ZenPundit
Friday, June 03, 2005
 
WHY FREAKONOMICS CAUGHT FIRE Posted by Hello



Books on economics are seldom bestsellers though the few that were proved to be deeply influential - the last century saw The Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom and The Affluent Society influence a generation of intellectuals, politicians and journalists. Now along comes a self-proclaimed "book without a theme" Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner that sits at number # 2 on the NYT bestseller list and at Amazon.

The book jacket warns " Prepare to be dazzled". I wasn't dazzled primarily because I've evidently caught a lot of Levitt's work as it filtered in to the media over the years, but if you are unfamiliar with his odd research interests and fearlessness in selecting taboo topics you will find Freakonomics captivating. Levitt and Dubner claim themelessness - the book reads well and ranges very widely but there is a hidden theme, despite the protests of the authors to the contrary. Their theme is....

Counterintuitive thinking.

Dr. Levitt has an eye for scanning a horizon and seeing the missing puzzle piece, the dog-eared corner, the blip and assuming that it is the big picture and not the allegedly "incorrect" piece of data that is in error. This is a very great skill to have as an economist( or any field for that matter) because counterintuitive thinking not only leads you to ask the right questions but the great right questions that enable a field to make a leap of progress.

Prepare to be dazzled.
 
Comments:
Looks like another book for the stack...
 
Nicely written! I am hooked.
 
Levitt must have a pair of stones the size of volleyballs - anybody in today's academic world who analyzes the effects of abortion on crime rates or the longitudinal economic effect of " Black-sounding " names on children is a man without fear.
 
Steven Levitt is on this evening 7 PM EDT - C-SPAN2/BookTV:

On Sunday, June 5 at 7:00 pm
-----------------------------------

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Steven Levitt
Description: Steven Levitt applies the study of economics to everyday life in his new book, "Freakonomics." In the book, which he co-authored with Stephen Dubner, Mr. Levitt examines the violent crime rate, poverty, and parenting by the numbers. After analyzing data from Chicago drug-dealing gangs, he concludes that their corporate structure is similar to that of McDonald's, where the salaries range from a six-figure income to below minimum wage. This event was hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.

Author Bio: Steven Levitt teaches economics at the University of Chicago and was recently awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded every two years to the best American economist under forty.
 
One thing I hate about economists is that they think they have the only means of reaching the 'truth'. From what I've read of this book, Levitt fits the general pattern. However, at the same time, I found the book to be well written and real page turner. I read the introduction today and couldn't put it down... so I am going to add this to my summer reading list.
 
Hey drhistory,

I peeked at your profile - what do you think of the work of Allan Kulikoff ? I did quite a bit of economic history with him as a grad and ( in the distant past) undergrad.
 
Relatedly,

A quote from seconds ago on Fox News

"The criminal mind doesn't operate in a linear fashion; in operates, in reality, the opposite."

Counterintuitive (alinear, horizontal) thinking up-and-down the crime-chain....
 
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