We've Moved- Please Come See Us

Check out the new home for New Hampshire Watchdog:


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Book Review- Super Freakonomics

The LA Times' Gregory Hess pens a useful review of Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Super Freakonomics, the follow-up to 2005's best-seller Freakonomics.
The world, however, has changed since "Freakonomics," and now everyone questions the worthiness of economists during our current financial crisis. Can the Steves help us get our economic groove back? Yes. But let's first begin with what the authors do not claim to be, and what the book is not about -- they do not pretend in "Super Freakonomics" to be our economic saviors. They don't provide solutions to the financial crisis, subprime debt, CEO compensation or a template for healthcare reform.

Rather, the Steves wryly, humorously and almost sadistically remind us that we are slaves to our own failures to parse situations into basic economic components. They consider three key areas: first, we must understand individual incentives and how this drives strategic behavior; we also need to understand market behavior and how changes in government policy or social culture can help us to better understand individual incentives; and third, little can be understood without finding some data and thoughtfully dissecting it.

The examples the authors use in "Super Freakonomics" won't disappoint, though these are now more concentrated on edgier topics. Prostitution, terrorism and the altruistic indeterminacy of just about everything form much of the landscape in this book. Topics are simultaneously interesting and profoundly disturbing -- in other words, freaky. The book runs the gamut on prostitution -- from pimps to chimps -- teaching us about the hidden excitement of old-time Chicago family summer gatherings and that policemen enjoy more than just doughnuts on patrol. We also learn who becomes a terrorist and how they could hide themselves better from the prying eyes of cyber-profilers just by covering their spending and demographic trails. Grim stuff.
Freakonomics was a phenominal read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to think differently about complex problems. I haven't read the sequal yet, but I was certainly looking forward to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment