I bought this book several months ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it until Steve mentioned it a few weeks ago in the comment section at Bring It On! The book was written by two economists, but don’t let that scare you off. If it was about economics I would’ve fallen asleep after page three.
The authors employ the methods used by economists: poring over millions of data and using control groups to test for every variation imaginable. But they use this method to find the answers to some very intriguing questions. For example:
During the 1990s, against all the experts’ predictions, America’s crime rate began falling. And falling some more. Everyone had their pet theories: Innovative police methods. Harsh crackdowns; no more coddling criminals. A booming economy. Nope. Would you believe: Roe vs. Wade, twenty years earlier. That’s right. Millions of unwanted fetuses never had the chance to grow up and be criminals. Simple as that. Case closed. Next.
But there’s no political agenda here. Whatever your beliefs, you’re sure to be going “No way!” and “What the F!#$!???” throughout this book. Another example:
Let’s say you’re the parent of a small child. You have a swimming pool in the yard and a gun in the house. Now, which item do you think is more of a danger to your child, the pool or the gun? …drumroll… Your child is one hundred times more likely to drown in your backyard pool than to be killed by your gun.
Ouch! How many belief systems just got shattered? This book is full of surprises like this. Freakonomics is the science of examining the conventional wisdom, the popularly accepted ideas of the day. Sometimes the conventional wisdom passes the test; other times it gets turned on its head.
As the authors say, this book won’t change your life. It won’t make you more successful or more popular. But it’ll change your perceptions in little ways. You’ll find stories in the news that remind you of something from the book. You’ll be watching TV or a movie and one of the characters — or a certain event or type of interaction — will have you thinking “this is straight out of Freakonomics.”
It’s well worth reading.