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

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
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Jan 28, 2010

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Read from January 28 to February 08, 2010

This makes a second non-fiction hit read that I am coming to years late. The subject material is fascinating and told in a clean, straightforward, and engrossing fashion. Also, it was surprisingly short. The result felt to me like being given three clocked minutes to pile my plate as high as possible at some fabulous and fantastical buffet. How could I be satisfied with what ended up on my plate? I wanted to keep geeking out on the factoidal threads, and would have welcomed a book twice the length.

Despite the fact that Freakonomics insists that it has no unifying theme, there are some solid takeaways. This book presents as good an argument as any I've seen that a) careful statistical assessment destroys anecdotal evidence* every time, b) humans are temporally myopic -- we're simply not good at tracing causes that go too far out of our memory or sight, and c) this is my own personal gloss on the material, but economics and statistics are the weird and wonderful place where the qualitative meets the quantitative. Trying to understand things just through numbers or just through logical notions doesn't get you nearly as far as a deft synthesis of the two.

That said, the part of the book that I found least persuasive were the bits where the camera pulled back, and the author tried to talk about what economics and, specifically, the work of microeconomics wunderkind Steven Levitt means. They come across as vague encomiums of Levitt without illuminating the subject matter much or at all.

At the end of the day (or book, I suppose), what makes the book well worth reading are the fascinating peregrinations of the mind of Steven Levitt, and any complaints you have are likely to be that you didn't get enough of it: enough insights, enough details, enough marvelous, obscure, winding revelatory discourses into our everyday lives.

*And just last night I watched the Daily Show skewer news commentators who took the recent blizzards as evidence against global warning. Being in Australia proves global warming! Being in NYC disproves it! Being out at night proves global darkening! And so on.
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message 1: by Mydie (new)

Mydie tarea Nice article

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