A key underlying concept of economics is the study of incentives, and Levitt and Dubner do an excellent job of demonstrating how many eclectic parts of life are controlled by various types of incentives in their book, Freakonomics. Although they state early on that their book has no underlying theme, unlike most works of nonfiction, the book is really simply demonstrating how nearly everything has a ‘hidden side’. They explore topics as simple as name choices and their effects, and as controversial as the effect of abortion on crime rates and what factors race plays in test scores. Levitt plays a ‘rogue economist’ in the book, finding strange patterns in the data he has been able to collect, and drawing surprising conclusions from it. He looks at whatever topics he finds interesting, and searches for what is hidden within the numbers and beyond what people would often initially think, which leads to some remarkable discussions as the book progresses.
The book is overall a very interesting read. The interesting connections that the authors introduce often seem absurd at first ‘ until they explain them with extensive data and creative insight. At the very least, they are always an interesting perspective to look at. They purposely throw conventional knowledge to the wind, and let the data speak for itself. Even though they address some somewhat complicated data, the book is not difficult to read. The work is full of many interesting anecdotes that help bring the numbers to life, telling about the man who studied the finances of crack dealers, or the brothers named Loser and Winner and how they ironically turned out. The main downside is that it’s too short, simply because of how interesting every page really is. However, taking into account the extensive amount of research required for each topic, having only about two hundred pages is still an impressive sum. Despite the fact that most people most likely aren’t nearly as fascinated with economics as Levitt and Dubner are, they still are bound to enjoy this piece of art. Freakonomics is an excellent choice for an interesting read for anyone with any curiosity about the world around them, but doesn’t mind having some of their conventional wisdom challenged.