Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Freakonomics

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner 
Non-fiction, Ebook

In an attempt to make some progress on my Tried and True list, I had planned to start with The Tipping Point but got sidetracked a little. As it turns out, Freakonomics references The Tipping Point a few times and I ended up listening to the audiobook immediately afterward. They tied into each other nicely.

The underlying premise of Freakonomics is that people are driven by incentives, whether they be financial, moral, or social, and that conventional wisdom often gets those incentives wrong. In other words, people are not necessarily responding to the incentives that we think they are. Each chapter explores a different issue and tries to suss out what incentives are at play and how they affect outcomes.

Levitt covers a broad rage of topics, from cheating sumo wrestlers to the link between legalized abortion and crime rates, and the ideas presented are thought-provoking. The chapter discussing the inner economic workings of a crack-dealing gang in South Chicago was my personal favourite. There were many times, however, where I wished that the topics would have been discussed in greater depth, like teachers cheating on standardized tests or hidden prejudice. I was also expecting the book to present the actual data that Levitt's conclusions were based on but it didn't. All of the studies he referenced are cited at the end so the reader can look them up, but I would have found it useful to see some of it within the book. I like my charts and graphs, what can I say? 

All in all, I did really enjoy this book despite finding it a little unsatisfying. The authors went on to create a successful blog, podcast, and several more books after this one so at some point, I would like to check those out too.

P.S. A quick back-to-work update: I had an interview on Thursday for that teaching job I was interested in and should hear back Monday or Tuesday. Fingers are crossed!

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