Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt with Stephen J. Dubner caused quite a stir when it was released last year. That’s because it takes a different look at some common questions like why did crime drop in the 1990’s and do teachers cheat in the face of standardized testing?
I don’t want to go into too much of the book’s content, but I do want to say that I thought the book was a good read. It took me about 4 days to read the entire thing and that includes working and playing over Memorial Day Weekend. The book is not written in a thick, academic style so it should be appealing to all comers. Actually, the authors wrote the book with the intent to bring this new way of thinking to the masses – or at least make their train of thought accessible by the masses.
You may be turned off by this book from what the left-wingers say about it. For example, there is a passage in the book that talks, in-depth, about how legalized abortions brought on a massive drop in crime a decade and a half later in the face of experts claiming that crime was about to explode all over the United States. Some people have diminished the “economics-based” message of this passage by saying, “Freakonomics says that abortion would lead to less black babies and thus, less crime.” Well that’s ridiculous.
Read the book and you’ll see how the principles of economics actually do explain the drop in crime (along with increased police presense). The book does tend to trail off towards the end as a less than stimulating discussion about children’s names ensues. I would have put this study earlier in the book, but still, there is a lesson to be learned amid the data. The results of the name study are interesting, but rather boring overall.
I suggest this book for anyone looking to get a different view on topical issues. More specifically, I would hope that young people read this book in the hopes of getting a different way of looking at issues than “all liberals are morons” or “all conservatives are crazy.” There are, in fact, other ways of viewing the issues and Freakonomics begins to explore some of these alternative viewing methods.
What type of response has the book garnered? Well, from the authors’ own blog, we have:
…the vast majority of teenagers (and their parents) we’ve heard from have talked about how the frank discussion of various topical issues in Freakonomics have actually encouraged lots of good dialogue between kids and their parents, as well as kids and their teachers and kids and other kids.
Again, feel free to leave your comments about this book if you decide to read it. For those interested, the authors keep a blog and they will even send you a signed bookplate so you can say you have a “signed” copy of the book. Enjoy!