Freakonomics | Teen Ink


May 27, 2008
By Anonymous

Freakonomics is a book that explores many different views of economics, crime, and society as a whole. Many subjects interested me, like that legalized abortion led to less crime, but one fact really jumped out at me.

People a driven to do things for certain reasons, these are called influences. And in Freakonomics, three specific influences are identified. They are identified as being Financial influences, Moral influences, and Social influences.

Influences are all around us and they drive people to do everything. One is probably very relevant, the financial influence. Why did I work in a hot warehouse 8 hours a day this summer…..definitely not for my personal enjoyment. I worked to get my paycheck; I was influenced financially. Also, though, money can influence people to do bad things. Mentioned in the book, a student named Sudhir Venhatesh followed a Chicago crack gang for two years during the height of the crack boom. He recorded all the money that came in and out, daily operations, and even the death tolls for the gang. He came to the conclusion that leaders made around $100,000 a year, while the “foot-soldiers” only came out w/ about $3.30 an hour, which was less than minimum wage at the time. Killing for $3.30 an hour, money makes people do crazy things.

Another huge influence is the moral influence, basically right and wrong. One story of the moral influence amazed me. It was about two economists that studied the lateness of parents at a day-care center. It was a twenty week study, for the first 4-5 weeks approximately 8 parents would come late on average. So, around the six week mark, the economists implemented a fine, to influence parents. The fine was a $4 fine for parents who came more than 15 minutes late. So, over the next 5-6 weeks, the number of late parents should go down, right? To my surprise it didn't, in fact, the number jumped from 8 to 20 parents! The authors concluded that the parents we're using the fine as an escape route. Now they could buy off the guilt for $4 and not feel one ounce of guilt. So, after this, the fine was finally taken away, this had no change on the amount of parents late, weird I know. But, as mentioned by the author, now the parents can pay nothing and pay know fine Because it had already shown them it's okay to be late, it's only worth $4 dollars. And with that, the guilt was gone.

The last influence is the social influence. This one I see everyday being a high school student. Because lets face it… the word “social” runs just about any high school you can find in America. People tend to go to far lengths for their tight-knit group. And in the world of Sumo-Wrestling, as mentioned in Freakonomics, everyone is friends. But then why, in a Sumo tournament (15 fights each wrestler) and needing a .500 record to advance, does the 7-7 wrestler win 80% of the time against an 8-6 wrestler. The answer is simple; the 8-6 wrestler lets him. Because they are so tight-knit, the 8-6 wrestler fells a social influence to let him win, because he has already advanced and he wants his “buddy” to advance too. That's a good friend if you ask me.

In conclusion, influences are all around us, they drive you to do everything from robbing a liquor store to helping an old lady cross the street. Whether the influence is important enough is your preference, but you must recognize they are there

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