My son suggested Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner for today’s AlphaBooks Blogging. Yes, my blog is becoming a family affair. The “Steven’s,” a journalist and an economist, have formed a clever and enduring partnership. Freakonomics has grown to include its own award-winning blog, podcasts, movie, and lectures. The book’s preface, “An Explanatory Note, says that ” Levitt [the economist] decided that Dubner wasn’t a complete idiot. And Dubner [the journalist[ found that Levitt wasn’t a human slide rule.” Good to know.
Freaknomics is a cool book that explores fascinating questions while focusing on these underlying ideas:
- Figuring out the “incentives” or motivation of actions is a perfect start to understanding riddles of the modern world.
- “Conventional wisdom” is often not wise at all.
- Subtle factors can lead to dramatic effects.
- “Experts” use their informational base to their advantage.
The book weaves data around those four ideas by asking unusual questions, many of them related to race, education, crime, and parenting. One of the authors’ first questions is, “What do schoolteachers and Sumo wrestlers have in common?” The sad answer is that they both cheat. Oh dear. And yet I, too, can testify to the test-cheating, which means that either cheating is fairly common or I have been uncommonly placed in cheating schools. The authors also dissect the racial achievement gap and conclude that while black kids go to mostly bad schools, income and mother’s age are two other factors which contribute to that gap.
Freakonomics is a quick read but also thought provoking.
If you have read Freakonomics, do you have any other insights to share?