Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything books – Andy-palmer.co.uk


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything 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 rol 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 I guess some people don t like this book because it s not centered around one theme Instead, it sabout the seemingly diffuse academic work of one of the authors Steven D Levitt the other author is a journalist, Stephen J Dubner Levitt is something of an economist butlike a social scientist using the tools of Microeconomics applied to other fields that happen to catch his interest often having something to do with cheating, corruption, crime, etc In the back of the book he m I guess some people don t like this book because it s not centered around one theme Instead, it sabout the seemingly diffuse academic work of one of the authors Steven D Levitt the other author is a journalist, Stephen J Dubner Levitt is something of an economist butlike a social scientist using the tools of Microeconomics applied to other fields that happen to catch his interest often having something to do with cheating, corruption, crime, etc In the back of the book he mentions how he considers himself a student of Thomas Schelling who is kind of like the father of Game Theory strategy theory , except muchof a man of ideas than what one might think of when one thinks about game theory today, which is muchmathematical Anyway, as for the book itself, I thought it was really great I really like what Levitt is doing as far as using the tools of Microeconomics in other fields One of my intellectual heroes I only have a few is Kenneth Waltz who did the exact same thing in the field of International Relations in the 70 s and wrote the seminal book The Theory of International Politics, which pretty much the single handedly invented defensive neo realism More generally, I think Economics is probably the most formalized of the social sciences and the one to which others should esteem A lot of the Political Science field concerned with both voter behavior and how legislatures work is now pretty formalized as well, and, I, for one, think this is a good thing I don t see how anyone could think it s not good unless they a think the scientific method cannot be used to analyze human behavior or b have a visceral aversion to mathematical languages Actually, I am one of the latter, but I, at least, see the value in having a formalized language to work with.As for the book itself, there s some maybe controversial things in there like Levitt did some work that showed that the legalization of abortion in the U.S Roe v Wade was one of the main reasons that crime in the U.S dropped in the 90 s and continues at the same rates today He stands behind it pretty hardily though and it doesn t seem like he has a moral agenda at all Some might argue that the best writers are those who are best able to disguise their moral agenda, but considering he writes about all kinds of not very serious things like how sumo wrestling in Japan is probably corrupt as far as matches g,o and there s stuff in there about how real estate agents sell their houses forthan they sell their customers houses which, may or may not be surprising , I really don t think he has a hidden pro life agenda Anyway, there s a bunch of stuff in there the book , hence the freak in Freakonomics It s well written It s not dry It s written for a lay audience I recommend it Read it and feel the power of social science I loved this book, though I think the title is a bit misleading It s not really about economics In fact, he s showing you what interesting things you can discover when you apply statistical analysis to problems where you wouldn t normally think of using it I use statistical methods a fair amount in my own work, so I found it particularly interesting The most startling and thought provoking example is definitely the unexpected reduction in US urban crime that occurred towards the end of the 2 I loved this book, though I think the title is a bit misleading It s not really about economics In fact, he s showing you what interesting things you can discover when you apply statistical analysis to problems where you wouldn t normally think of using it I use statistical methods a fair amount in my own work, so I found it particularly interesting The most startling and thought provoking example is definitely the unexpected reduction in US urban crime that occurred towards the end of the 20th century Crime rates had been rising for decades, and people were really worried about what would happen if the trend continued Then, suddenly, they peaked and started to decline Why There were a bunch of theories, all of them superficially plausible.Levitt crunched the numbers, to see what proportion of the variance could be ascribed to the different factors This is a completely standard technique it just hadn t been used here before He came to the conclusion that the single most important factor, by far, was the ready availability of abortion that started to come in after Roe v Wade Other things, likeresources for policing and tougher sentencing policies, probably helped, but not nearly as much I didn t at all get the impression that he had been expecting this result from the start, and just wanted to prove his point He processed the data, and went where the numbers led him That s how you re supposed to do science.The clincher, at least as far as I was concerned, was the fact that crime statistics peaked at different points in different states, the peaks correlating very well with the dates when each state started making abortion available States that brought it in early had correspondingly early peaks in their crime rates It s hard to see how that could happen if Levitt s explanation weren t correct.I am surprised that there hasn t beendiscussion of Levitt s findings in the political world Maybe it s just regarded as too hot to handle But if Levitt is right, and at the moment I would say it s up to his critics to explain why he isn t, then pro life campaigners would seem be heading in a very unfortunate direction Jesus H Tittyfucking Christ on a bike Could these two tossers be anysmarmy and self indulgent Levitt and Dubner and probably the kind of smart arse nerds who snigger at you because you don t understand linux but sneer at you because you ve actually spoken to a woman This book is much like the Emperor s New Clothes, people are so scared about being left out if they don t like or understand it because some sandal wearing hippy in the Guardian said it s This year s Das Capital or some su Jesus H Tittyfucking Christ on a bike Could these two tossers be anysmarmy and self indulgent Levitt and Dubner and probably the kind of smart arse nerds who snigger at you because you don t understand linux but sneer at you because you ve actually spoken to a woman This book is much like the Emperor s New Clothes, people are so scared about being left out if they don t like or understand it because some sandal wearing hippy in the Guardian said it s This year s Das Capital or some such bollocks that they feel compelled to join some sort of unspoken club where they all jizz themselves silly over a book that effectively is 300 pages of pure condescension.Only buy this book if a facist regime ever seizes control of your country and instigates a book burning policy Well,this is the most terrible book I have ever seen,it was too terrible to read.It s so terrible that I just want to burn it as fast as I can,and it cost me 58RMB.That was 58RMB,it was to expensive for me to afford.At first.I thought it was a good book,and I spend all my money on this book.And I was pretty annoyed about this I don t have any other money for my breakfast,lunch,and even dinner.I haven t drink juice for the whole year.Reading this is a waste of time,no one want to see this book ag Well,this is the most terrible book I have ever seen,it was too terrible to read.It s so terrible that I just want to burn it as fast as I can,and it cost me 58RMB.That was 58RMB,it was to expensive for me to afford.At first.I thought it was a good book,and I spend all my money on this book.And I was pretty annoyed about this I don t have any other money for my breakfast,lunch,and even dinner.I haven t drink juice for the whole year.Reading this is a waste of time,no one want to see this book again.It was just rubbish,and smelly book.It tells my nothing.I even want to sell this to the writer,and ask to return my money and some extra.It cost me too much time,and too much money on it.I prefer to see a movie instead Interesting enough, but the exponential amount of data made it hard to remember what the initial claims of the economist were instead of reinforcing them, strangely I did, however, learn from this book It still amazes me that the way to reduce crime seems to be the legalization of abortion I did not expect that, but it does make quite a lot of sense and I m all for women having control over their own bodies and futures, of course Sidenote I despised the author s arbitrary uses of female and Interesting enough, but the exponential amount of data made it hard to remember what the initial claims of the economist were instead of reinforcing them, strangely I did, however, learn from this book It still amazes me that the way to reduce crime seems to be the legalization of abortion I did not expect that, but it does make quite a lot of sense and I m all for women having control over their own bodies and futures, of course Sidenote I despised the author s arbitrary uses of female and male pronouns Like, a teacher is a SHE and then an architect a HE That certainly didn t gain my respect Which Is Dangerous, A Gun Or A Swimming Pool What Do Schoolteachers And Sumo Wrestlers Have In Common Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms How Much Do Parents Really Matter What Kind Of Impact Did Roe V Wade Have On Violent Crime Freakonomics Will Literally Redefine The Way We View The Modern WorldThese May Not Sound Like Typical Questions For An Economist To Ask But Steven D Levitt Is Not A Typical Economist He Is A Much Heralded Scholar Who Studies The Stuff And Riddles Of Everyday Life From Cheating And Crime To Sports And Child Rearing And Whose Conclusions Regularly Turn The Conventional Wisdom On Its Head He Usually Begins With A Mountain Of Data And A Simple, Unasked Question Some Of These Questions Concern Life And Death Issues Others Have An Admittedly Freakish Quality Thus The New Field Of Study Contained In This Book FreakonomicsThrough Forceful Storytelling And Wry Insight, Levitt And Co Author Stephen J Dubner Show That Economics Is, At Root, The Study Of Incentives How People Get What They Want, Or Need, Especially When Other People Want Or Need The Same Thing In Freakonomics, They Set Out To Explore The Hidden Side Of Well, Everything The Inner Workings Of A Crack Gang The Truth About Real Estate Agents The Myths Of Campaign Finance The Telltale Marks Of A Cheating Schoolteacher The Secrets Of The Ku Klux KlanWhat Unites All These Stories Is A Belief That The Modern World, Despite A Surfeit Of Obfuscation, Complication, And Downright Deceit, Is Not Impenetrable, Is Not Unknowable, And If The Right Questions Are Asked Is Even Intriguing Than We Think All It Takes Is A New Way Of Looking Steven Levitt, Through Devilishly Clever And Clear Eyed Thinking, Shows How To See Through All The ClutterFreakonomics Establishes This Unconventional Premise If Morality Represents How We Would Like The World To Work, Then Economics Represents How It Actually Does Work It Is True That Readers Of This Book Will Be Armed With Enough Riddles And Stories To Last A Thousand Cocktail Parties But Freakonomics Can Provide Than That It Will Literally Redefine The Way We View The Modern World Front Flap I assumed Freakonomics would be a book that used statistics to debunk various societal hysterias and fearmongering in a semi humorous way I quickly realized what I was in for when early in the book when the authors gave their background as Harvard Jews and profiled a guy that infiltrated the KKK for the ADL The story sounds at least partially made up It then jumped into predictable white guilt inducing trash and goes into mental contortions using data and sociological explanations for black I assumed Freakonomics would be a book that used statistics to debunk various societal hysterias and fearmongering in a semi humorous way I quickly realized what I was in for when early in the book when the authors gave their background as Harvard Jews and profiled a guy that infiltrated the KKK for the ADL The story sounds at least partially made up It then jumped into predictable white guilt inducing trash and goes into mental contortions using data and sociological explanations for black criminality and low IQ scores The writers of this book are also obsessively pro Abortion The only surprise was they used statistics to show you are muchlikely to die from an automobile or a swimming pool than a gun This book would probably appeal to upper middle class liberals who like to consider themselves clever and politically astute from their isolated armchairs For me Freakonomics was a big load of garbage Yeah, this isn t rogue economics This is sociology It s not a new discipline And this is really spurious sociology that wouldn t pass muster in academia, so Levitt published it for public consumption. Extremely enlightening Worthy of 15 stars out of 5 This is a book about the world and not about any science in particular It s about learning to question the given and see beyond the obvious An extremely useful gift in the misguiding modern world.Yeah, populistic much too much but neverthless compulsively readable A definite revisit and reread.Q As Levitt sees it, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions His particular Extremely enlightening Worthy of 15 stars out of 5 This is a book about the world and not about any science in particular It s about learning to question the given and see beyond the obvious An extremely useful gift in the misguiding modern world.Yeah, populistic much too much but neverthless compulsively readable A definite revisit and reread.Q As Levitt sees it, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions His particular gift is the ability to ask such questions For instance If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers Which isdangerous, a gun or a swimming pool What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade Do real estate agents have their clients best interests at heart Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high stakes testing standards Is sumo wrestling corrupt And how does a homeless man in tattered clothing afford 50 headphones c Q the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and if the right questions are asked is evenintriguing than we think All it takes is a new way of looking c Q Experts from criminologists to real estate agents use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda However, they can be beat at their own game And in the face of the Internet, their informational advantage is shrinking every day as evidenced by, among other things, the falling price of coffins and life insurance premiums.Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so If you learn how to look at data in the right way, you can explain riddles that otherwise might have seemed impossible Because there is nothing like the sheer power of numbers to scrub away layers of confusion and contradiction.So the aim of this book is to explore the hidden side ofeverything This may occasionally be a frustrating exercise It may sometimes feel as if we are peering at the world through a straw or even staring into a funhouse mirror but the idea is to look at many different scenarios and examine them in a way they have rarely been examined.Steven Levitt may not fully believe in himself, but he does believe in this teachers and criminals and real estate agents may lie, and politicians, and even CIA analysts But numbers don t c Q Levitt had an interview for the Society of Fellows, the venerable intellectual clubhouse atHarvard that pays young scholars to do their own work, for three years, with no commitments.Levitt felt he didn t stand a chance For starters, he didn t consider himself an intellectual He wouldbe interviewed over dinner by the senior fellows, a collection of world renowned philosophers,scientists, and historians He worried he wouldn t have enough conversation to last even the firstcourse.Disquietingly, one of the senior fellows said to Levitt, I m having a hard time seeing theunifying theme of your work Could you explain it Levitt was stymied He had no idea what his unifying theme was, or if he even had one.Amartya Sen, the future Nobel winning economist, jumped in and neatly summarized what hesaw as Levitt s theme.Yes, Levitt said eagerly, that s my theme.Another fellow then offered another theme.You re right, said Levitt, my theme.And so it went, like dogs tugging at a bone, until the philosopher Robert Nozick interrupted How old are you, Steve he asked Twenty six Nozick turned to the other fellows He s twenty six years old Why does he need to have aunifying theme Maybe he s going to be one of those people who s so talented he doesn t need one.He ll take a question and he ll just answer it, and it ll be fine c Q There are three basic flavors of incentive economic, social, and moral Very often a single incentive scheme will include all three varieties Think about the anti smoking campaign of recent years The addition of a 3 per pack sin tax is a strong economic incentive against buying cigarettes The banning of cigarettes in restaurants and bars is a powerful social incentive And when the U.S government asserts that terrorists raise money by selling black market cigarettes, that acts as a rather jarring moral incentive.Some of the most compelling incentives yet invented have been put in place to deter crime Considering this fact, it might be worthwhile to take a familiar question why is there so much crime in modern society and stand it on its head why isn t there a lotcrime After all, every one of us regularly passes up opportunities to maim, steal, and defraud The chance of going to jail thereby losing your job, your house, and your freedom, all of which are essentially economic penalties is certainly a strong incentive But when it comes to crime, people also respond to moral incentives they don t want to do something they consider wrong and social incentives they don t want to be seen by others as doing something wrong For certain types of misbehavior, social incentives are terribly powerful In an echo of Hester Prynne s scarlet letter, many American cities now fight prostitution with a shaming offensive, posting pictures of convicted johns and prostitutes on websites or on local access television Which is ahorrifying deterrent a 500 fine for soliciting a prostitute or the thought of your friends and family ogling you on www.HookersAndJohns.com Q Some cheating leaves barely a shadow of evidence In other cases, the evidence is massive.Consider what happened one spring evening at midnight in 1987 seven million American childrensuddenly disappeared The worst kidnapping wave in history Hardly It was the night of April 15,and the Internal Revenue Service had just changed a rule Instead of merely listing each dependentchild, tax filers were now required to provide a Social Security number for each child Suddenly,seven million children children who had existed only as phantom exemptions on the previousyear s 1040 forms vanished, representing about one in ten of all dependent children in the UnitedStates c Q Of all the ideas that Kennedy had thought up and would think up in the future to fight bigotry, his Superman campaign was easily the cleverest and probably the most productive It had the precise effect he hoped turning the Klan s secrecy against itself, converting precious knowledgeinto ammunition for mockery Instead of roping in millions of members as it had just a generationearlier, the Klan lost momentum and began to founder Although the Klan would never quite die,especially down South David Duke, a smooth talking Klan leader from Louisiana, mountedlegitimate bids for the U.S Senate and other offices it was also never quite the same In The Fiery Cross The Ku Klux Klan in America, the historian Wyn Craig Wade calls Stetson Kennedy the single most important factor in preventing a postwar revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the North This did not happen because Kennedy was courageous or resolute or unflappable, even though he was all of these It happened because Kennedy understood the raw power of information The Ku Klux Klan was a group whose power much like that of politicians or real estate agents or stockbrokers was derived in large part from the fact that it hoarded information Once that information falls into the wrong hands or, depending on your point of view, the right hands , much of the group s advantage disappears Q Information is so powerful that the assumption of information, even if the information does not actually exist, can have a sobering effect c Q It is common for one party to a transaction to have better information than another party Inthe parlance of economists, such a case is known as an information asymmetry We accept as averity of capitalism that someone usually an expert knowsthan someone else usually aconsumer c Q If you were to assume that many experts use their information to your detriment, you d beright Experts depend on the fact that you don t have the information they do Or that you are sobefuddled by the complexity of their operation that you wouldn t know what to do with theinformation if you had it Or that you are so in awe of their expertise that you wouldn t darechallenge them If your doctor suggests that you have angioplasty even though some currentresearch suggests that angioplasty often does little to prevent heart attacks you aren t likely tothink that the doctor is using his informational advantage to make a few thousand dollars forhimself or his buddy But as David Hillis, an interventional cardiologist at the University of TexasSouthwestern Medical Center in Dallas, explained to the New York Times, a doctor may have thesame economic incentives as a car salesman or a funeral director or a mutual fund manager Ifyou re an invasive cardiologist and Joe Smith, the local internist, is sending you patients, and if youtell them they don t need the procedure, pretty soon Joe Smith doesn t send patients any c Q Consider this true story, related by John Donohue, a law professor who in 2001 was teaching at Stanford University I was just about to buy a house on the Stanford campus, he recalls, and the seller s agent kept telling me what a good deal I was getting because the market was about to zoom As soon as I signed the purchase contract, he asked me if I would need an agent to sell my previous Stanford house I told him that I would probably try to sell without an agent, and he replied, John, that might work under normal conditions, but with the market tanking now, you really need the help of a broker Within five minutes, a zooming market had tanked Such are the marvels that can be conjured by an agent in search of the next deal c Q They were also a lot richer, taller, skinnier, and better looking than average That, at least, is what they wrote about themselves More than 4 percent of the online daters claimed to earnthan 200,000 a year, whereas fewer than 1 percent of typical Internet users actually earn that much, suggesting that three of the four big earners were exaggerating Male and female users typically reported that they are about an inch taller than the national average As for weight, the men were in line with the national average, but the women typically said they weighed about twenty pounds less than the national average.Most impressively, fully 70 percent of the women claimed above average looks, including 24 percent claiming very good looks The online men too were gorgeous 67 percent called themselves above average, including 21 percent with very good looks This leaves only about 30 percent of the users with average looks, including a paltry 1 percent with less than average looks which suggests that the typical online dater is either a fabulist, a narcissist, or simply resistant to the meaning of average Or perhaps they are all just realists as any real estate agent knows, the typical house isn t charming or fantastic, but unless you say it is, no one will even bother to take a look Twenty eight percent of the women on the site said they were blond, a number far beyond the national average, which indicates a lot of dyeing, or lying, or both Some users, meanwhile, were bracingly honest Eight percent of the men about 1 in every 12 conceded that they were married, with half of these 8 percent reporting that they were happily married But the fact that they were honest doesn t mean they were rash Of the 258 happily married men in the sample, only 9 chose to post a picture of themselves The reward of gaining a mistress was evidently outweighed by the risk of having your wife discover your personal ad c Q But if there is no unifying theme to Freakonomics, there is at least a common thread running through the everyday application of Freakonomics It has to do with thinking sensibly about how people behave in the real world All it requires is a novel way of looking, of discerning, of measuring This isn t necessarily a difficult task, nor does it require supersophisticated thinking We have essentially tried to figure out what the typical gang member or sumo wrestler figured out on his own although we had to do so in reverse.Will the ability to think such thoughts improve your life materially Probably not Perhaps you ll put up a sturdy gate around your swimming pool or push your real estate agent to work a little harder But the net effect is likely to besubtle than that You might becomeskeptical of the conventional wisdom you may begin looking for hints as to how things aren t quite what they seem perhaps you will seek out some trove of data and sift through it, balancing your intelligence and your intuition to arrive at a glimmering new idea Some of these ideas might make you uncomfortable, even unpopular To claim that legalized abortion resulted in a massive drop in crime will inevitably lead to explosive moral reactions c


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