Freakonomics: More Freak than Nomics


Freakonomics proudly proclaims in its introduction, and again in its conclusion, that it is a book without a unified theme. This being the case, telling your reader there is no unifying theme (re: point) does not make this lack in any way… okay. While I enjoyed the disparate sections of the book for their confident tone, measured pace and didactic, (albeit sometimes overly hand-holding) explanations of everyday phenomena, I found the overall absence of an argument/organizing idea/central question to be frustrating and perplexing.

I am bothered by a book that claims to be about looking for relationships between far-fetched phenomena when it is really about an author having noticed two similar phenomena, having deduced plausible explanations, then grouped the two things together only to claim that the deductions came about as a result of novel questioning (questions like: what do a drug dealer and a sumo wrestler and an aborted fetus have in common?). Novel questioning might better be thought of as something like this: what makes this book without a theme, or apparent point, a bestseller?

Further minor complaints: “economists” are credited with doing much of the work of sociologists; cause-and-effect is not the same thing as “incentive” based decision making; causality and correlations often mysteriously swap when the given example requires.

Minor praise: a collaborative book always impresses me.


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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Book I'll Forget I Read

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