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Showing 1-10 of 34 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on 11 May 2010
Whilst the chapter re. crime and abortion is of some interest, the rest is underwhelming to say the list.
Poor value for money, (short chapters that read like essays/ musings) and absolutely peerless aggrandisement by proxy (from Dubner re. Levitt).

In summary:
Chapter 1- People who you think won't cheat (schoolteachers/ Sumo wrestlers) do if they might not get caught and the risks are worth it. How very suprising.
2-KKK and estate agents - really rather tenuous link between the two. As far as I can see, they have the fact that they both keep secrets in common. Also the chapter informs me of the remarkable insight that information is valuable.
3- Drug dealers and moms (sic.)- mind blowing expose demonstrating that only the people high up in drugs trade make cash. It should be noted that much of the sociological observations in this chapter are actually very interesting- but from a sociologist, Venkatash, who is described as 'thoughtful, handsome and well-built'!

4 - Where have all the criminals gone - by far most interesting chapter of 'book'. Nonetheless, other examples could have been explored further, and the authors do seem somewhat blinkered to the idea that more than 1 cause for an observation can co-exist.

5 - What makes a perfect parent - some trite observations of nature and nurture. Not really economics - not even rogue.

6 - List of names. Some names are more popular amongst whites than blacks and vice versa. Doesn't matter what your name is. Utterly boring.
There is more, - 'bonus material' - rehash the previous 6 chapters in no specific order to try and make me sleep.

I actually did read the entire book, hoping that at one point I'd see the light and realise the genius. I am afraid I didn't. Really not very good I'm afraid.
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on 16 May 2010
Reading dozens books a year, it rarely happens that I put an unread book back on the shelf. OK, it almost never happens, yet this time it did happen - on page 52 I gave up.

After reading "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely, which I tremendously enjoyed, I searched for another book from the subject on, let me use this phrase, popular economics. This time I also watched a speech of Steven D. Levitt on TED. It was funny, thence I thought that the book "Freakonomics" would not be less amusing than its author. And this is what the book is like: humorous. Full stop. Apart from the cleverly coined term, freakonomics, and from a morsel of good, but not-so-that-amusing information (for example, if you wonder why you had to use a pencil on your exam, you will find the answer in Levitt's work), the book really does not enrich readers to the extend they would expect. It is just an article-style publication: you read it fast, and then forget it anyway.

Which is why I give the book two stars: one for the title, another one for those funny titbits.
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on 8 August 2010
I'll be giving my copy away. Not selling it; giving it away.

If you've read it, then that should give you some idea of how I feel about it. I don't value it enough to keep it, for sure.

How do I get here? Well, I start by seeing an argument which the authors apply effectively on one page, entirely ignored on another, where it would have a major impact (the section on Death Row, if you've read it). So, it's not rigorous.

That lack of rigour, coupled with the authors' systematic and irritating pumping of economics as a wonderful discipline with all sorts of stuff to offer the world... is that really the best they can do?

I could go on, but I don't think the book is important enough to justify the time and effort.

The same applies to its sequel, except that that is less honest.
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on 17 March 2011
I bought this book in part out of curiosity around the hype. It was something I'd meant to read when it first came out but never got round to. It's got some interesting ideas and it's true that it makes you think a bit more about the cause and effect relationships which lie behind certain phenomena (the decline of crime in 1990s USA and it's relationship with abortion legislation a generation earlier is the classic example). But once you get beyond the introductory chapter there's really not much in terms of substance. It's the sort of thing that if you'd read it in a Sunday supplement you'd think it was clever and thought-provoking, but dedicating a whole (if short) book smacks a little of indulgence on behalf of the authors.
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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2006
Well, that's the dictionary definition.

"Steven Levitt has the most interesting mind in America" says Macolm Gladwell. If that's true, it's a good thing they have nice scenery. Just in case you're not convinced by the chapters themselves, between these you get a helpful article or extract explaining just how great Mr Levitt is. Mr Dubner (Levitt's co-author) doth protest too much, methinks.

The authors make a virtue of having no overall theme, so this is a magpie collection of sometimes interesting observations. This lack of discipline allows Steves L. and D. to appropriate material that's more than straightforward economics.

Chapter 1 shows how statistical analysis can reveal cheating. This, and the material on Estate Agents and the Klu Klux Klan in chapter 2, is fairly well known and understood mainstream knowledge - part of Agency theory, a standard subject certainly in accounting and business management courses. It's about as radical as a Ford Mondeo, or wearing your baseball cap backwards.

Chapter 5 deals with parenting. Studies of genetically identical twins result in the same the conclusions about parenting that are presented here. Stephen Pinker in particular sets the subject out better in "The Blank Slate".

Chapter 6 suggests that parents give children aspirational names, and that (with a few wrinkles) children of affluent parents do better than those less well off. Gosh.

This is "gee whiz" writing, lightweight summer holiday stuff. The book is not the revolutionary, "dazzling" material it's sold as, unless you've only ever read beach novels so far (and no harm in that). Most of these chapters present material fairly well known and understood elsewhere - maybe this stuff is news to economists, but not to evolutionary psychologists, games theorists and accountants.

So: not a bad read if you've never thought about economics before, and don't fancy the heavy stuff. If, like me, you value authors who put time and effort into editing and structuring their thoughts - because they have something important they want to get across - this is one to miss, or borrow from the library. Not one to buy for the shelf.

If you want to read something truly bizarre, and aren't too familiar with quantum physics, try David Deutch's "The Fabric of Reality". If you are familiar with quantum physics - try to get out more!
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on 24 December 2006
The material is diverse and the treatment myopic; interesting and in some cases novel viewpoints are discussed, but in isolation.

From a Nobel winning economist, it was surprising to find statistical howlers. Perhaps it has been 'edited', but some of the conclusions do not follow in any way from the evidence and analysis quoted, and some looks like analysis in search of a pre-determined result.

It is generally true that people form their opinions first and then seek rational justification, and in some areas Steven appears to be falling into this very human trap. In arguing for more people to carry guns he expounds arguments that are clearly illogical to someone of an alternative viewpoint, supported by evidence that in no way relates, while he completely ignores all evidence contradicting his own views.

Overall, the topics are interesting, the viewpoints taken are provocative and interesting, and the style is lively. The analysis is incisive and irrelevant in equal measure.

An enjoyable read, but don't expect to learn much!
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on 18 February 2013
This was a book chosen for our readers' group, and I wouldn't have finished it were it not to be discussed. It reminded me of the American self help books I read years ago. I found it a book of anecdotes with no conclusions. It is American based. The few topics covered showed how figures can be made to demonstrate anything you want them to. I'm no wiser about economics now than I was before.
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on 21 November 2006
Was really looking forward to this after all the rave reviews, but as someone else said, what a letdown.

Some interesting nuggets of information, (but do you really care if Sumo wrestling is corrupt for a certain type of contest?), and then at about 3/4 of the way through, what I thought would be an interesting chapter on birth names, and how they change over time and economic status, turns out to be the entire rest of the book, much of it taken up with list after list of names, which really wasnt necessary, there must be 5 or 10 pages of lists fact I've just counted, about 10!

Also its not 'introspective' enough, eg they talk about how crime has fallen and make various conclusions about cause and effect, without challenging enough (IMHO) the actual statistics on which their arguments are based, ironic when challenging preconceptions about what statistics and reports mean. Certainly some of it is food for thought, but we are talking about what would be an interesting article or two in 'The Economist' or 'Business Week' but not enough material for an entire book.
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on 16 January 2012
The book itself is an interesting read. It's thought-provoking and written in an accessible style.

However, the Kindle edition has been assembled with little thought. Tables disappear off the edge of the page or simply don't exist at all. The text size varies in places with little indication of why. It's a total mess.

If you must read this book, buy the paperback edition.
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on 14 January 2010
Engagingly and accessibly compiled, but what pitches itself as an economic text is actually a load of half-baked statistical analyses, often resulting in conclusions that are as flaky as those that the authors claim to debunk.

Example of warped analysis. Levitt discusses a young girl with two friends, one of whom's family has a pool, the other of whose keep a gun in the house. He argues that since the rate of drowning per domestic pool is greater than the rate of accidental death per firearm, the girl's parents are misguided in steering her away from visiting the family with the gun in favour of that with the pool.

What he misses of course is that the lower rate of accidental death per firearm is in no small part influenced by people's caution. This example was cited halfway through the book, was one of many. I can't tell you how many there were in the second half of the book, since this was the point that I threw it across the room...
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