Book Review – Freakonomics

Ivan Aleksandrov, BSc Business Philosophy Undergraduate Student, give his verdict on Lewitt and Dunber's best selling book.
Ivan Aleksandrov, BSc Business Philosophy Undergraduate Student, give his verdict on Levitt and Dunber’s best selling book.

I had an eye on Freakonomics for a long time and recently I decided to give it a try as people online were fascinated by it. Having my cup of coffee in the morning and going through the introduction, I was sure this will be one of those trivial books that questions everything in the world and doesn’t provide any specific answers. By the time I was having a glass of chardonnay in the evening, I read most of it and realised, the book I just read was not about economics at all. It was really something I haven’t encountered before. After a few hours, the same night, I was convinced, the authors were simply genius.

One of the authors, Steven Levitt, doesn’t consider himself an economist. On the contrary, he admits he gave up on pretending to know economics and being good at maths. Instead, he came up with his own definition of what economics really is – a science with excellent tools for gaining answers. Unfortunately, according to him, there is a serious shortage of interesting questions. One might ask, what are the author’s abilities. To make that clear, he considers asking the right questions as his biggest talent.  With the help of his co-writer, Stephen Dubner, an American journalist, he created “a world phenomenon”, as the Observer described it.

The authors prove that there is a hidden side of everything in the world. Who does not like investigation? If you are one of the few that likes to raise ‘unordinary’ questions, then you might as well have a look at what they’ve written.  Through exploring various topics and presenting their work, Levitt and Dubner help us find hints on how everything is not what it seems. The book doesn’t have a unifying theme. It simply presents a trend of thinking outside the box. They also hold the opinion that people should doubt everything the media produces and trust real time data only, as we are the ones who will interpret it most correctly.  To support the data, the authors always use case studies and real life stories to convince the reader. Every example they use is presented very simply and is relevant to their point of view.

The first chapter raises the question: What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? At first one might be a bit confused and not find any relevant point between the two careers. After reading it however, everything starts to make sense. In the chapter they touch the problem of cheating and according to them, cheating is a simple primordial economical act – getting more for less. An important hint is introduced – if you want to catch a cheater, you need to think like one.

Have you ever wondered why drug dealers still live with their moms? I hadn’t either. Apparently, the authors say, the typical gang works like an American business – the drug dealers are at the bottom, receiving the lowest payment, risking their lives and doing most of the work, while there are just a handful of people that collect the ‘big money’.  It gently reminds of what is like to work for McDonald’s.

Does your career prospects depend on the name you were given at birth? Will you succeed if your name was ‘Loser’?  From finding the connection between abortion and criminal rates to what makes a good parent – Levitt and Dubner explore topics people have never thought of.

If you struggle with finding inspiration for you MANG1020 Assignments or simply want to impress the lecturers by sharing a relevant example, I highly recommend reading this book.

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