Book Review: Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner


Reviewed by Bruce Rhodes


Thought-provoking, entertaining book


Freakonomics presents a lot of thinking outside the box, and is unlike any other book I’ve read. It is a great exercise in challenging ‘conventional wisdom’, and trying to see reality, i.e. to see what is really there, rather than ‘see’ what we would like or want to see, as it relates to many issues in our society. The tendency of the book to surprise the reader while informing her|him, bears a resemblance to Michael Moore’s books Stupid White Men and Dude, Where’s My Country?, but with greater objectivity, and without the political agenda that Moore’s writing embodies. (Please don’t get the wrong idea: I recommend Moore’s books, too, but for different reasons.)


The book is highly informative, and often humorous in clever, unexpected ways.


The findings and conclusions presented in the book trace to a lot of hard and detailed research work conducted by both the author and a number of other persons. As someone with university economics courses under my belt, and with a working knowledge of market research and probability & statistics, I did my best to cast a critical eye on author Steven Levitt’s inferences from his analyses of the numbers which, he says, “do not lie”; for the most part I was comfortable with Levitt’s conclusions, and there was only one instance where I felt that an inference he was trying to make was only weakly supported by his presentation of research results.


Other reviewers of this book have criticized the author for his alleged views on abortion. To me, it is clear that Levitt, if he indeed has a personal position on the subject, does not state or promote that position.


In summary, I recommend this book to inquiring minds everywhere. I don’t believe the book over-promises anything. The reader, however, needs to be prepared to have her or his view of the status quo, and of the content and value of ‘conventional wisdom’, shaken up to some extent.