Justin Tadlock

Freakonomics

A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon this book by way of Amazon’s suggested products. I figured it looked interesting enough. And I’m not an economics buff, but Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubman changed my mind about that.

With parts named What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?, How is the Ku Klux Kan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents?, and Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?, how can anyone go wrong in wanting to read this book?

Levitt has came under a lot of heat in recent years with his rebellious take on why crime suddenly took a dive in the ’90s, a time when it was predicted to increase to an all-time high. His answer: Abortion. He argues that the 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion legal in the U.S., sent crime skydiving in the ’90s because the people most likely to be criminals weren’t being born. And he has some compelling data to back it up.

Interested now?

What really gets the economist and journalist (Dubner) rolling is the idea of incentives. The reason people take action or become inactive is because of the incentives. Would a schoolteacher cheat for students taking the SATs? Would a sumo wrestler (probably the most prestigious sport in Japan, I read) let someone else beat him in a match? It all comes down to incentives.

The authors offer an entertaining read, and a side of economics that isn’t typically seen. Levitt claims to be the worst economist because he’s bad at math. So, he must take a look at the things most economists never bother with.

Even if you’re not interested in economics, this book will allow you to think outside the box about the way the world works. Plus, the name of the book is cool.