Monday, October 04, 2010

New Book of the Month: Freakonomics

In honor of the release of the movie Freakonomics, based loosely on the best-selling book from 2005, our book of the month for October is Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

This fascinating book, mostly through the relatively new practice of "data mining", takes a fresh look at the macro-and-micro-economics of everyday life and finds some amazing correlations between, for example, cheating sumo wrestlers (yes, they do exist) and cheating teachers in the Chicago school system, between crack dealers at the street level and burger flippers at McDonald's, and how 1973's SCOTUS Roe v. Wade abortion decision led to the precipitous and otherwise statistically unexplainable drop in crime rates in the 1990s.

It's a far-reaching and far-ranging look at a whole bunch of stuff that we take for granted, such as conventional wisdom and false-paradigm logic and the media manipulation of information which serves to put up false incentives to manipulate people to behave in a certain way.

I literally could not put it down. I read it in one day (admittedly at only 352 pages it's not that long) but I was so engrossed in it yesterday that I ended up paying a neighbor kid to mow my lawn. (Not that I needed any incentive in that direction -- that grass was really long...)

Withe election season upon us, this book ought to be required reading for anyone who wants to be a more informed voter who will take the talking points of the self-appointed "experts" with a grain of salt.