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Freakonomics Review

by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics is a fun little book that asked unconventional questions like "Is a gun or swimming pool more dangerous?", "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?", etc. It studies the data using scientific and economics methods, then present us often surprising results. It is fun because it seeks questions with great curiosity and creativity. It is surprising because it shows a lot of conventional wisdom are actually wrong. The motto - morality represents the way people would like the world to work, whereas economics represents how it actually does work.

The most provocative story is no doubt the chapter on abortion. What causes the dramatic decline in crime rate across US since the 90s? The media cite all the usual suspects. Better economy, more police, more prisons, etc. Studies show they make only minor contribution at best. The real factor is the legalization of abortion since the 70s, Steven said. Without the abortion many of these children would otherwise born into households least capable to raise them. Eventually a disproportional number of them will turn into criminals. Abortion in effect greatly shrink the pool of potential criminals. If you think about this, it makes intuitive sense. Yet no press would even mention this as a factor (I first heard about this theory from this book).

Above all it shows that we can understand the world using objective, scientific method as oppose to the rhetorical reasoning that is all too common these days.

2006.12.13 [] - comments



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