In Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner turn a spotlight on to some touchy areas – abortion, crack dealers, parenting, the KKK, cheating by school teachers, guns in homes. They present a view that if you remove the lens of morality and how things “should be”, many phenomena can be explained through basic economic principles. I couldn’t agree more. Yet the book is in a word, lightweight. A little over 200 hundred pages and presented in large, easy-to-read print, Freakonomics can be read in a couple of hours. And if you understand anything about economics that you could pick up in a college survey class, you won’t be that surprised by their analysis. I can only think that the reason this book has been on the NYT best seller list is because most people don’t understand the basic tenets of economics.
The author’s assertion that a main contributor to the falling crime rates across the country in the mid 90s was due to unwanted babies not being born twenty years earlier will rankle many, especially conservative Catholics and right-to-lifers. This is not a new theory, nor would I guess Levitt the first person to think of it when his paper on the subject was published in 2001. However, the popularity of Freakonomics may be was gets this theory more out into the mainstream and collective consciousness of this country. By the way, although Levitt presents his theory on crime and abortion almost as if it is “the truth”, it is not a fact, but a theory, albeit one with compelling evidence and arguments.
All in all I was amused and intrigued by much of what is presented in this book but think that it could and should have been twice as long given the cost of the book.