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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'Superfreakonomics' is the cumbersomely titled sequel to the bestselling 'Freakonomics' - a book that gave an entertaining overview of microeconomics, and supplied plenty of food for thought. If you enjoyed the first volume, you will undoubtedly enjoy 'SuperFreakonomics'. It is essentially the same book, but with different case studies - if your first book sold over four million copies, why change a winning formula?

Initially I was unimpressed; the first chapter, dealing with prostitution felt like a rehash of the first book, only less interesting. Soon after, things pick up. The sections on emergency medicine and altruism were interesting and ask questions about the way in which we perceive our world. It is these alternate world views that are the 'Freakonomics' books strongest assets. Time and again the authors hold up a hand and say 'but what about...?'

Not everybody will be happy. The authors offer some thoughts on climate change, that go against current thinking, for which they will undoubtedly be pilloried. Of course challenging convention is the point of this book, and I'm sure the authors will welcome the debate. Less happy though, will be road-safety experts. 'Superfreakonomics' reveals that for the drinker, drink-driving is safer than drink-walking. (They do say that a taxi home is much better option still, but considering their findings on altruism, this seems a foolhardy admission.) The section on child safety seats will also cause great consternation, not least amongst child safety seat manufacturers.

Whilst casting doubt on the efficacy of child car seats, the book does ask a singular and important question. Since the primary users of rear seats are children, why aren't they designed with children in mind? Many of the topics covered in 'Superfreakonomics' are distilled down to simple and (with hindsight) obvious questions, and this is part of what makes it a pleasure to read. Another factor, is the lightness of tone, despite being a book about small details, it never becomes bogged down. I would though agree with another reviewer's comments, that the tone used can sometimes grate. It is very chummy and often self-congratulating.

'Superfreakonomics's' strength is also its biggest weakness. To avoid being, dull it only takes a cursory glance at its subject matter. One can't help but wonder what we aren't being told. The authors acknowledge that statistics are easy to fudge, but without doing masses of further reading, it is impossible to judge to what extent the figures have been massaged to back up their suppositions.

That said, the purpose of this book is to provoke debate and stop its readers from accepting everything at face value. I would suggest that this scepticism has to start with 'Superfreakonomics' itself - this is a book that will pose far more questions than it answers, but that is no bad thing. Like its predecessor, 'Superfreakonomics' is an entertaining and thought-provoking book, that deserves to be be read and discussed by as many people as possible.
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on 8 April 2010
An enjoyable book that covers some unusual subjects but is not as good as the original freakonomics book.

This one goes into a lot more detail on a single subject and as a result is not as wide-ranging, and does at times feel as if its trying to imply that the reader cannot draw their own conclusions from the initial information provided. The original Freakonomics book didnt go into as much details and left the reader able to draw their own conclusions from the outline facts rather than having everything spelled out for you.

I like the Freakonomic books but if you are new to these then the original is the better of the two in my view.
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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Read the book before you judge it. You may not agree with all the facts or conclusions, but it will make you think and debate the issues. The book is fascinating and 3 people reading it will give you three different opinions on it and about how good it is.

Should you read it - yes. Will you enjoy it - yes. Will you agree with everything - no.

Prostitution: The price of oral sex has fallen as it has become less taboo socially. Pimps value their prostitutes - which makes sense because I would expect a taxi driver to value his car because it is their means of making a living. And controversially prostitutes are more likely to have sex with a police officer than be arrested by one!

Global Warming: so controversial that people will down rate this book if it disagrees with their own accepted wisdom. The book contains hyperbole and overstatements that generates heated debate - (intended!) economic consequence of this is more press and more sales. But the authors do not deny global warming, rather they want to show how costly and difficult the current answers suggested by the big governments are, and they offer some potentially interesting solutions.

Read it in short bursts - it is not a Dan Brown novel!
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VINE VOICEon 18 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In Chapter 1 we read a prurient but entertaining account of Chicago prostitution. We learn the benefits of having a pimp, the relative cost of different sexual services and why the police go easy on the ladies (this last explanation is unconvincing). Then we move to the high-end `escort' market and consider the case study of "Allie".

Economic concepts: commodity good, price discrimination, inelastic demand, principal-agent problem. Plus a "how-to" guide on being a successful courtesan.

Chapter 2 is organised around the concepts of data mining. We learn about the financial transaction profiles of Islamic terrorists, the disutility of hospitals and the relative performance of doctors in dealing with different kinds of illness and injuries.

Economic concepts: data analysis.

Chapter 3 is about altruism. The core of this chapter deconstructs a 1964 murder in New York City which was apparently witnessed by many people, none of whom intervened or even reported it to the police. This leads to an appraisal of economics experiments which purportedly showed people to possess an intrinsic core of altruism (leading to Nobel prizes in economics for the researchers). Such an appealing conclusion is debunked as you might expect. The murder story is also debunked.

Economic concepts: limitations of behavioural economics.

Chapter 4 is about perverse incentives and specifically how powerful interest groups succeed in bringing about outcomes which disadvantage society overall. In the sights are doctors and auto makers. It is shown repeatedly that the hero who correctly points out that the emperor has no clothes is subsequently uniformly reviled by said interest groups

Chapter 5 is the part about global warming. Or is it cooling? Or is it something which just happens anyway? A long piece centred around Nathan Myhrvold's company Intellectual Ventures shows that assuming global warming is actually the problem fashionable opinion claims, there exist a number of technological solutions which for a modest amount of cash would deal with it. Alas, such ideas are anathema to Green lobbies.

In the epilogue, we learn that economic concepts of monetary value and exchange can also be taught (and internalised by) capuchin monkeys. I was not entirely clear why we were being told this apart from the monkey prostitution link back to Chapter 1.

I am torn two ways about this book. In its favour it makes intelligent points about a number of topical issues, it correctly undermines various shibboleths of political correctness, and it's compulsively readable - I was able to finish the 216 pages in a day.

On the other hand, the sycophantic writing style is gratingly folksy-humorous. Subtle flattery throughout confirms the authors and reader as equal partners, intellectually superior to the idiots the book so delights in debunking. The book is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

So if you are looking for an upmarket Reader's Digest type book which will confirm you are an important mover and shaker, that you are fashionably dismissive of political correctness to an acceptable degree, and that won't force you to engage with any difficult concepts, I guess this book is for you. Otherwise get it from the library or read the Sunday Times serialisation.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first book was a worldwide success... and this builds on that success. Strange and bizarre views and facts on things that you'd never previously thought of, it made me see a lot of things in many new ways. The authors question everything from why more women don't become prostitutes (as it can pay very well at the high end) to why child car-seats are so ineffective (apparently), and if you can ignore the fact that it's quite obviously written from an American point of view, it's informative, amusing, and makes you ask, many times, 'why on earth does.....?' If more people questioned things in the same way that Levitt and Dunber, the authors, do, then the world might just be a better place.
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this book interesting, frustrating, fascinating and infuriating (mostly at the same time). The duo that brought us Freakonomics with answers to why drug dealers live with their mothers and how the name that your parents gave you can determine which job you end up getting have now brought us Superfreakonomics.

To rogue economists or mad scientists this books meanderings may be make perfect sense, but to the likes of me I had a job trying to fathom how we got from one subject to another and then back to the original one at times. It almost seemed like a couple of kids that get so excited about their school project that they just want to tell you everything all about it all at once. That said, some of the themes and questions posed I found fascinating:

Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?
Why is May the worst month for a baby in Uganda and Michigan, USA to be born?
How did 9/11 start the trickle down effect of the credit crunch?
Why could eating kangaroo meat help save the planet?
Why did 38 people watch Kitty Genovese be murdered and say nothing?

When I read Freakonomics a few years ago I gave it 2 stars. It attempted to tell us that teachers cheat, estate agents lie and black kids are usually given different names to white kids. You don't say! After having read this second offering I have decided to accept it for what it is - fun and light entertainment. Some of the findings are really fascinating and some are pretty banal and even confusing (the global warming section had my eyes glazing over).

However, to end on a positive note, the epilogue was genius! If you have ever wondered if monkey prostitution exists, wonder no more.....
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2013
Freakonomics took an alternative economists view (more actually a statistical view) of issues and their causes such as crime rates and gaming the results in education and sports. This book continues where the first left off, except it continues with more of the same and is less convincing, which is odd given all the cover endorsements by people from the FT etc. saying how much better it is than freakonomics.

The problem is it has lost its edge it is not original and much of the material is covered by others in a better and more thorough way. The mistakes are also more grating and annoying such as the danger of drunk walking. The statistic to look at is not the number of miles per death but the number of walks per death compared to car journeys per death. Most people don't walk very far. Then there is the nonsense about women being killed for witchcraft and the endless hubris of economists when they don't want to be called statisticians. The difference between an economist doing statistics and a statistician doing statistics is the order they work in. A statistician makes a model - a hypothesis and then collects the data. An economist collects the data or finds something interesting and then makes a hypothesis. This is post-hoc analysis and very dangerous, because you are basically story telling. That is what makes this book so infuriating, it is just stories from the author's perspectives and these are prone to bias and subjectivity.

So read Freakonomics if you want some of the wow I hadn't thought of that but give this one a miss.
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VINE VOICEon 17 December 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Really not that good. I have a Ph.D. and I work in a firm with a lot of excellent economic analysts, so perhaps my standards are rather high, but I found this book to be rather boring and weak.

The subjects aren't that interesting, I can't recall hardly any of them without getting the book out and they aren't that well analysed. The book starts moderately well with an analysis of how prostitutes get paid. Despite a rather smirking schoolboy tone making light of the situation the data is interesting. Incidentally, it reveals despite the poverty and desperation that leads women to sell their bodies for a few tens of dollars that they are still rational human beings; however, that is my insight and not theirs.

The rest of the book is trite and uninteresting and the chapter on climate change is monstrous; ridiculous parroted 2nd-hand ideas being pushed by a crackpot NGO from a country that can't even stop deforestation and extinction in its own national parks.
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on 10 October 2010
I have not read the original book but expected more from this one than I got. Most of the tag lines on the cover are not really well thought through or discussed. For example, it turns out that the reason for suicide bombers to buy life insurance is simply to confuse the authorities slightly about their intentions. That's it, but it is given huge prominence on the cover.

The majority of the book is simply the authors acting very humbly and talking about all of the amazing people they have met during the writing of the book. Very quickly it becomes boring and repetitive. "Wow, we met this really smart guy who is doing really amazing research and he is so clever because he has found out some stuff which will make an interesting and quirky lines for the cover of our book so we can sell loads of copies off the back of the first".

The actual interesting stuff could have been condensed into 1 chapter. This would have avoided the boring and shameless name dropping and sycophantic drivel which makes up the majority of the book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2014
The follow up to Freakonomics covers similar ground but is less broad. The result is that the authors go into more detail on some areas and can get a bit lost in detail (which to be fair the original showed signs of towards the end of the book). Some themes will be familiar to those who read the first book - particularly the odd questions that give surprising answers and the emphasis on the shock value for subject matter (prostitutes, terrorists and global warming in particular here). The book is still quite interesting but not as good as the first one. So often sequels are not as good as the original but the basic economic idea of supply and demand explains why they get produced - you don't need Freakonomics to explain that.

For me, the problem here is that the authors try to go too deep into the ideas when what is interesting is quite easily explained. If you are going to read both this and the original, I'd read this one first to avoid being disappointed.
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