A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingeBook - 2005
Takes an unconventional look at how the economy really works, from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing, offering a very different view on what really matters and what really drives the economy.
Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life -- from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing -- and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives -- how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of ... well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and -- if the right questions are asked -- is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
Levitt (economics, U. of Chicago) and writing collaborator Dubner (a writer for the New York Times and The New Yorker) dub the material in this work "freakonomics" because Levitt uses analytical tools from economics to address a range of questions that, at first glance, might seem to be far removed from the discipline of the "dismal science." They consider questions such as how to determine if teachers are aiding in students' cheating on standardized tests, the impact of information asymmetry on the operation of the Ku Klux Klan, how the organizational structure of crack gangs resemble other businesses, and the influence of parents on child development. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Blackwell North Amer
Steven D. Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives - how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of...well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
The author offers his view of how the economy really works, examining issues from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing, offering a very different view on what drives the economy.
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"This book has been written from a very specific worldview, based on a few fundamental ideas:
- Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life...
- The conventional wisdom is often wrong...
- Dramatic effects often have a distant, even subtle, causes...
- Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda...
- Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes it complicated world much less so..."
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