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July 08, 2024

Review in Haiku: Freakonomics

By Katrina Stonoff

Why did crime rate drop?
Economist's tools shed light
on social questions.

I could not put this book down.

Yes, I know it's nothing like what I usually read. I rarely read nonfiction (except books about writing), and economics! I mean, come on!

When I was in high school, I was required to take an economics course. My teacher was (I swear) hired only to fill Affirmative Action quotas. He had absolutely no interest in teaching anything. We'd go in one day, and the assignment would be, "Read Chapter X" (three paperback pages, 10 minutes max); the following day, we'd be told, "Answer the questions at the end of Chapter X" (10 questions, all true/false, most easily answered with common sense). I wouldn't have minded except that he didn't allow us to do anything else when we finished: we couldn't read or chat or lay our head down and snooze. Booo-rrrrring.

So, yeah. I am sooo not interested in economics.

But Freakonomics is not about economics. Rather, the authors, (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner) use economists' tools to study everyday questions. Questions like, "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?" And "Which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?"

Many of the answers are surprising: like why the national crime rate plummeted in the 1990s. And the logic, so clean and easy to follow, makes this a can't-put-down book.

My only complaint is that the "Introduction" gives away too much of the book. You can read the "Introduction" and learn most of the authors' say in the rest of the book. Sure, the bulk of the book has more detail and corollaries that aren't mentioned in the Intro. But by giving us the answers before the book even starts, the authors threw away a sense of suspense and tension.

Small point. The information is quite interesting enough to pull the reader.

Yeah, you've been seeing this book in everybody's hands. There's a good reason why. I suggest you get it into yours.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-05-28
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