Monday, December 22, 2014

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

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Economics isn’t really about money. At least, it’s not solely about money. It’s really about what motivates people. People generally want to get the most while giving up the least. That doesn’t always involve cash. That being said, you may ask what motivates certain people to do certain things. Freakonomics takes a look at that.

Some do deal with money. In one chapter, the authors look at why drug dealers live with their mothers if they’re supposed to be so rich. (Many have to take a second, legitimate job.) Others aren’t directly about cash at all. Sumo wrestlers, for instance, have something in common with teachers: both are motivated to cheat. Chapter four deals declining crime due to abortion. (The authors admit that this is a touchy subject, but handle it well.)

The last two chapters deal with the effects of parents on children. In the fifth chapter, the authors explain certain safety scares and why they’re really nothing. In the last chapter, the authors mention two brothers, one named Winner and the other, Loser. There’s also the story of a woman who named her daughter Temptress. (One story has expected results and the other is the opposite.)

My brother got this for me, thinking that I would like the offbeat nature of the issues discussed; he was right. There is a politically incorrect angle to the book. The authors feel that Roe v. Wade was the biggest help to fighting crime. That statement is bound to get people thinking the wrong thing, but you can’t always take things at face value. People will sometimes give into their names and sometimes, they won’t.

Steven D. Levitt is a professor of economics; Stephen J. Dubner writes for the New York Times. These are two people that have some sense of what they’re talking about, or at least how to say it. I got the impression that the book was well researched and well planned out. The pairing of a writer with an economist worked out pretty well.

I’d give the book five stars. It’s an easy read, especially for a book about economics. Even though it’s 242 pages, each of the six chapters is well written. I couldn’t put the book down until I was finished with a chapter. You won’t come out of this book understanding economics much better, but it’s still a good book. I’d definitely suggest reading this book all the way through. You may not agree with a lot of the initial statements, but you should at least read their arguments before dismissing them.

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