Freakonomics

Just finished reading Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, which I must say has been one of the most fascinating books I’ve read for a long time. Author Steven Levitt, the ‘Indiana Jones of economists’, uses his own brand of thinking to tackle everything from the relationship between abortion and crime rates, to how the name of child reflects their parents’ level of education, to the ups and downs of life as a crack dealer. According to Levitt, the rapid decline in crime rates in the US during the 90s was not due to a strong economy, tighter gun control, or even higher number of police. Rather, it was the legalising of abortion in 1973. As abhorrent as it may sound, it turns out that potential criminals were all killed off in the womb before they had a chance. He brings up evidence that states which legalised abortion two years earlier saw their crime rates also decline two years before the rest of the country. Using abortion as a way to curb crime rates of course will offend both conservatives and liberals alike. He also shows that there is no correlation between a child’s school grades and whether or not his parents read to him, take him to museums on weekends, or the amount of television he’s allowed to watch. However, children who’s own parents are highly educated and the amount of books there are in the house are correlated to a child’s grades. This of course means that all those good parenting guides are useless as the path of a child is already laid out before he is even born. Other sections of the book deals explores the power of information using the Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents as examples, as well as the way people say one thing yet do the opposite, as explained through why hookers get paid more than architects (‘an architect is more likely to hire a hooker than the other way round’). The story of the family who named their children ‘Winner’ and ‘Loser’ is a highlight. Granted, the book has more to do with sociology than economics per se, but is a fascinating read nonetheless.

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2 Responses to Freakonomics

  1. XmarkX says:

    well, forcing people to have abortions to lower crime rates would offend pretty much everyone (other than the PRC). But according to you, Freakonomics suggests that it is people’s free choices with respect to abortions that have brought down crime rates, in which case liberals should all be happy about it. Or is it that you think that liberals think low crime rates are a bad thing? I think only an anarchist would think that, and even then probably not in this case.

  2. Jimmy says:

    You do make a good point about people’s free choice with respect to abortions.

    My interpretation about it being offensive to liberals is that it suggests that the majority of crimes commited in the future are caused by today’s poor, black, and often single, women (I probably should’ve made this a bit clearer in the post).

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