Notes, retrieved october 26, is important chapters 3 of expert recommendations.
Saturday, November 19, Book review: Freakonomics In a recent post on EconLog, Bryan Caplan wrote"while there are many reasons why economics is the most successful social science, willingness to say what people don't want to hear is near the top. Levitt the eponymous economist--ha!
Dubner, an admiring journalist. Levitt's work addresses inflammatory issues such as abortion and urban gang culture; his conclusions are refreshing because he disdains ideological influence. His convincing argument that legal abortions have reduced crime rates, for example, will unsettle readers of all political affiliations; the hypothetical lives of aborted fetuses do not fit well into the pro-choice emphasis on pregrant women's control of their bodies, and legal abortion's power to reduce crime more than conventional measures aside from increasing the number of police radically upsets some conservative ideas of being "tough on crime.
The political risk of approaching these issues apolitically is cause for admiring the courage of the authors. It is difficult, however, to avoid the sense that the most sympathetic reader will struggle to admire the authors as much as they appear to admire themselves.
Happily for us, the note explains, we are reading the work of exceptions to these rules: And Dubner found that Levitt wasn't a human slide rule" x. The authors' patting of their own backs will put off some readers, but it should not take away from the insights of the book.
I mention it because this is not merely a matter of tone: One of the great marketing triumphs of Freakonomics is the ability of the authors to persuade many readers that the lack of an overarching argument is a feature, not a bug--the explanatory note ends with a philosopher asking about Levitt, "Why does he need to have a unifying theme?
Maybe he's going to be one of these people who's so talented he doesn't need one" 2. Or as Malcolm Gladwell puts it on the back cover, "Steven Levitt has the most interesting mind in America.
Returning to the book's lack of a unifying theme in an epilogue, Levitt and Dubner do make a claim for a "common thread" of "thinking sensibly about how people behave in the real world," and they suggest that readers "might become more skeptical of conventional wisdom" for having read the book It is hard to argue with such broad claims, but it is worth pointing out that other books have similarly challenged conventional wisdom in ways that more actively assisted readers with their own investigations.
Leaving aside the philosophical heavyweights in the skeptical line--Plato's Socrates and Hume, among many others--consider a few recent examples.
When Bill James published his Baseball Abstract, he made claims like Levitt and Dubner's for the value of a general skepticism of conventional wisdom. Though James's works are not unified by theme, they do not take on all of everyday life, and focus on baseball allowed a new kind of analysis to flourish after James's example--and James's unconventional wisdom has taken hold, even as many later analysts have revised the specifics of James's claims.
The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Lifehe not only transformed his readers' understanding of many everyday phenomena, but he also explained the specific mechanisms that caused conventional wisdom to go astray.
And Gladwell himself, in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differenceoffered not only a theory of counterintuitive "social epidemics" but also a mechanism of transmission through people called connectors, mavens, and salesmen that offered a widely applicable framework through which to understand other issues.
There is no equivalent framework in Freakonomics. The authors call this a lack of a unifying theme, but lack of thematic unity is a literary defect.
Chapter 1 is an examination of similar towns in Italy with vastly disparate life expectancies and no apparent reason. Though the towns were only miles apart, the life expectancy in Roseto was surprisingly longer-- longer, in fact, than any neighboring town in the region, making Roseto an outlier. But whereas Freakonomics is able to bring specific data to bear on its disparate list of questions, Surowiecki's task is in many respects more challenging due to the sweeping nature of his thesis. Surowiecki writes artfully, and his theme is skillfully woven through a series of intriguing examples. Chapter 1 Summary. In Chapter 1, Freakonomics demonstrates how incentives affect human behavior. As the book explains, economics is the study of incentives, which are ways to get people to do good rather than bad things.
The limitations of Freakonomics lie rather in the absence of larger scientific ideas: Levitt's argument about the relationship between legal abortion and crime rates is an argument only about that issue. The arguments of Freakonomics apply so narrowly that, while I do recommend reading the book for its key points--especially chapters three through five, on the economics of drug dealing, abortion and crime rates, and advice given to new parents, respectively--I cannot recommend reading it before the best works of the other authors I have mentioned, from Plato to Gladwell.The most interesting excerpt of “Freakonomics” was the connection made between crime rates and abortions.
This passage was fascinating for a few reasons. The first reason being that it makes absolute and complete sense, so much so that it should be common sense.
As a matter of fact, the freakonomics has a lot of impact on seeing the world in a different manner. By a close examination of the chapter that has explored the incentives as the main building block of economics, has been applied in a situation whereby cheating has been applied to teachers and sumo wrestlers (Levitt and Dubner 27).
But whereas Freakonomics is able to bring specific data to bear on its disparate list of questions, Surowiecki's task is in many respects more challenging due to the sweeping nature of his thesis.
Surowiecki writes artfully, and his theme is skillfully woven through a series of intriguing examples.
Chapter 1 Summary. In Chapter 1, Freakonomics demonstrates how incentives affect human behavior.
As the book explains, economics is the study of incentives, which are ways to get people to do good rather than bad things. On nine of the fifteen tests, the six correct answers are preceded by another identical string, 3-a, which includes three of four incorrect answers.
And on all fifteen tests, the six correct answers are followed by the same incorrect answer, a 4. 1. What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?
An endless supply of fascinating questions The pros and cons of breast-feeding, fracking, CHAPTER 1 What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?
After writing Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, we started to hear from readers with all sorts of questions. Is a college degree still “worth it”?