Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Captain's Book Review: "Freakonomics"

"Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

I checked this book out after listening to an interview with one of the authors on NPR's Diane Rehm show.

Just like the title says, the authors try to uncover the truth about important issues - like crime, education, racism (ok, so its not everything). The authors' premise is that things are not always as they seem - meaning that sometimes we think we have the answers, but they turn out to be wrong.

What I like...
The authors' approach to asking the right questions - which is key to cutting through all the politics and moral baggage attached with many important issues. I love reading the kinds of books that expose how people really behave - not how we would want them to - and this book is a great example. It makes you be more diligent when dealing with people. For example, when dealing with a realtor to buy or sell a house, always ask if they own property in the area and what they bought and sold it for and why. It turns out that realtors, like many other "information" professionals (those who have a big informational advantage over the average person), try to take advantage of that gap in information. If you ask the right questions, and do the right research, that gap can be eliminated - hurray for the Internet.

This is one of those books where I constantly found myself wanting to share with my friends and family. After reading a chapter, I would go home and say "I read in Freakonomics that..." and my friends and family would be surprised with the outcome. The single biggest "wowwer" is that legalized abortion was the main reason for a drop in crime in the 1990's - but not a single news story reported on that.

What I Didn't Like...
Actually, I liked the entire book. I wish it were longer and included more topics.

If you're going to read this book, you need to be open-minded. I've learned from this book not to believe everything I heard (well I didn't really do that anyway, but this reinforced it) - especially from so-called experts.


At 4:29 PM, Blogger politicsaddict said...

Having not read the book myself, I cannot comment directly. A buddy of mine who did read it, and whose opinion I value, thought it was mostly a "look how smart I am" sort of book, but, like I said I did not read it myself so I don;t know if I would have the same reaction. Obviously, you did not.

As a side note: it turns out that John Lott, he of gun rights fame, is suing Senor Levitt for saying that his (Lott's) results were not replicated by other researchers.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Abdullah said...

Do you still have the book? Do you think I can borrow it?

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Daniel Poynter said...

Cool blog man. I think I will also do book reviews on my blog. I got into the habit of writing a summary of each section in the book, as I read the book--so it should be easy to go back and write the summaries.

Know of any other people that regularly review books on their blogs? Know of any *great* sources for academic book reviews? Or... know of any webrings for book reviews? Basically, know of a way to find these things more easily?


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