Book Review: Super Freakonomics

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

Super Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is a interesting and entertaining follow-on to the original Freakonomics. The underlying theme, that we (as humans) respond to incentives in every action we take, really struck a chord with me. The authors were able to apply that to each of their cases, including the cover topics such as Global Cooling, prostitution and terrorism.

There is one section where the authors chronicle the evolution of our understanding of Altruism. I especially liked this explanation, because it shows how statistical methodology can “evolve” (read: be fixed) over time. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that over the years, research has uncovered what incentives (there it is again!) drive altruistic behavior. You may already know some of those answers, but one or two may surprise you.

What’s great about this book:
If you like thinking outside the box (or pick your own term), this is a book that really challenges your mentality. The authors go to great lengths to look at multiple sides of their chosen issues, and make sure that the reader understands what drove the desire to accomplish the research, how the methods were or were not ideal, and why the statistics don’t always mean what they seem to mean.

Limiting Factors:
Going in, these topics may not be ones you would pick if you were to “ask the economist”. However, once you read (or hear on the CD version) how the authors use these examples to explain concepts that you may not have realized impact your daily life.
One of the examples was the same as one I read in What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. Not surprising that the authors are fans and even mention another work, The Tipping Point.
You may get mad at the federal government, depending on your disposition toward child seat manufacturers and crash test facilities.

Recommendations:
If you read the first book, I probably don’t have to say anything except “duh” to buying this one. If not, that is okay. You don’t have to read the first book to understand this one. I would recommend that you go to the local library and pick up the first book, though. It would be worth it.  

Important note: If you read the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see (at least some) examples of people with a certain point of view not appreciating the authors point of view. What I find amazing is that their own reviews selectivly leave out the author’s assertions that some of these statistics are not a definitive source, but are no worse than many of the statistics driving the decisions we and our government already make. Keep an open mind, and you’ll enjoy this book. 

Rob’s Rating system (bolded, the rating is)
Buy now at full price
Buy if you get a discount
Wait for the paperback
Wait for someone else to be done with the paperback
If you’ve read my review, you got the jist of it

One comment
  1. Couldn’t agree more. Leavitt is slightly more nerdy than I am, but only slightly. We all need our heroes, and he is one of mine, although I have no head for numbers, economics, and my fashion sense is dreadful. Awesome review!

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