and by Stephen J. Dubner
Freakonomics takes a stab at using economic theory on a variety of topics not normally associated with so-called dismal science. If you want a book where an economist makes predictions for next year’s GDP, taking into consideration many macroeconomic indicators and the current political environment, then this book is not for you.
The authors ask off-the-wall questions about subjects like cheating sumo wrestlers, drug dealers who live with their moms, and parents who obsess over naming their children. As you would expect, the results of the data-crunching can be counterintuitive and even culturally offensive in some cases. This approach to economics is refreshing, and the writing style keeps things moving. My main criticism would be that the book cuts a mile wide and an inch deep on the subject matter. The notes are available in the appendix if you wish to delve more deeply into the data used by the authors; I did feel that the book moved around a little too much and didn’t spend enough time supporting and discussing the results of each data-crunch exercise. Also, don’t expect perfectly summed-up answers to the questions posed for each chapter. The authors freely admit their purpose is to start a discussion and a new way of thinking about economics; they do not attempt (nor should they) to come to any final conclusions.
Rated: Moderate. Overall, the book was fun and lighthearted, which are two words I don’t think I’ve ever used to describe a text about economics before. I’ve given it a moderate rating primarily because of the language used. The entire chapter on drug dealers is filled with quotations by gang members, and their vocabulary is laced with expletives and racial epithets. A few other less-abrasive curse words may show up in other chapters, but the drug dealers win on their use of colorful adjectives. It didn’t bother me much, but if you want to avoid the majority of foul language in the book then I suggest skipping most of chapter three.