Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner)


Several months after everyone I knew was reading this book I’ve finally gotten around to it. I’m surprised its taken me this long because, as I mentioned before, Malcolm Gladwell raves about this book and Malcolm’s books have given me some of my most engaging conversations over beers at the pub (I was going to say dinner party conversations, but … eh, I don’t have dinner parties and rarely get invited to them… I’m going to cling to the theory that its because I’m too young! Wishful thinking I think).

Anyway, rambling aside. Yep, I definitely enjoyed this book. I enjoy this kind of writing. Its easy enough to read on the bus (even when standing up).

From the outset the authors promise that there won’t really be any unifying theme to the book, what is unifying is their approach to a range of different questions around society that will be more or less interesting to different people. Questions around whether sumo wrestlers cheat I found less interesting, but the relationship between the Roe v Wade decision and the massive drop in the crime rate in the US I found intriguing. Other more practical matters addresses such as how real estate agents try to rip you off, also worth reading.

My biggest take away from the book (and this is from someone who only just got a pass in the only economics subject she ever took, so economic theory is not my bag by any means) – the power of the incentive. This is, ultimately, what everything in the book comes down to in the end. Our behaviour is almost entirely driven by our assessment of the incentive (or conversely, the disincentive) to behave in a particular way. Once we recognise those incentives, we should have a much greater insight into why people behave the way they do. This, of course, is no where near as simple as I just made it sound!

This is not a book that will change your world but it has, in just a small way, changed the way I evaluate mine.

Thumbs up!

What I’m currently reading on the bus: I just started today The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. The Independent says: ‘Singlehandedly, de Boton has taken philosophy back to its simplest and most important purpose: helping us to live our lives’. Yeah…. I don’t know. So far he’s taken all the shine off holidaying in Barbados for me and I’m finding him almost overwhelmingly depressing…. Stay tuned for when (or if!) I finish reading.