Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner could be crime scene investigators, strategic business executives, or economists. They chose the latter because it allows them to apply their skills to answer a variety of questions by looking at the world in a new and simplified way. Economics, they say is both an art form and a science. One thing they do really well is understand that conventional wisdom is usually wrong. They dig deeper into the masses of data to uncover surprising information about what makes the world operate as it does. Levitt and Dubner’s thinking allows them to see the power of incentives in everyday life and understand why they drive professionals to use informational advantages to serve their own agendas. Comparing seemingly unrelated events, the authors find dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle, causes.
Freakonomics is an excellent read for students studying economics or business, for soon to be parents, and for those looking to enter the real estate market. Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime? These are not typical questions for an economist to ask, but it is just the sort of thinking that makes economic research so interesting. Freakonomics is a book that ventures off asking more questions and providing more research and statistical findings before coming back together with a transition to the next chapter. This style of storytelling is both fitting to the book’s title, and to its authors who promise there is no “unifying theme”.
Next item to read. Levitt’s 2009 follow up, SuperFreakonomics.