this is a fast fun and diverting read, but don’t take it too seriously, cause I am pretty sure some of these finding are bunk.

Recommended.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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