Friday, July 2, 2010

Guest Blogger: Steve H.

Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner - Book Club for Men
This is Freakin good!
For those of you not familiar with Freakonomics, the book is written by economist Steven D. Levitt, who is known for his unique views on social problems, and his ability to use statistics and numbers to find patterns where none were thought to exist. Do yourself a favor and read this work, as it is an interesting read, and makes you not only think about everyday topics in a different light, but pairs seemingly unconnected topics together to explain otherwise unexplored phenomena, such as what a drug dealer and editorial assistant have in common. The writing is well done, reads smoothly, and although statistics are cited, for the most part they are not cumbersome. And don’t fret at the word economist, the book is not at all what you would expect from an economist, although I think Levitt would more accurately be called a sociologist. There’s a lot to ponder over, and much you may disagree with, but you will have a much sharper mind contemplating Levitt’s assertions. There are a few negatives, as I will say that it appeared Levitt was grasping for ideas in the last third of the book. I had listened to Freakonomics a few years ago on audio and recalled liking most of it, but also remembering that the last portion was suspect and quite honestly seemed like a bunch of bull. Upon a second read I still hold this thinking. His use of statistics and ability to identify patterns works quite well for most of the chapters, but wears thin when he tries to quantify the importance of a person’s name. His writing on the impact of parenting choices also seems a stretch, as he makes the case that parenting decisions do not matter all that much. Other than these two chapters though the book is a great read and opens your eyes to totally different viewpoints. In a couple of my favorite pieces, Levitt contemplates what we may learn about humanity’s honesty from a man that left his high paying Washington DC analyst job to sell bagels to corporate offices, on the honor system; and shows us how he extrapolated data in the Chicago schools’ student aptitude tests to uncover cheating teachers. His most controversial assertion is that legalized abortion is the main reason for a huge decrease in crime in the 1990’s, as many would be criminals would have come of age at this time. He takes a lot of criticism for this, but cites some appealing statistics based on other countries’ crime rates and abortion laws, and relates them to ours. And as you read earlier, I do not always agree with his ideas, but you will certainly be engaged.

No comments:

Post a Comment