Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Freakonomics

December 20th, 2005


I finished reading this book quite some time back, but hadn't really had the time to get out a real review on it. I still don't, but I'm going to write something quick anyhow.

Freakonomics is one of the most fascinating pieces of nonfiction writing I've ever read. As the title suggests, the book deals with economics, but only in the broadest of senses. If I remember the subtitle correctly, it reads, "A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" -- and that just about sums it up. Of course, the book is far too short to cover everything, but it manages to range from the safety of swimming pools vs. guns, to the societal impact of abortion, to the organizational structure (and social impact) of crack gangs, to Sumo wrestling. In a book this scattered, it's hard to come away with a central message, though one sticks out -- beware of people bearing statistics. Although statistics can be powerful tools, the authors showed how they can be tremendously deceptive as well. And this bring up another major point of the book -- correlation does not demonstrate causation. Just because two (or more) events occur in the same vicinity or near the same time does not mean that one caused the other. And when one did cause the other, sometimes it's not the one you think. These aren't the only points of the book, but the powerful demonstration of both of these made the book worthwhile on their own. Although I don't find myself in agreement with every conclusion reached by the writers, the book made me think at every point, and informed me on practically every page. For anyone with an interest in politics or how society works, this book should be a must-read. In fact, I'd be a lot happier with the political and social scene in our country if every voter took the time to read this book and think through what it has to say.

2 Comments:

At 12:40 AM, Blogger Will said...

Great book, indeed. It showed a lot of brains (and willingness to use them in unconventional ways).

I'm glad you're on blogger now, Minister: I can reply without selling my firstborn to MSN.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Minister said...

Thanks for dropping by! I'll try to finish getting this joint fixed up soon.

Incidentally, I think I heard on the rumor mill that Levitt was working on another book. Could be wrong, though; you hear all sorts of things in a bookstore.

 

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