February 9, 2009
By Anonymous

'Freakonomics' by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner takes conventional approaches to economics and flips them upside down. Economics as mentioned here, is not meant to mean a study of commerce as is commonly is. The authors explain, "[m]orality, it could be argued, represents the way people would like the world to work - whereas economics represents how it actually does work" (Dubner, Levitt 13). That said the book aims to dissect the world and find true connections between seemly unrelated events.
Authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner are both highly accomplished in their fields. Steven D. Levitt is an economist who attended both Harvard and MIT. In 2003 he won the John Bates Clark Medal and he is also the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. Stephen J. Dubner is a journalist who has written four novels, Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, Freakonomics and The Boy With Two Belly Buttons, as well as multiple articles.
Instead of writing a 'book that would revolve around a single theme' they 'opted instead for a sort of treasure hunt approach'(Dubner, Levitt 12). The book is broken up into six parts with unifying themes. In this way, the authors both present a wide range of topics and still provides a manner of organization.
The book's audience is educated readers who may or may not be educated in economics. The book provides little of the raw data used to make the conjectures found in the book, and therefore would probably not be referenced for much further economic research. This confirms the book is intended for entertainment and mild stimulation. While the conclusions are very thought provoking, the book is accessible to most readers due to the authors' methodical process of justifying their assessments.
The authors rely heavily on logical appeal. They take seemingly obvious observations and link them together in a way to lead to an ultimate revelation that is hardly obvious. In chapter one, the authors talk about incentives and their unfortunate effects on people, from teachers to sumo wrestlers. Chapter two addresses how experts we think we are using to help us often have their own agendas at heart. The third chapter reveals how the real life of gangsters is much less glamorous than many people imagine. Chapter four assesses the factors that led to the 90's crime drop, from drug prices to abortion legalization. Chapter five evaluates various factors parents might influence and their effects on children's success. The final chapter looks at cycles of names given to children to decide if the names parents give children affect their success in life.
The first chapter was possibly the most interesting as the connections made between teachers and sumo wrestlers are possibly the most surprising. The final chapter in contrast, while mildly informative, did not present any interesting points and was hardly a subject worthy of one-sixth of the novel. Overall, the novel can easily keep the readers attention. With wide array of topics and plethora of unforeseen assertions, the book is both stimulating and accessible.

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