Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, explores the relationships that lie beneath daily setbacks that we are confronted with by applying the tools of economic research. Levitt and Dubner enter uncharted territory, by asking some of the simplest, yet unasked questions, in which they use statistical evidence to support the four fundamental ideas that they find most important: the human response to incentives, the truth about conventional wisdom, the distant causes of dramatic effects, and the ‘informational advantage’ that experts apply to advance their own life purposes or goals.
By approaching economics in very unconventional ways, Levitt and Dubner’s style is unique in that they question what information does not exist, rather than what information already exists. This unique style makes the data that is being presented easy for the readers to understand, establishing their most significant strength, logical appeal. Statistics, experiments, and surveys perform as the foundation of logical appeal, in which the authors build upon the four fundamental ideas, rather than one unifying theme. The lack of one unifying theme was somewhat disruptive to the overall flow of the book, however, the authors made numerous compelling arguments based upon the four fundamental ideas. Alasdair Palmer of The Sunday Telegraph supports that the ‘style is so light, its tone so sunny and humorous,’ however, ‘it is hard to realize the extent to which the arguments in Freakonomics attack some of our most basic assumptions about the way people, and society, work.’
The key ideas of Freakonomics are simple, yet so fascinating that all readers are inspired to research deeper and deeper. In the first chapter, Levitt and Dubner investigate how incentives affect people’s daily decisions, as well as how cheating sneaks up to act as an incentive on its own. In the second chapter, through researching many scenarios of incentives, from teachers hinting answers on standardized tests to sumo wrestlers purposely losing for a bribe, Levitt and Duber show that if a person can ‘learn how to look at data in the right way, [he] can explain riddles that otherwise might have seemed impossible.’ The amount of extensive research done in each chapter shows the reader how Levitt and Dubner are truly motivated to expose that morality ‘represents the way people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work.” The reader feels a sense of genuineness from the authors through their key ideas presented, in which he may recognize that ‘nothing is more powerful than information, especially when its power is abused’ (Levitt, Dubner 38).
The authors of this book are very accomplished writers, as both Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have received numerous awards. Steven Levitt serves as the main author of this book, as well as a world renowned economist. In 2003, he received the John Bates Clark Metal, a highly prestigious award to the most influential economists under 40. Levitt also wrote Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang’s Finances (2000) and The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime (2001). Stephen J. Dubner placed as a finalist for the Koret National Jewish Book Award as well as winning the Quill Award. Dubner wrote Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son’s Return to His Jewish Family (1998) and Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper (2003). The authors’ extensive knowledge contributes to the overall persuasiveness of the book.
Freakonomics delves into corruption, crime, and cheating while presenting complex economic data in clear-cut, plain English. Levitt and Dubner offer an overview of the diverse and seemingly unrelated topics that affect our lives daily, in which readers are inspired to ask unconventional questions, as they do, to discover the truth. Freakonomics has many strengths such as the vast data and intriguing topics, but few weaknesses such as the lack of a central theme that make this book a brilliant read.