Freakonomics : en vildsint ekonom förklarar det moderna livets gåtor

by Steven D. Levitt

Paper Book, 2007



Call number




Stockholm : Månpocket, 2007


Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime? These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask--but Levitt is not a typical economist. He studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life--from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing--and his conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. The authors show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives--how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In this book, they set out to explore the hidden side of everything. If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work.--From publisher description.… (more)

Media reviews

Economists can seem a little arrogant at times. They have a set of techniques and habits of thought that they regard as more ''rigorous'' than those of other social scientists. When they are successful -- one thinks of Amartya Sen's important work on the causes of famines, or Gary Becker's theory
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of marriage and rational behavior -- the result gets called economics. It might appear presumptuous of Steven Levitt to see himself as an all-purpose intellectual detective, fit to take on whatever puzzle of human behavior grabs his fancy. But on the evidence of ''Freakonomics,'' the presumption is earned.
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3 more
The book, unfortunately titled Freakonomics, is broken into six chapters, each posing a different social question. Levitt and Dubner answer them using empirical research and statistical analysis. And unlike academics who usually address these matters, they don't clutter the prose with a lot of
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caveats. They just show you the goods.
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Freakonomics is about unconventional wisdom, using the raw data of economics in imaginative ways to ask clever and diverting questions. Levitt even redefines his definition. If, as he says, economics is essentially about incentives and how people realise them, then economics is a prospecting tool,
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not a laboratory microscope.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member _Zoe_
I had been meaning to read this for ages, but I have to say, I was a bit disappointed (to be honest, anything with cover blurbs like "Genius... has you gasping in amazement" is pretty much asking to disappoint, but that's another issue).

The book consists of largely disconnected studies with
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surprising outcomes; for example, the legalization of abortion is given as the cause for a decline in the US crime rate: the people who were most likely to become criminals (unwanted, from low-income families with teenage mothers, etc.) just weren't born in the first place. I really enjoyed reading the individual stories and found that the pages went by very quickly, but at the end, I was left with the feeling that the whole was actually less than the sum of its parts. This may have been due to the fact that the treatment of the last issue was by far the weakest, or by the fact that the main book ended very abruptly and was followed by several related articles. Or it may have been due to the fact that the overarching theme (if it can be called that) that things aren't always what they appear and common knowledge can be deceiving isn't nearly as shocking and earth-shattering as it was apparently supposed to be.

At a more nit-picky level, I was also a bit irritated by the feeling that the reader was sometimes deliberately being misled in order to make for a better narrative. We're repeatedly told that the key to making interesting discoveries like the ones in Freakonomics is to ask interesting questions--but the silly questions that appear in the book were obviously made up after the fact. Somehow I'm just not convinced that Levitt started with the question of what do teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common and worked from there to discover that both of them had incentives to cheat and did in fact do so. Especially in a book that purports to be about how the techniques of economics can be applied to real-life situations with surprising results, it seems a bit strange to that an actively misleading approach was taken.

Despite all my criticisms, though, this was definitely an enjoyable book overall, and I'm glad that I read it. It was an easy and interesting read, just not as important and amazing as it wanted to be.
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LibraryThing member cajiad
Over over rated. The only decent and genuinely revelatory idea was the one about abortion reducing crime and even that, whilst provocative and well-argued, is questionable and has also faced some factual criticism. The general absence of a moral element also really started to nag - I don't mean
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moral as in "you can't say that because it's immoral" as much as the failure to take into account the wider social and political implications. The fact that Levitt ended up getting a load of cheating teachers sacked also seems to show this rather heartless side - I am not for a minute suggesting that cheating teachers are a good thing, but you can just imagine this economics geek with his thick glasses sitting in an office basically wrecking all these peoples' lives with his algorithms. Of course they are cheats, but what he never really explores fully is the fact that this cheating is a result of the Bush No Child Left Behind strategy, its emphasis on high stakes testing and the fact that such testing inevitably distorts the system with either overt or more subtle cheating. Obviously that wasn't the point of his book, but when I compare it to two similar, recent American works of sociology/ideas - The Tipping Point and Fast Food Nation - which I have also read recently, you can't help noticing their humanity and his lack of. Obviously, we don't turn to economists for humanity, but for someone who is touted (very loudly and egomaniacally in an essay included in the book) as an economist who breaks the mould, it was disappointing, if predictable, to see that some of the eternal verities remain.

Some bloody obvious bear shitting in woods moments too. Black people give their kids different names to white people was about all I could make out of the list heavy last chapter. Black Americans are poorer than white americans seemed to be another great insight. Correlation is not the same as causation, apparently - fuck me, let's give the chap a Nobel. In the NYT article, there is the grandiose promise that he is working at the intersection of culture and economics, trying to determine whether black culture causes economic failure or is a cause of it. That would be a genuinely interesting work. But after introducing this topic he sheers right away from discussing it, instead just offering up all the lists, some inconclusive numbers and some nice platitudes at the end about how if you are a black gangster at 18, you can always end up a Harvard professor. Again, all the lists and stats seem to demonstrate another weakness with economists - getting carried away with numbers and stats to the detriment of the actual point that is being made. Again, something that Malcolm Gladwell (not an economist I know, but similar ish books) in The Tipping Point doesn't let happen.

All the twee questions really started to grate as well, especially when presented as some kind of genius insight into the world. Did he really seem to believe that the question 'What do sumo wrestlers have in common with schoolteachers' is one that has been puzzling the great minds of the world for centuries? They're reverse engineered corny ad slogans.

I also noted from close reading of the otherwise adulatory NYT article that the original paper expounding one of his key ideas - about extra police not bringing down crime rates - had a serious mathematical mistake in it. Presumably this has to some extent been rectified in the book, but it hardly inspires confidence. Overall, this book is a gimmick, some fun ideas with some corny headlines and links but not much real substance or meat.
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LibraryThing member walkingtowardwisdom
The basic premise of Freakonomics is that everything that happens leads to something else, or that one thing leads to another. It's a book about cause and effect from a social perspective. With this view, the author challenges our assumptions about the way things are or the way we actually perceive
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them to be. The book is written with a lighthearted tone, making its subjects and case studies seem more like fodder for a cocktail party than as questions for research. Such treatment makes Freakonomics accessible for a broader audience of readers, especially those who might not otherwise venture into learning about such a field. And what is that field exactly? The "freakier," less mathematical side of economics.

For all its great writing and its rather daring subjects, the book and the cause-and-effect relationshps the authors propose are a bit of a stretch. Abortion is heralded as being responsible for the dramatic dip in crime across America in the 1990's. It is supposed that abortion was responsible for ridding the nation of the young, lower income, less well-educated individuals who would no doubt have been responsible for perpetuating crime had they been born. Yet the author fails to account for the drop in deviance levels from other segments of the population that were around. The book makes arguments like this and others without also giving attention to plausible alternatives.

Another case in point is the authors' assumption that young people want to be dealers of narcotics because it is flashy and cool in spite of the risks and low pay associated with it. They compare it to the way a young person would want to enter a glamourous low-paying profession like publishing to have a one-in-a-million shot at becoming a super high-paid executive. (See my review for The Devil Wears Prada.) That the authors compare an industry of entertainment to the selling of narcotics is laughable, but then to also say that young people become sellers of narcotics because they want to seems even more absurd. The author points out that the sellers of narcotics in his book earn as little as $3 a day, much less than minimum wage.

It would seem to reason that a person interested in making money would try to find a job that paid more. In the face of minimum wage, selling narcotics isn't even an option ... unless you have no other place to find a job. In areas suffering from the proliferation of the trade of narcotics, one key issue in whether people decide to sell narcotics is their options for finding an honest job. How many corporations house their offices in the ghetto? How many people patron businesses housed in ghettos over those they find in a mall? How many malls are in the ghetto? And even if a person were to find a job outside the ghetto, how much more of a burden would it be to find transportation to that job, an additional cost, especially if that person is already working to earn extra money and the only ride that person has is the bus. Now, if that person is a child or a teen, the time that child spends traveling to and from that honest job miles away from his or her home then takes time away from studying. For adults, it takes time away from parenting. It takes time away from learning skills for a better job. Given the choice, thinking in real economical terms of opportunity cost and benefit, the reason people choose to sell narcotics is clear. It has nothing, or at least very little, to do with being cool.

Freakonomics is not a rigorous book. That is its major flaw. It attempts to explain some of our generation's most challenging questions, but it offers only simplified answers. The onus to dig deeper for the true causes of events falls on the reader, but the book does not actually encourage such thought. Nowhere do the authors even suggest that they could be wrong or that there could be other plausible reasons for various events. Such writing is the mark of poor scholarship and I do not recommend that it be read.
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LibraryThing member BucksLRC1
An unbelievable book! Levitt really does have a unique, frequently bizarre, often totally irreverant approach to the world at large, and draws some fascinating parallels. Legal abortion reduces crime? The spelling of someone's first name can yield clues to their socioeconomic status? So say Levitt
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and Dubner...and, best yet, they make a solid case for each argument.
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LibraryThing member IronMike
There's nothing deep here. The early chapters are fun and entertaining; good reading on the train. But eventually the humor dissolves into lists of baby names differentiated by the race and social standing of the parents. The author purports that the book will deliver us from the grasp of
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conventional wisdom; but in the final analysis it lacks any serious unconventional wisdom.
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LibraryThing member jmcilree
The ideas are fun, but the writing is annoying. Too much like articles pasted together from Newsweek. What's that you said? They WERE pasted together from Newsweek? Oh. That explains a lot. I expect much more from the UofC.
LibraryThing member heikid
What is it about:
A collection of analysis & social studies
about various social phenomena,
which are written based on an economist's
point of view / research method.
Non-traditional questions are asked
in an economist's way:
- What do School teachers &
Sumo Wrestlers have in common?
- Why do drug dealers
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live with their moms?
- Does parenting matter at all?
etc. : )

What went through my mind:
- Economics was one of the subjects
i dreaded the most back in h/s
(next to Math & Accounting),
but this book presents such a refreshing
approach to the subject matter,
and demonstrates so well, just
how practical & useful Econ can be : )

- It's a well-written book with a cohesive theme,
despite its claim to be lacking of one.
This book is like nothing i've ever
read before : 0 in a good way.

- The only let down i felt,
was that the authors' research doesn't
live up to the Book's(/subject's) title.
Indeed, the issues they discuss
don't have much to do with finance / numbers,
hence the not-so-traditional side of Econ;
Yet at the same time, what they explore
are common social-related questions,
which makes me feel that the word FREAK
is not appropriately coined.
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LibraryThing member jahn
The book has a great title and one eye-opening fact inside: free abortion leads to a significant lowering of the crime rate. The rest is predominantly filler: loose vapid talk in between some rather humdrum facts. Like that many people cheat, crack dealing is done businesslike, the KKK was a crude
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bunch, educated parents get educated children, men like good looking women and women rich men, and cultural Black-ness is important among Blacks. Easy read though.
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LibraryThing member tgamble54
Reads like a magazine article stretched into a book.
LibraryThing member Kartoffelkopf3
The theories that Levitt and Dubner discuss are mildly entertaining. I find it terribly disturbing, however, that two scholars can write a book with absolutely no main topic or aim. The beginning of the book begins with an attention-grabbing theory that Roe v. Wade highly influenced crime rates in
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the United States some 20 years later.
This topic could have been expounded upon in great detail, yet Levitt and Dubner spend the remaining 75 percent of the book discussing and predicting baby names.
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LibraryThing member waitingtoderail
Very disappointing. A super-fast read (took me about 2 1/2 hours), and gives some fascinating examples, but there wasn't any THERE there. There were no real conclusions, no ah-ha! moments where the point of the book became clear, it's just a bunch of, "that's interesting" moments. This book will
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teach you no lessons about looking at economics or sociology in a different way, if you've taken even an introductory college level course in either of those subjects.

I did NOT read the edition with bonus material, just to make that clear.
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LibraryThing member homegirl
I read the bulk of this book in Borders one day and was not impressed by the hype. One particular section that really peeved me was the baby names chapter. Yes a lot of middle class and up black people name their kids anglo names, but most of the time it's a response to the stigma behind
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traditionally african american names. It's too bad Levitt isn't a rogue sociologist. Then he would be able to delve into the reasons why those with traditionally african american names (and their parents) are poor, instead of the hidden implication that they are somehow intellectually inferior.
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LibraryThing member SR510
It's a quick read and provides some interesting observations, but the incessant self-congratulatory motif starts grating really quickly.
LibraryThing member sjh4255
interesting material..... not really a book... just this guys ideas and theories on why things are the way they are.... not really much of a deep read, more like a series of articles mushed together in a book...
LibraryThing member mjgrogan
As I’m always weary of dubious, statistic-laden arguments to shore up various precautionary commercial-pitches, political agendas, or graduate thesis projects, this was a perfect book for me. Levitt – as a “rouge economist” – also utilizes sundry statistics and studies to expose aspects
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that tend to counter certain agendized truisms and the foundations of common-knowledge issues such as those espoused by irrefutable sources like the Today Show or some old guy at a bar. As the author eloquently states, “emotion is the enemy of rational argument,” so he takes seemingly random selections from the world of random things and posits arguments about how such things as personal incentive and marketing begin to dominate the way we operate and understand the world. Through a selective assemblage of studies, he debunks or sheds light on certain misconceptions such as my long-held belief that dealing crack simply has to be more economically viable than the continuation of an architecture career (turns out – in Chicago anyway – most of the dealers make less than minimum wage, whereas I’ve always exceeded minimum wage by at least a couple bucks).

I suppose my only issue with this book is the seemingly self-serving inclusion of fragments of Dubner’s interview with Levitt as chapter heads. Certainly they have some relevance to the chapters itself, but seem like bothersome hagiographical inclusions that imply he’s the only economist looking at the world from such a unique vantage point. It reminded me of that horrible Pollack documentary for Frank Gehry (when I say “for,” I mean it in the literal sense that this had to have been a birthday gift…maybe a White Elephant gift). In this piece (or POS, if you will), Gehry is portrayed as the only creative light within a world of pencil-pusher, technocrat, Organization-Men architects. Much like one could easily counter that there are tons of better, more creative, and certainly more relevant architects than Gehry (though few using million-dollar-plus aerospace software programs), here I will only point out that the vast majority of Levitt’s examples were proposed, studied, and concluded by other, presumably not-rogue, economists. He simply assembled them into a narrative (assuming he wrote all of this and not his NYT colleague).

That being said, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read but, alas, he points out that the typical prostitute does make more money than the typical architect. As he also eloquently observes, “an architect is more likely to hire a prostitute than vice versa.” Of course, he wrongly assumes that we can afford such luxuries.
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LibraryThing member lindseynichols
momentarily interesting and very readable, but not much content of lasting impact. the abortion-as-crime-control was provocative and interesting, but shaky. oh well.
LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
Freakonomics is a pop economics book that makes economics less of a discipline of experts and analysts and more about insights (often quirky insights) into how people make decisions and assign values to intangibles. The numbers game is a part of it, but so is looking for people's incentives and
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aspirations that govern their actions.

This is demonstrated through several specific examples. There's a chapter on cheating, both in sports and education; a chapter on what methods of parenting leads to successful children; a chapter on a correlation between abortion and decrease in crime rates. It's a collection of tidbits that ends up making a bigger point: be open to considering other causes, know that economics is complex, and the people themselves involved can alter the numbers game that happens on paper.

Levitt and Dubner argue against the usefulness of "conventional wisdom" - for example, maybe resumes with more "ethnic" names are less successful, but a simple correlation to racism may or may not be a helpful answer to the question of why. Their suggestion that legalized abortion was responsible for a decrease in crime in the 1990s (because all of the lower class and neglected children who grew up to be criminals before were, to put it bluntly, less often born) is the most incendiary proposal they make, and an interesting alternative to the conventional suggestions about more effective police tactics or a better economy. Yet the book does not mean to set forth a "You're all wrong; here's the *real* economics behind the situation" proposal. But rather it encourages its audience to be more willing to consider alternative possibilities to economic situations, underscore that correlation does not imply causation, and always look for individual motivations in a bigger situation.
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LibraryThing member iwriteinbooks
They say numbers don’t lie. That might be true in terms of how many years a person has lived or how much a five pound weight weighs. However, if you try to use quantitative data to supply evidence for a qualitative end product, you may find yourself lacking in any true objectivity.

Stephen Dubner
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and Steven Levitt, make this fatal mistake in trying to prove the exact opposite in their fairly controversial book, Freakonomics. Perhaps they made the mistake of taking on hot-button topics like abortion, race and gender by trying to prove something that they should have explained using wildlife, art and music. Perhaps their intention was not to make certain moral stands but simply to say that numbers do, in fact lie.

Unfortunately, for me, I found their “examples” of just how statistics deceive, fairly partisan on a number of occasions. Were the facts completely fool proof, like perhaps, refuting the claim that the ocean is a pleasant shade of lemon yellow instead of sea blue, then, I might have had an easier time taking their theories seriously.

Their assertions, however, seemed to simply guestimate that common, in their defense, mostly likely false, data were instead indicators of something completely different. All the while, they did not give any real, hard evidence, as to why their particular theory was correct over the conventional wisdom or a third option.

In a second defense, they did a fair amount of relative fence-sitting, but on more than one occasion, took a less than watery line that lead me, as a reader, to believe that while they wouldn’t say, 100% that the new conclusion was indeed correct, they were personal fans of the more recently concluded theories.

If this sounds bitter, it’s not. I think, my main issue was that it was largely ironic. In claiming that there is a seedy underbelly to the facts presented in the media, et al, they took hard lines of their own. And no, this is not really an issue of which lines they took. If the book was written by a pair of a different race, a different gender or a different socio-economic status, and proceeded to take equally strong stands in the name of liberal “objectivity”, I would still find fault in the presentation.

All of that said, there are entertaining parts to the book and I zipped right along through it. I think, my final conclusion is that, like many of the parenting advice tomes they bashed (again, not bitter, I wholeheartedly agreed with their dismissal of the Obsessive Baby Raiser book market), the writing inside of Freakonomics is best read with “subjectivity is all around us” repeating in the back of your head.

It is my hope to get a few guest bloggers on here in the next week or so in the moderate camp and conservative camp to see if it was my sociopolitical leaning that lead my ambivalence about this piece or whether even from the other side of the fence, this oozes subjective defense of a false objectivity.
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LibraryThing member jcbrunner
After all the hype, I was curious about Freakonomics. Firstly, there lies a misconception: Levitt's field of action is statistical analysis not economics. Therefore, he is no "rogue economist" but a social scientist with an excellent eye for large data sets. Secondly, the short book is interesting
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to read but leaves the reader not much enlightened. The book's origin as a magazine article shines through. Overall, a good airport read.
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LibraryThing member nancynova
rabck from Judyslump612; interesting - an economist takes on questions that can be quantified, with surprising results. Such as is a gun or swimming pool more dangerous (hint - it’s not the one you think). And what do Chicago school teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common? (They both cheat
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when they feel the circumstances warrant it). Some real interesting questions....and answers based on data...that might have you looking at things in a very different way.
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LibraryThing member scroeser
I would recommend not reading the introduction to this. It put so much emphasis on how amazing Levitt's work is, and how completely it breaks to mould, and the book doesn't quite deliver. It was interesting and highly readable, but the lack of depth was disappointing at times and I'd already come
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across much of the work elsewhere.
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LibraryThing member LegalMove
Levitt obviously has a quick and insightful mind. He is also quite good at looking at numbers and developing logical explanations for them. He tends, however, to become too wedded to the explanations he develops and is not so good at looking for alternative explanations. For example, he attributes
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the decline in the American inner city crime to legalized abortion. His logic is as follows: a high percentage of inner city crimes are committed by young black males. Many such males are born to unwed young females. The introduction of low or no cost abortions to these young, unwed females dramatically decreased the number of young black males being born. Thus, the drop in crime rate is due to there being fewer black males born in the inner city, which is due to legalized abortions, and therefore cannot be attributed to education, social programs or innovative police techniques. It's an interesting argument, and on the surface, seems to be an exercise in straightforward (if somewhat coldhearted) logic. Upon closer review, however, the argument loses some force. Most inner city crimes committed by young black males are committed by men in their late teens through early twenties. Logic, therefore, suggests that if Levitt's argument is correct, the drop in crime should have started becoming noticeable somewhere between 15 to 25 years after abortion became legal. The crime rate, however, dropped much sooner than that, and was closer in time to other possible causes, including the introduction of new police techniques by Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Braddock in NY.
Levitt's book makes for an entertaining read, and he certainly makes some interesting arguments worth further study. My only caution is the one I made at the outset of this review: it's important not to be dogmatic when interpreting data and it is essential to have a flexible mind that entertains various explanations as to how the statistics or other numbers being studied were generated.
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LibraryThing member yougotamber
Not bad but I like the podcasts more, the book was disjointed. Unfortunately I saw the movie first which discussed many of the same topics so they got a little tiresome for me.
LibraryThing member Noisy
What is it - five days, now? - and I'm struggling to remember enough to write a decent review. (Just checked - it's only three days!) I can remember some of the salient economics lessons - guilt is more important than money in deterring unwanted behaviour; cheating pays, but only when you've
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already won; in a hierarchical organization, waiting to fill dead men's shoes is a mugs game - but I still know next to nothing about this supposed economics genius.

I suppose that those lessons and the others are interesting, and most I have already gleaned through reading about evolution, but this book is just lightweight. Easy enough to read, and the episodic structure is acceptable (although the introduction gives too much away) but the impact is from the lessons not the writing. Afterwards, I tried to think about how to label it or to describe it a colleague, and I came up with a single word: journalism. OK, the idea came from an article in a magazine and the principal author is undoubtedly Dubner (the writer of the article) who collaborated with the economist (Levitt) in producing this work, but this is nothing more than an extended article - it's not a 'book'.

Let me measure it against a couple of other 'books' by journalists. I haven't read too many for a solid base of comparison, but the books by Jeremy Clarkson are just collections of newspaper columns, and a book on the Falklands war was very good at laying out the facts but failed to deliver any sort of emotional impact. Check. No emotion or continuity. I'll also measure it against 'The Planets' by Dava Sobel. I actively disliked that book, but I've rated it the same as 'Freakonomics' because it was a 'book' with a theme and writing that wasn't 'journalistic'.

For all I've got against it, it probably is worth the short read that it is. The lessons spelled out are valuable, if sometimes ambiguous, and there are a few people *cough* politicians *cough* who could learn something useful, but me - I was just disappointed.
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LibraryThing member ashergabbay
Usually I don't give books with a title like Freakonomics a second look. With a horrid name like that they are probably not worth the effort. But following a link on Arts & Letters Daily about a couple of months ago I read a glowing review about this new book (it was not yet available at the time),
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which ended with the words: "one of the decade's most intelligent and provocative books". Well, that sounded like something worth reading, freakish title notwithstanding.

Worth reading? Yes. Intelligent? Maybe. Provocative? Hardly.

What Steven Levitt, a young economics professor from the University of Chicago, does, is ask some good questions about things happening in the world and then he plays around intelligently with numbers to see if he can come up with a good explanation for why these things happen. The "freakish" part comes from the fact that Levitt tries to find non-standard, sometimes counter-intuitive, explanations and back them with his number-crunching acrobatics. There is nothing provocative about this, only commonsense use of statistics backed by a bright skeptical mind that does not trust conventional wisdom.

The book contains numerous subjects to which a "freaky" answer is found by looking carefully at the numbers: Why do Sumo wrestlers cheat? Why do drug dealers still live at home? How much does the parent contribute to the development of the child? Why do real-estate agents sell your house for less than it is worth? For each of these questions Levitt proposes an answer and proceeds to show why the numbers prove his hypothesis.

Perhaps the best analysis in the book (and the most widely known by now) is the one dealing with the decline in crime in the United States during the late 1990s. After dismissing the common explanations for this decline - better police work, more policemen, economic welfare, etc. - Levitt suggests that the drop in crime is attributed to the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. The argument goes like this: criminals come from bad families and are mostly a result of unwanted pregnancies. The legalisation of abortion enabled many women from bad backgrounds to avoid giving birth to unwanted children. These "unborn children" would have entered their prime criminal years in the 1990s. Less problematic children around means less crime. Neat explanation, backed with numbers. (Needless to say, in the short time the book has been around, there have been numerous attacks on this theory).

The book is mostly intelligent and entertaining and provides a good read. But it has two flaws. Levitt's co-author, the journalist Stephen Dubner, sprinkled the book with excerpts from a piece he wrote in 2003 in The New York Times about Levitt. The endless praise about Levitt (did we mention he was young? and brilliant? and freaky?) seems a touch awkward in a book supposedly written by the very same person. The second flaw is one which is sadly too common in popular books written by academics: it pounds a point to death. Just when you thought you got the point and are to move on, there comes yet another explanation of the very same point. The book could have been written in half as many pages.

In the preface to the book, the authors write:

"It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world."

I agree wholeheartedly with the first observation. As for the redefining the way we view the world... Well, I think it depends on the level of skepticism the reader has in the first place with regards to conventional wisdom.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

xii, 246 p.; 18 cm


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