Book of the month: Freakonomics

Freakonomics

Author: Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

‘Freakonomics’ is described as ‘a rogue economist who explores the hidden side of everything’ which is quite the claim. Levitt, an American economist and Dubner, an author and journalist, seek to show the reader what lies below the surface of various real-world phenomena. The pair try to answer questions such as ‘why do drug dealers still live with their mums?’ and ‘what do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?’ by using data and looking at underlying trends — with surprising results.

Covering topics such as information abuse, the economics of fear and the role of incentives, Freakonomics encourages the reader to perceive the world differently — to not be forthright in accepting surface-level explanations. For example, Levitt shows that the primary cause of the drop in 1990s US crime rates did not involve the police, stricter gun control nor the strength of the economy but rather the outcome of the judicial hearing of Roe vs Wade (no spoilers!). The book is filled with a number of fascinating, counter-intuitive insights as Levitt and Dubner remark: “The conventional wisdom is often wrong.”

The structure of the book makes it simple to pick-up and start reading from any chapter as they can be largely read independently of one another. This makes the book a perfect candidate to sit at your desk, on a coffee table or at your bedside as it quickly draws and keeps the attention of the reader. The book is probably more suited to people who aren’t studying economics as it will likely leave economics students wanting a greater understanding and economic reasoning however, it is still an interesting read that most people will enjoy.

Author: Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

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