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3.8 out of 5 stars
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2008
One could maybe argue that this isn't an economics book at all but instead a collection of connected essays drawing on concepts from economics and statistics to get the point across.

I find the style of writing very easy to get on with, and the book as a whole very easy to read. In many ways I wish this book had been written before I studies economics all those years ago as it would have been a good introduction to some concepts from the world of economics presented in a way which means that anyone can enjoy this book.

Many other reviews on here have already mentioned a lot of the good points about this book so I won't go on and repeat it all here. All that's left for me to say is ... go for it, give this book a go.
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on 30 March 2015
Very interesting book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2014
As an Economics student, I was advised to give this a read. I have since recommended this to my friends, family, and attractive young ladies.

Not only did I have enjoyment reading and discussing this book, but I was forced to look at certain situations in entirely new light. It has a seductive quality that QI books do - you can't help but want to learn. I wish that there was an author with such passion for the 'interesting' part of research in my other reading lists.

This is a book that makes me proud to have studied economics. And I don't think I can say that about anything else I have read, or for any other subject.

Buy it. Read it. Love it.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2006
Some vague awareness of talk about this book and a long train journey ahead were enough to convince me that something might be gained from reading it.

I was not totally disappointed. The prose flows pleasingly for the most part and there are some interesting observations on a variety of cultural phenomena such as cheating sumo wrestlers, impoverished crack dealers and neurotic parents. The restricted approach of a particular economics theory - that of incentives driving our behaviour - works reasonably well at first.

However, the approach is too simplistic and inconclusive. Human behaviour and social phenomena are not so easily explained. For me, the knowledge that we are, to some extent, economic creatures in a world of economic interactions only helps a bit. Economic approaches to understanding behaviour of individuals, yet alone societies, are only one of many inputs to the analysis, as I'm sure the authors would agree. Statistical analysis techniques, such as regression, which is talked about here, are tools for assessing the strength, if any, of correlations between variables. The authors repeatedly state that Levitt has identified corrrelations in data, i.e. indicators that there might be a causal relationship of some kind between two factors such as crime rate and the legalisation of abortion. He has not proved that abortion is the cause of anything. It is an interesting idea and worth expanding upon with a more fulsome analysis which takes into account, amongst other things, a breakdown of the ages of those committing crime in the crime-reduced years and cities of 1990's America. More proof is needed, but then that wouldn't sell many books, particularly in America.

The most startling problem for me is the structure. There is none. The authors admit this and make light of it. But it becomes such a dissatisfying read and I really had to persevere towards the end, through all the repetitive pages listing children's names which cloud out any point that was supposed to emerge, the conclusion to which was "the name isn't likely to make a shard of difference". Oh really? How did you prove that then? This was the most disappointing end to a book I can remember. Why respectable British publications would use words such as "phenomenon", "brilliant", "sensation" and "dazzling" to describe this, I have no idea.

Perhaps the title warns us not to take this as much more than an attempt at publicity, largely by the NY Times journalist, Mr Dubner, riding on the shirt tails of Mr Levitt, a man who himself appears to be riding on the shirt tails of other economists such as his colleague Gary Becker. The title, the "please buy me" cover of the paperback edition, the hopeless ambition of the subtitle "A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything", are probably all indicative of a culture which needs buzzwords, continual distraction and the idea that we are somehow only motivated by selfish gain.

Having said all that, a popular book which shows people that they can look at what they see in the news and what is going on around them in a slightly different way has got to be of some use. The thoughtful application of economics as one of many tools for understanding what we do is only partially realised by this book.
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on 1 February 2015
Great book, buy it!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2008
The points raised are interesting but too few and as a result the book feels padded and repetitive. It really only needed to be 20 pages long. However, that would obviously have prevented its publication.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
My only complaint would be that it wasn't very economical, as I ploughed through it far too quickly. Highly recommended for those of us who enjoy sideways viewing of a variety of subjects.
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27 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2006
This book is rubbish... and not worth the paper its written on. If you want a good example of how to twist random information into pretty much any argument you like, read this book.

Otherwise, don't bother. I got to halfway through and put it in the bin on my way out of the station this morning.

Its so bad I certainly wasn't going to finish it, and didn't really want anyone else to read it either. Bad grammar, poorly constructed arguments and sweeping opinions with little evidence to back up the most important points make this a dud read. I give it one star, but only because I couldn't select no stars.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2006
This is a so-called "international best-seller" (it is written on the book jacket so it must be true) and documents some research done by a "rogue" economist named Steven D. Levitt. He and his co-author, Stephen J.Dubner, argue that economics, properly used, can provide valuable, and sometimes counter-intuitive, insights into how the world works. A quote from the books explanatory note sums up the premise with "economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of questions". The book (240 pages) has a substantial introduction and 6 chapters. Each chapter is introduced by a quote from an article written by Dubner on Levitt's work and published in the New York Times Magazine in 2003. The book is very well written, possibly too well written for its own good in that it incites you to read fast and not spend too much time re-reading and thinking about what is written. If we look at the chapter titles, we are asked important social questions such as "What do schoolteachers and Sumo wrestlers have in common", or "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?" What I understood to be the most famous question was "Where have all the criminals gone?", where Levitt tells us that abortion is the reason for a substantial reduction in the crime rate. Unwanted children frequently become criminals and abortion gets rid of many unwanted children, therefore abortions reduces the crime rate. This conclusion offends, but it might be well founded. The book does not really offer a detailed analysis, although it does provide a total of 21 pages of notes and references. This is one of my biggest problems with the book - it is written to entertain and possibly shock, but not really to foster debate or justify an open-minded reconsideration of perceived ideas.

The book claims that it has no unifying theme, but I would beg to disagree. The message is that a problem or issue can be studied from many different perspectives and, as in any real science it is good to ask a variety of questions - be they complex, simple or unexpected. A willingness to study a problem and examine different facets as a physicist would study a new set of experimental data appears so bizarre to economics that we need a whole book to demonstrate what a good idea it is. On the other hand I do not side with those who complain that the authors as offering answers based only upon, as one person wrote, "regression analysis". In my opinion many of societies problems need a bit more data and regression analysis because the "traditional" qualitative methods have provide often to be false friends. So I have no problem with economists studying abortion and crime rather the movement of interest rates provided they bring something valuable to the table - conventional wisdom is always worth challenging.

When I read books like this I generally make quite a lot of notes about things that attract my attention - with this book I made no notes at all. So a nice read, but at the end of the day too much trivia, not enough real content, and it did not leave me a new and persistent insight on the world around me.
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on 17 September 2014
Interesting book
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