Textual Healing: A Book Review of Freakanomics

Economics is not widely considered to be the sexier of the sciences; as a matter of fact it is often referred to as the dismal science, and quite often rejected by students as being a boring subject.

That is why you must forget about your notion of an economist being an old professor concerned only with bonds and interest rates, and meet the new “Freakonomist”, from the author of Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt, who titles himself as, “a rouge economist [who] explores the hidden side of everything.”

For those of you who don’t know, economics can be quite boring and often wrong, but at the same time it is an incredibly insightful and enlightening subject, and Levitt goes on to demonstrate how it could be just that by asking questions you wouldn’t think to ask on a normal day.

Levitt’s main idea is that the mysteries of life need not be so mysterious if people asked the right questions. For example, which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Why do drug dealers still live with their mothers if they have so much money? How much do parents really matter?

Levitt draws some very insightful connections between crime drop and Roe v. Wade, arguing that a drop in crime in the nineties was not quite due to the stellar economic prosperity, but rather due to the legalization of abortion. Some people may believe it and some may not. He also goes to show how parenting is not that important, and that playing Mozart doesn’t make a child smarter. To top it all off he also touches on a subject which I thought was quite interesting, regarding names.

He asks: what’s in a name, and does a name make you who you are or do you make a name for yourself? For example, he looks into why someone named DeShawn Williams is less likely to succeed in life than someone named Jake Williams. Wondering why?? Read the book and find out.

You are also probably wondering what do any of those questions have to do with economics? The answer is it has everything to do with economics as long as there is data to prove a hypothesis. This is where Levitt’s iridescent skills as a rouge economist truly shine. He proves many of his arguments with statistical data where he uses regressions to prove this hypothesis. But for some of the chapters the arguments are frivolous, and don’t strike as anything ingenious, as the publishers of the book would like you to think.

Overall, Levitt does a great job in linking seemingly unrelated coincidences and proving that the greatest part to solving a mystery is the question itself. Regardless of what you may have heard, don’t be fooled into thinking that the book is a sham because it claims to have uncovered the biggest mysteries of the century.

In the end, Freakonomics will divide people into two groups, the believers and the non- believers. I will end with a little quip for the non-believers about economists. There is a joke that two economists can win Nobel prizes for arguing the exact opposite things, and that economists have predicted two out of the last ten recessions. Don’t believe everything you hear, but you should at least listen to the arguments.