Review: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Editorial Review - - Robert Finn

The authors of this wideranging and unconventional book seem almost proud to announce that it has no single unifying theme. It is, they proclaim in their subtitle, about "everything." Dare a humble book reviewer suggest that they are wrong? One motif that runs consistently through their book is a disdain and skepticism about "experts" in general whether pollsters, real estate agents, law ... Read full review

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User Review  - xiaomarlo -

It's like a Malcolm Gladwell book, but written by economists -- it's definitely got that asshole quality about it where they're like "we're just looking at the numbers! we're the only ones being ... Read full review

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User Review  - cavernism -

Interesting enough that I got through it pretty quickly, but each chapter was kind of ..unsatisfying. I wasn't shocked or awed by many hypotheses or "revelations" put forth, and I don't know if I came ... Read full review

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A mixture of naiive psychology (the child care research is a good example of circular logic and empty explanations) and "shocking", yet "brilliant" conclusions.
In fact, this books main accomplishment is complete ignorance of philosophy of mind since Descartes and any interesting psychological science research - even the popular stuff.
A poor man's "Armchair Economisr"

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It's a good read. Let's you get into the mind of an economist. That's fun. How he uses math and probability and stuff to figure out past events and also possibly predict the future. It lacks a central theme but the stories are generally fun to read and ultimately about economics so that's great. I liked the way it was written, very honest, however, I think that it could be less wordy. Also the book doesn't have any sub-headings in it's chapters - which i find, makes it not easily navigable. Like you can't really pick the different highlights of the chapter because it's just one big prose with no real navigation points. :) 

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required reading if you study economics and if you wan't to know how hidden economic works

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I read this book a good four years after it was first published and quickly became a 'cult' bestseller. I found it an excellent read. It makes you think about and question what appears at the outset to be true.
So, what is the book about? If there is a unifying theme in this book, it is that you must explore the hidden side of things. It constantly takes the contrarian position and analyses accepted wisdom. The authors themselves sum up their book beautifully in the introduction as follows:
The book is based on the following fundamental ideas:
Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life.
The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
Dramatic effects often have distant and subtle causes.
'Experts' use their informational advantage to further their own agenda.
Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world less so.
The authors demonstrate all these ideas by taking concrete everyday occurrences in society and unveiling the hidden side of all these phenomenon. For example, they show that:
in elections, the amount of money spent by the candidates hardly matters in the eventual result.
the rapid decline in crime across the US since the early 1990s has mostly to do with a law in favor of abortion enacted in the country twenty years before.
real estate agents often sell their clients a little short compared to what they do when it comes to selling their own properties.
most street level drug dealers live at home with their moms because they don't make enough to live on their own.
and so on......
The main point the authors make is that 'data' is more important than statements and pronouncements. I enjoyed reading it very much. The book has generated much controversy, criticism and trashing not to speak of great accolades during the past four years. The authors themselves are at pains to point out that one must question everything including the conclusions in the book.
The book deserves its reputation as a bestseller.

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Wonderful insight on life through statistics...

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Imagine for a minute a parent buys a new car seat. They opt for the most expense one with a 6 point safety harness almost roll cage type characteristics. The head off and have it installed by an expert. "Theirs is a gesture of love, surely, but also a gesture of what might be called obsessive parenting. (Obsessive parents know who they are and are generally proud of the fact; non-obsessive parents also know who the obsessive parents are and tend to snicker at them)"
And with that quote I introduce the book Freakonomics. It is a book that looks at how we act verses the data. A child is more likely to die in you neighbours pool than if you purchase a cheaper car seat. It explores the myth of how much money drug dealers make, attributes a drop in crime with the legislation of abortion in the US, and investigates how teachers cheat to improve the schools performance.
It also looks at what makes a perfect parent (from a statistical viewpoint), and highlights some things statistically that matter and don't matter as far as your child getting ahead.
4 things that matter:
The child's parents are highly educated.
The child's mother was 30 or older at the time of the first child's birth.
The child's parents are involved in the PTA.
The child has many books in her home.
4 things that don't matter:
The child's parents moved into a better neighbourhood.
The child frequently watches TV.
The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten.
The child's parents read to her nearly every day.
I'll leave it to you to read and consider these things for yourself.
My key lesson: Correct analysis of numbers and data can turn up a heap of facts that I have never before considered.

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User Review  - Eoin -

The two authors each had half a book. Interesting books, but only halves. Fun, easy, interesting, overrated. Worth it for Orangejello. Read full review

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