Undergraduate Economist

Perspectives of an economics student

Freakonomics in the morgue?

Posted by Alex M Thomas on August 21st, 2006

Freakonomics has become a cultural phenomenon and here in India, the book is always associated to good economics. Is it so?

Look at what Ariel Rubenstein has to say:

“Describe Freakonomics as a typical work of academic imperialism. Furthermore, Freakonomics expresses the aspiration to expand economics to encompass any question that requires the use of common sense.”

“What have we learned about Levitt? He is a smart guy with connections in the municipality. What is the connection to economics? None.”- On Levitt’s tales of the big city.

“Like prostitutes, the skill required of economists is “not necessarily ‘specialized’”

“Levitt is correct when he says: “Information asymmetries everywhere have in fact been mortally wounded by the Internet.” (68) The curious reader can roam the Net and discover, for example, that there are some who harbor doubts regarding the (superfluous) story about the fellow who claimed to have defeated the Ku Klux Klan using a trivial tactic.”

“The grocer wages a struggle for survival against the big supermarket chains and hopes for a large bill. The economist struggles for his professional advancement and wants his findings to confirm his hypothesis. In economics, there is no tradition of checking data and repeating experiments.”

“This is perhaps the central contradiction in the book: On one hand, a recognition of the limitations of statistics, and on the other hand, using it as a magician’s box.”

“Who knows, maybe Levitt, who exposed cheating teachers in Chicago, will succeed in catching terrorists through the databases of rental car companies. But if he does, it will not be due to his professional skill as an economist but due to his personal talent.”

To read his Freak Freakonomics fully, go here.

Please post your Freaky comments too!

12 Responses to “Freakonomics in the morgue?”

  1. bvn Says:

    didnt like the book , it was some kind of storytelling . i liked jairam ramesh’s kautilya compilation more (though both were abt different things ) and as the critique said ‘not all facts are facts’ – that if true was pretty cheap.

  2. alexmthomas Says:

    I too did not consider the book as something great. It is known that economics can be applied to explain many of the happenings around us. Thus the work cannot be seen in high regard in relation to Economics.
    However, it forms a very important part of the collection of economics books with students. I wonder why? The book is famous but not much good economics is present.

  3. Sreejith Kumar Says:

    New info! The comparison to prostitutes was interesting!!

  4. harsha Says:

    on a light note, it’s not for serious economic lovers.
    I hold ecopy of the whole book as it is, interested may place a request.

  5. alexmthomas Says:

    A very few ‘serious economics lovers’ understand that Freakonomics is not a great work in Economics.

  6. Gaurav Jain Says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this book since a long time (after having heard loads about it)… hoping to read something interesting anyway!

  7. ankan Says:

    Actually, Freakonomics is not really a great book. I lost it after some time. It seems to assume that the readers are not very intelligent and goes on to make grandiose claims based on very very flimsy evidences. It can give a good kick, but won’t make you any wiser.

    If you really want to read a book on economics which is easily readable by laymen and still gives you good insight into how economics really drives the society, read “The Undercover Economist”. It is funny in parts as well and is much better than Freakonomics!

  8. alexmthomas Says:

    Yeah, i agree with your view about the book. And The undercover economist is better than Freakonomics.
    And Levitt assumes that there is a lot of distance between the readers and himself.

  9. alexmthomas Says:

    Read Tim Chapman’s review here.

  10. Kuttan Says:

    I have the book and I should say I liked. It might not have any realy value for an economist. But what it has done is to bring econmics to the common man and explained how economic theory and research can be applied to every life. I guess in that way it was successful. It probably will be the top of the list of economics related books read by common man. It definitely wont make it any of the economics class rooms or wont have any value in any hardcore economics research.

  11. alexmthomas Says:

    Definitely Freakonomics will be liked by most. It explains ‘everyday life’ in terms of economics which fascinates many. But my point is that, economics can be used as a tool to explain almost all things happening in the world. Another book which you probably would like is Tim Harford’s ‘The Undercover economist’. Harford’s book delves into a bit more of economics.

  12. Krishna Says:

    Alex, thanks for the link. Interesting stuff.

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