Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner: A review

Forty-seventh book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.

freakonomics coverI’m starting to appreciate this genre of books. I didn’t like them at first because they┬ánever account for their methods. But I’m beginning to understand that there is no method! The areas where they are applying data analysis and coming up with astonishing conclusions are those where such techniques have never been used.

Another reason why I didn’t like these books was because they seem to hype the discoveries that they make. Malcolm Gladwell is especially good at doing that and making a sensation out of common sense. But I guess that’s what this genre is all about. I should know better than to pick these books, knowing fully well that they’ve been written for lay people and then crying foul about not getting something oriented towards academics.

Thanks for bearing with my little explanation at the beginning. This is a good book to discover how much power data analysis has in making sense out of seemingly unconnected things. If not for that, I don’t think we could have put together a theory explaining crime rates based on a particular case of abortion, decades ago. This is also a good book to be entertained by the wonders of data analysis without getting your hands dirty. It’s a book for those who don’t want to get into the math behind it, but are nevertheless able to appreciate the magic that it works.

For all these things, I liked Freakonomics. However, I don’t like the fact that all this is presented not as an excursion or an adventure in number crunching, but as another aspect of ‘economics’. As far as I know, this isn’t economics at all, at best it is behavioral pattern recognition and that’s exactly what the authors should be saying. Why do they have to go ahead and try to garner more recognition by masquerading as the actual science and then slyly declining to accept accountability for whatever theory they put out. Why do you have to pretend to be something you’re not? That’s the only beef I have with the authors, otherwise the book was quite entertaining and dare I say, enlightening.

Freakonomics fb cover

Information is a beacon, a cudgel, an olive branch, a deterrent–all depending on who wields it and how.

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