Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Freakonomics

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.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jolly Roger said...

Bill "Seven Come Eleven" Bennett put a similar theory forward, only he drew a racial distinction.

I'm not convinced, since I am assuming that this study simply overlooks the "baby boom" among legal and illegal immigrants.

October 17, 2006 at 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read it last year and it was a good book.
kind of like if John Stossel was well researched and didn't have an obvious agenda.

as for the abortion thing, remember something very interesting in that chapter.
in Romania when then made abortion illegal and birth control harder to get, the country went into the shithole almost immediately.

October 17, 2006 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger OTTMANN said...

"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."


Would you believe: Millions of liberals killing their offspring... simple as that!

Morons.

October 17, 2006 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: It's hard to tell. The authors sure had some interesting takes on a variety of subjects. I'm not "convinced" of any particular finding of theirs (I don't convince easily), but it's an interesting science they've come up with: using rigorous scientific methods to come up with answers to socio/political questions. Who knows, they may end up in the same category as all those “scientific” health studies. One day, coffee causes cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes and communism. Three days later, coffee is the world’s greatest anti-oxidant and everybody should drink at least 47 cups a day.

Only time will tell.

Mike: Yup, I remember that about Romania — the same cycle in reverse. What a sick-ass country they were (up until what’s-his-name’s torture-murder in 1989). Not only were abortion and birth control illegal, but everyone was legally required to chip in on birthday and Christmas presents for the “ruling” family. (Endless jackoff fantasies for Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz.) And this was probably the poorest country in Europe. They not only had a sky-high crime rate, but they also probably set world records for hatred and prejudice. (I found that out from a book called “Bury Me Standing” about crimes and prejudices against Gypsies in present-day Eastern Europe.)

Ottman: OK, I see you. Buh bye now.

October 17, 2006 at 11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

otto, you're such a fucking moron.

first of all, it's not "liberals killing their babies".
for every 20 year old Berkeley student that got knocked up on accident and had an abortion, we could find the same number of daughters of east coast blue bloods shuffled off in the quiet by their republican daddies for abortions.
you fucking idiot.

the truth, as hard as it is for you to take is that:

abortion must remain safe and legal.
birth control must remain easy to get for all and in my mind should be free for anyone.
we have to have sex education for every single person in this country that needs it so they know ALL the truth and the consequences.

simpletons like you don't understand simple realities, and in the same breath worry about "killing babies" while hundreds of thousands of innocent people are getting bombed in Iraq.
got hypocricy?

October 18, 2006 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Eeeeeeew, the "S" word ("Stossel", that is!!)

Thanks for writing about this book. I have always thought it was about economics. Now I may actually have to read it! Heh!

By the way, if anyone thinks it is only "liberals" who have abortions, they are wrong. If anyone thinks that only "liberals" are "pro-choice", they are again wrong. I don't like abortions, and I am a leftist. Go figure!

Sweeping generalizations are simply a fallacy, nothing more. And fallacy is what politicians and talk radio hosts are masters at... it's amazing how so many of us get sucked in. I probably used several fallacies of argument in the previous paragraph! 8-)>

"Would you believe: Millions of liberals killing their offspring... simple as that!"

Would you believe: Millions of Republicans preserving every fetus... and then not giving a crap about them once they're born! Simple as that!

How compassionate.

October 18, 2006 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike: Yeah, you tell him. I don’t usually waste time arguing with imbeciles. If somebody has something constructive to say, I’m happy to debate and discuss things. But mindless spewing — I’m just not gonna bother answering. But you told him off good. (He probably gets off on it.)

It’s unreal how many people think the human fetus is this grand sacred being, and then once the baby is born: “OK, you’re on your own now. Run along.” Thousands killed in Iraq — ho hum. But don’t harm that fetus! Aaaarrrrrggghhh!!! Too many simpletons out there.

Snave: I agree that abortion should be only used as a last resort. But that means birth control, including the morning-after pill, needs to be widely available. And it’s true that this issue cuts across party lines. A lot of Catholics are Democrats because they want a safety net, and they’re also opposed to abortion and birth control. I had a friend a long time ago who was a militant atheist and he was opposed to abortion. Go figure. It’s a very personal issue, which is all the more reason why the government needs to stay out of it.

October 18, 2006 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger BaxterWatch said...

to chime in on the abortion thing...

instead of legislating the act, how about doing something about the REASON women have abortions. If unmarried women weren't ostracized, if adoption were celebrated and cheered on publicly, then perhaps many women would not feel the need to have an abortion.

You want to solve the issue? Find out and address the cause.

word.

Stossel did a brief thing on Freakanomics, but he didn't touch on the more controversal items. Must find this book.

October 19, 2006 at 5:55 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Baxterwatch: You've got it, that's the solution for abortion. But wingnuts don't want to look for underlying causes; they just want to lash out at the symptom. Christian types talk about adoption a lot, but the reality is that most adoptable babies are non-white and/or from poor families. And everybody wants to adopt a blonde blue-eyed baby from a "good" family.

Freakonomics is definitely a good read.

October 19, 2006 at 1:02 PM  

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