284 pages. Penguin Books Ltd.
Full title: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. This book was also published with a different cover (a more ‘formal’ one at that). The copy I got was this more commercialized one.
Very catchy back synopsis got me:
‘What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their mothers? How can your name affect how well you do in life?’
The answer to all this is Freakonomics: it’s at the heart of everything we do and the things that affect us daily, from sex to crime, parenting to politics, fat to cheating, fear to traffic jams. And it’s all about using information about the world around us to get to the heart of what’s really happening under the surface of everyday life.
Reading through this book brought me back to uni days, listening to that wonderful professor who just about knows EVERYTHING in life.
It wasn’t, as I initially thought, an Alvin Toffler Future Shock type. It does not predict or forsee anything (except the probable top 20 names in 2015?) but it gives reasonable (though NOT only) explanation to the featured questions, apart from many others.
In Levitt’s view, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of questions. His particular gift is the ability to ask such questions. For instance: if drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade? Do real estate agents have their clients’ best interests at heart? Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects? Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards? Is sumo wrestling corrupt?
–New York Times Magazine, August 2003
The answers to few of these, we already know with just a simple yes or no.
I found particularly interesting the controversial theory that the rise of abortion rate is linked to the decrease in crime rate. The simple (but probably un-thought of) theory goes like this: the women most likely to seen an abortion are poor, single, black, or teenage mothers–were the very women whose children, if born, have been shown most likely to become criminals. But since those children weren’t born, crime began to decrease during the years they would have entered their criminal prime. This was based on the marked decrease in crime rate in the US in the 1990’s–linked back to the legalization of abortion in many states in the 1970’s.
Most of the information in the book are based on statistics (there are over 20 pages of footnotes) and the last 1/4th pages of the book are articles about the book and author, and snippets from the Freakonomics blog.
There are a lot more controversial and unusual theories in this book and although I can’t say that reading this book will make you feel smarter, it definitely made me feel more well-informed.
the other book cover release