Levitt: Freakonomics (2)
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Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York : William Morrow, 2005. ix + 242 pages.
Stephen J. Dubner, author and journalist for the New York Times Magazine, was assigned to write a profile of Steven D. Levitt, a heralded young economist at the University of Chicago. Dubner was also researching a book about the psychology of money.
Levitt did his undergraduate work at Harvard, and earned his PhD at MIT. He won the John Bates Clark Medal which is a sort of junior Nobel Prize for economists.
Levitt's approach to economics is unorthodox or nonorthodox. He tries to solve the riddles of everyday life. He believes that "economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers, but has a serious shortage of interesting questions." An example of one of his riddles/questions is: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? The reader is taken aback by the question, but is soon seriously following his logic.
After Dubner wrote about Levitt they decided their styles would allow them to work together on this book. They began with an "Exploratory Note, Preface to this Revised and Expanded Edition", and the "Introduction : The Hidden Side of Everything". Those pages must be read to understand the following six chapters.
Many of the titles for these six chapters are attention-getting or rather startling. Chapter 3 is my favorite: "Why do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms?" Chapter 4 is "Where have all the Criminals Gone?" Chapter 6 is a discussion of high-end and low-end names for babies; what you name your child can help or hurt his or her career prospects.
The chapters are all provocative. I enjoyed the text after p.191; it consists of bonus materials, columns from the New York Times Magazine, and the Freakonomics Blog.
-- Notes by EHL