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Freakonomics Online by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Click Here to Download the Book Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime? These may not sound like typical questions for an econo-mist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head. Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-anddeath issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Reviews An accessible well written enjoyable work on economics that offers unique insights to today's big questions. It is a timely work with which ever reader should become familiar. When I was an undergraduate, although I studied the hard sciences, I found economics to be the most impenetrable counterintuitive subjects I had ever encountered. I wish I had this book then. But this is much more than a book about economics as the authors offer new perspectives about just about everything through economic theories. Some of the underlying ideas are not completely new but even those are brought to a satisfying fruition. This book gives the reader a unique view of the world through an economist's eyes. Events which seem disconnected or driven by other influences are revealed with great clarity as having basic economic principles behind them. Through this vision the world, a world which sometimes seems in chaos, becomes a web of underlying economic principles.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, is fascinating and engaging. I’d say this book is on par with those by Malcolm Gladwell in the way they challenge you to view the world in a different way. The authors state that: “Morality…represents the way people would like to work-whereas economics represents how it actually works.” And I think this has been one of the reasons I have always been uneasy with commerce-it isn’t moral. Corporations don’t care about people-they care about profit margins for the shareholders. So throughout this book they try to uncover the truth and attack conventional wisdom: It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyper literate economic sage who coined the phrase “conventional wisdom.” He did not consider it a compliment. “We associate truth with convenience,” he wrote, “with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.” Economic and social behavior, Galbraith continued, “are complex and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring. Therefore we


adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.” So conventional wisdom in Galbraith’s view must be simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting=though not necessarily true. It would be silly to argue that conventional wisdom is never true. But noticing where the conventional wisdom may be false-noticing perhaps, contrails of sloppy or self-interested thinking-is a nice place to start. Furthermore, I am sure some of their findings will upset some people. For example, “Where have All the Criminals Gone?” he contributes the reduction in crime, not to what conventional suggests (innovative policing strategies, increased reliance on prisons, changes in crack and other drug markets, aging of the population, tougher gun control laws, strong economy, increased number of police, increased use of capital punishment, concealed-weapons laws, gun buybacks, and others), but rather to the legalization of abortion: “Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.” In the chapter “What makes a perfect parent?” they state that parenting doesn’t really have that much effect on how the children turn out. Thus “obsessive parenting” is all for naught. $200 safety car seats don’t have as much effect on the safety of a child as it does if they sit in the back seat preventing them from becoming projectiles in a car accident. More pools kill children than handguns. He goes onto to list factors that have some correlation with high test scores and most them have to do with who the parents are, whom they married, what kind of life they lead. Therefore, they state that is you are smart, hardworking, well educated, well paid, and married to someone equally fortunate, then your children are likely to succeed-so save that tuition money for the overpriced private school education. The other chapters are equally fascinating: “What Do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?”/”How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?”/”Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?”/”Perfect Parenting, Part II; or Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?” Certainly, one of the most provocative books I’ve ever come across.

Did you ever wonder what real estate agents have in common with the Ku Klux Klan? Probably not. In fact, it seems almost ridiculous to ask the question. Strangely enough, that's exactly what makes "Freakonomics" such a fascinating read. The authors harness the normally boring concepts of micro-economics to find amazing patterns of behavior in the most unlikely places: Crime rates and legalized abortion (not what you might think). Sumo wrestling and public schools. Crack dealers and corporate board rooms. Online dating. The list of topics is wild and great fun. More importantly, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubnor give us the basic intellectual tools we need to challenge "conventional wisdom" -- the nonsense that so often dominates public discourse. For instance, research shows that having a pool in your back yard is 100 times more dangerous to children than having a gun in the house. That certainly wouldn't be my first guess. Like the other reviewers on this page, I sometimes disagree with the authors' conclusions and wish for a more rigorous examination of the issues at hand. No one should consider this a "reference" on social problems. Rather, it's more like a loud wake up call from the Hippie Branch of Economic Research, challenging us to demand more thoughtful answers from our leaders, our journalists -- and, yes, ourselves. Read it soon. You won't regret spending time in the realm of freakonomics!

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