Freakonomics

Leavitt and Dubner's Freakonomics is the kind of book you pick up on a Friday night and then cannot stop reading till you are done. Only when you glance at the clock you will realise that it's 2 a.m.(Thank God for Fridays!) Steven Leavitt is an economist who believes that economics is nothing but a tool to answer all sorts of questions. For those who thought that economics is simply about about stock markets, demand and supply, GDP growth etc., wait till you read this book. I really doubt most of us would have really thought about questions like the ones below and then went on to investigate them and publish the findings in serious economic journals. Apparently, Leavitt has made a career in economics (in case you don't believe me!)trying to answer questions like these:

"What is common to Sumo wrestlers, school teachers and the office bagel stand?"
"What is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool?"
"Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?"
"Why do we have less crime now?"
"What the Ku Klux Klan and real-estate agents have in common?"
"Do parents really matter?"

Without not giving too much away upon reading the book a lot of things become clearer. I read their book and the next day this month's National Geographic arrived talking about the Global Aid in response to tsunamis and other natural disasters. There was a telling quote in the issue (pg. 23)
... One WHO representative reminded me that the HIV/AIDS pandemic kills as many people as this tsunami every three weeks." The issue showed how volunteers were throwing clothes and water away because they could not distribute it.

If I were a few years younger I would have definitely looked at economics as a career after reading this book (Yes, it is that kind of book!). The part about obsessive parenting is the most hilarious. My chief questions upon reading this book are to investigate:

Upto what extent is it worthwhile to park illegally?
What are the costs of speeding?
Is it cheaper to adopt or have kids of your own?


A Sample of Freakonomics:
Why vote at all?
In their typical style they take a mundane nquestio and turn it on its head and justify why a true economist would never vote.

For the more academic minded:
His home-page has the pdfs of his work, some of it figures in the book.

4 comments:

Raj Pagare said...

A friend gave me this book last month and it was truly mesmerising. I especially like the part which explained the reason behind the sudden crime rate drop in 90's. And evrybody thought that it was coz of good old Rudy Boy :)

Vivek Gupta said...

I have recently started reading it and am liking it so far. The link on voting was interesting however I do not sympathise with the author's arguments for not voting.

Anirudh said...

I read part of a similar book- 'Tipping Point' by Malcolm Gladwell which I thought was pretty crappy. Have you read that one?

Hirak said...

Anirudh: Yes, I have read it. Why did you think it was bad? His examples are not great in some cases but I felt that he did a decent job of distilling some of the ingredients of what causes some things to become really popular.