The subtitle of Freakonomics claims it “explores the hidden side of everything.” It was first recommended to me some time ago by a right-wing podiatrist as he was scalpeling warts out of the sole of my foot.
Authors Stephen Leavitt & Stepehen Dubner offer up a volume that is really about basic critical thinking, though it does make it clear how easy it is to get screwed when you don’t know everything and how impossible it is to know everything. Like the fact that you might assume it is in your real estate agent’s best interest to get the highest possible price for your house. Not so, after a certain amount of time on the market, the price you’ll get will appreciate by a small per centage, a small enough per centage that it is to the agent’s interest to unload it early because the commission realized by waiting is too small to make it worth it. Sell for $303, 000 instead of $3,000 and you make $3,000. However, she makes only 6% of that. $180. Not much more than the $1800 she makes on the lower price.
And so on. The most explosive of their arguments have to do with the relationship between abortion and crime. Basically, it appears that more abortion may reduce violent crime. I was convinced, but you need to check it our yourself.
There are lots of similar stories, including a boring section on the statistics of names. Let it be said that the authors have the decency to make only modest claims for their work:
Will the ability to think such thoughts improve your life materially? Probably not. … The most likely effect of reading this book [is that] you may find yourself asking a lot of questions.
True. And that would be all to the good in this knee jerk ideological society. This is an easy read, and could be a valuable one.