Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Book Review: Freakonomics - Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner

Synopsis - Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald's, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don't really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner's 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written. In a book filled with bold logic, such back-patting veers Freakonomics, however briefly, away from what Levitt actually has to say. Although maybe there's a good economic reason for that too, and we're just not getting it yet. (Taken from Goodreads)


Review - This book was recommended to me by my husband and friends who had borrowed it from him.  It sat on my TBR shelf for some time as I was worried I would find it too dry and it would take me ages to read.  Not so, I finished it within my two weeks holiday in France.  Levitt pulls out the stops to turn theories on their head.  I was intrigued by the Klu Klux Klan secrets being divulged but in the copious notes and acknowledgments the authors admitted that they had found their source of information to be dubious on that particular subject.  Which leaves the reader wondering at the 'real' impact.  I agree with the logic that a backyard swimming pool is more dangerous to a child than a home that owned a gun.  Statistics stand up to this, but the author's are not saying guns are not dangerous.  Great theories which do make sense.  I read the book but I am not interested in checking out the information for myself at this stage.  If you want to read challenging information, go ahead, you may enjoy it.  3*




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