Freakonomics is a popular press showcase for the research of Steve Levitt, who won the 2003 John Bates Clark medal for being the best US Economist under 40). In his academic research, Levitt applies the statistical tools and logic of economics to understand human behavior on a wide range of topics. Although the book is upfront about having no systematic theme, its main message is that careful, non-ideological analyses can, indeed, yield fundamental (and sometimes counterintuitive) insights into economic behavior and social problems. Levitt's analysis often point out the subtle (and sometimes insidious) nature of incentives and the potential for experts to take advantage of their inside information to achieve personal gain.
The book is read by Stephen Dubner, whose ability to translate Levitt's research into everyday language is a major contribution. Although it is Dubner's voice on the Audiobook, it is clearly Levitt's passion for data and desire to 'let the data speak' that brings each chapter to life.
Although the authors do not draw the comparison explicitly in the book, the contrast between Levitt's systematic analysis of complex problems and the simple-minded approaches of Cable TV pundits is very clear.
For anyone who ever thought that an Econ class might be interesting, the book is terrific. In fact, the book is great for anyone with even a passing interest in social science (like sociology) or public policy.
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