Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book review: Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything – Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Freakonomics sees an economist looking at some unusual questions and attempting to find answers. The focus is on ‘conventional wisdom’ and how people assume such wisdom to be correct without any proof. The author explains why conventional wisdom is often wrong and how the experts will bend the facts to support their own interests. Topics include cheating schoolteachers and sumo-wrestlers, self serving real estate agents, poor drug dealers and criminals and obsessive parents. The author uses economic analysis to give light to why conventional wisdom often lacks any wisdom at all.

What I gained from reading this book:
Being an economics graduate, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My economics lecturer always tried to explain why economics could be used to explain questions like the ones in this book but most students couldn’t understand what he meant. After reading this book I now wonder how much of the ‘conventional wisdom’ we come across actually have any truth in them. I really enjoyed reading why real estate agents don’t have the incentive to ‘get every last dollar for your house’ like they claim to do or why school teachers would cheat on students’ tests. I feel I really gained by learning to question what most people assume to be right.
I really wish that this book was on the ‘reading list’ during my university study because it would have helped so many students understand the value of economics and its way of thinking.

Looks at very interesting and bizarre situations and questions. Can help you open your mind to thinking outside of the conventional wisdom that so many people assume is fact.
This book can help out economics students by showing them the side of economics they probably haven’t been learning in lecturers. There are no formulas here, only explanations.

Some of the statements in this book may offend or shock some people. Some topics are very close to many peoples’ hearts such as abortion, racial discrimination or parenting. If you read this book with an open mind you can at least understand the points the author is making. If on the other hand you shun everything the author says on those controversial topics, you will finish the book with no gain.
For those who know little or nothing about economics, you may dislike the author’s reasoning. As the author says ‘if morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world’. Sometimes the ‘actual world’ answers are not what we want to hear.

Recommended for: Those interested in economics
I highly recommend this book for all economics students. I have noticed that many of the students I talked to that failed or had low marks didn’t understand the way of thinking that this book uses. If you find economics hard, it may be because you have trouble understanding the mindset required. This book can help you in that regard.
For those not studying economics, it may still be interesting because of the unusual topics.

Genre: Economics

Overall rating: 8 of 10 stars

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

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