21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Disappointingly poor example of the popular science genre,
This review is from: The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything (Paperback)I bought this book expecting, on the basis of cover quotes, to find more of the type of incisive and analytical thinking that illuminates Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist. Against the standard sent by those, and other books, it is a **huge** disappointment. Peter Kennedy writes in his review that it uses "basic statistics and vague generalisations". From my reading I'd say that it weights itself heavily towards the vague generalisations side of this statement (I would also like to say that Freakonomics is rather more robust than its mention in Peter's review implies). I got bored very quickly.
This is a book that is cashing in on the popularity of a genre and falling short of the standard of that genre. Prospective purchasers should be aware that the source material for the book is short essays that were written by Robert H. Frank's students of an Introductory Economics course. Specifically, they were asked to 'use a principle, or principles, discussed in the course to pose and answer an interesting question about some pattern of events or behaviour that you personally have observed' in less than 500 words. So you are, in effect, reading a compendium of coursework that addresses this challenge. And, frankly, the lack of rigour that results is evident.
To be fair to Robert H. Frank (and his students), he does admit in his introduction that he doesn't expect all the answers to be correct and that they should be read with a critical eye. He states that the answers should be seen as 'intelligent hypotheses suitable for further refinement and testing'. And many of them do stand up to that measure. But I'd have been grateful for a bit of the refinement and testing coming from Professor Frank himself. For example the answer to the question of why Kamikaze pilots wore helmets (which is touted on the cover of the book) is historically inaccurate and doesn't even contain any economics.