Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Review: Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

Freakonomics is an interesting book for the layman interested in economic theory applied to the real world – and in plain English! Don’t worry; there is almost no math in this book. Dubner (the writer) and Levitt (the economist) team up to make this book on economics easily understandable to everybody. I list Dubner first even though all the ideas are Levitt’s. Dubner has made Levitt’s ideas understandable for us. Without Dubner, the book would probably not have been written, and if it had, it would be read only by those with economic degrees. The authors discuss wide-ranging issues such as: cheating teachers, collusion in sumo wresting, using information in real estate and terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and if parenting really matters. The most interesting and most controversial topic is the relationship between legalized abortion in the mid-70s and lower crime rates in the 90s. The authors make a compelling case for this relationship while trying to make it clear they are not trying to insult any groups (whether pro-life or pro-choice or anywhere in between), but just trying to show there was a direct link. I was hoping they would discuss Levitt’s thoughts on NFL betting (he wrote a paper on this topic), but they did not cover it in this book. Hopefully they will write another book! Freaknomics will be most appreciated by those that like to think outside the box and those that like to solve problems without staying between the lines.

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