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Book Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

November 29, 2005

FreakonomicsThis book is simply astounding. Some of the conventional wisdom and old standby principles to live by are either totally shattered or are at least called into question by this very challenging book.

Once I started reading Freakonomics, I found it difficult to put down. Not only is it written in a casual style that keeps you easily moving from one page to the next, but it draws the reader in with off the wall questions like; “What do school teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common?” The authors then take us through the beauty of incentives, as well as their dark side – cheating!

My personal favorite is the study on parenting. Many of my most cherished beliefs about parenting were dashed – I’m not nearly as important to shaping my children as I thought I was. This became both a let down and a relief. The implication for our culture is significant and we should not ignore those implications when formulating or evaluating policy in public life.

Other questions Levitt asked and then explored were “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?, “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?,” and perhaps most controversial is “Where have all the criminals gone?” in which Levitt explores the unintended consequences of abortion.

This is a dazzling and engaging book; one that teaches us to remember that “if morality represents how people would like the world to work, then economics shows how it actually does work.” I learned why the conventional wisdom is so often wrong, how experts bend the facts to meet their own world view, and that “freakonomics” can shed light on the real world.

Click to view at Amazon.

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