Rachel's Reviews > Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
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Jul 09, 07

bookshelves: non-fiction

Sure, this book was a compelling read that offered us all some great amo for cocktail party conversation. But ultimately I think most of what Leavitt claims is crap.

He dodges accoutability with the disclaimer about his book NOT being a scholarly work, but then goes on to drop statistics, theories and expert opinions. These assertions laid, he doesn't provide readers with enough information to critically examine his perspectives.

Ultimately I have a problem with the unquestioned, unaccoutable role of the public intellectual. Leavitt dances around with his PhD on his sleeve, but is never subject to peer review or any sort of academic criticism. I think it's irresponsible.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Bobscopatz (new) - added it

Bobscopatz You are so right! I work with one of the data sets they claimed to use, and frankly, if they did what they said they did, they got the wrong answer because the data aren't in there.

This was the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from NHTSA in USDOT. They used it to "show" that car seats do not improve safety at a level that justifies their cost or the mandatory use laws. Turns out the dataset is not reliable with respect to uninjured passengers, at least not until very recently and they used data back into the 1990s. Problem is that police officers at the scene were not routinely collecting that information (on uninjured persons in fatal crashes) uniformly across all states in the US. It's been a problem since FARS began, and if they'd researched the dataset a bit, they would've found that out. Like many neophytes in traffic safety, they just assumed that the data elements were complete and accurate and that there weren't any important year-to-year differences in how the data were collected.

I simply have to say that if they screwed up that obviously (making rookie mistakes) in one area, then they're likely to have done it elsewhere in their analyses as well.

I gave this book 1 star because zero was not an option, and we don't have negative stars. But in fact, if anything it does damage to the decision making process and these guys ought to be ashamed.

They also ought to talk to some experts before they shoot themselves in the foot, again.


David Rachel: I couldn't agree more.


message 3: by Craig (last edited Dec 11, 2008 12:50PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Craig Not to mention many of his conclusions in the book are complete bullshit. He goes out on a limb not only with the conclusions but also in making his example as outlandish as possible for purely sensational reasons. In a way I am reminded of the Connections series James Burke had in the 90's. The difference being, of course, that Burke actually knew what he was talking about and drew accurate conclusions.

Look, I know it's meant as entertainment, not a graduate thesis, but when he starts trumpeting his ideas and conclusions like he's discovered another planet chapter after chapter it grates on the nerves.

Freakonomics is one of those pop science Best Sellers that's popular with the "Public Radio Crowd", many of whom tend to be snooty pseudo-intellectuals who skim the barest surface of a complex topic on their drive home and feel empowered as an expert by the time they pull into their driveway. Shallow, incomplete, unscientific in its approach and in many instances completely faulty.


David Personally speaking, I don't profess to know all that much about economics, but I certainly do know something about statistics. My distaste for this book is based on its shoddy invocation of statistics, time and time again.

I wouldn't claim to know anything about "most of the people who dislike Levitt's work", in the absence of anything other than anecdotal data. This absence of data is apparently not a barrier to Linda. I would suggest her comment be valued bearing that in mind.


Craig I am neither a statistician nor an economist but rather a trained scientist. My grounds for objection was related more to the contrived conclusions that were drawn time and again throughout the book. These conclusions do not, in my opinion, require degrees or vocations in any of these fields, just common sense and an understanding of how to build an argument really.

I think Linda's argumentum ad hominem wasn't called for. Besides, the award, as it turns out, is actually called the John Bates Clark medal, not the John Bares Clark medal. I savored this little irony as I read the last sentence of her comment above.


message 6: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy He said carseats do not improve fatalities. He didnt say anything about injuries. i thought hehad a point, but he could have been more clear.


Agnes the great! I respect your idea, but disagree completely!


message 8: by Nura (new) - added it

Nura i respect your right


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