Monday, November 23, 2009

I, Expert of Nothing, Weigh in on SuperFreakonomics

I was and am a big fan of Freakonomics, except for the interludes that came out of the New York Times Magazine article. It's one field where I was glad other folks rushed to market with me-to product. I read much of that and liked it too.

Well, there actually was one book that I thought was pretty junky. In it, folks would write in problems and the book would have answers that used economic theory to answer them.

Problem 1--These answers were not based on studies but on personal reasoning. I can come up with answers too, but if I don't come up with proof that the answers are correct, than who cares?

Problem 2--The answers were not written by the author, but by the author's students. He just edited them.

Honestly, how was this book reviewed seriously? How did it get a follow up? Blame my cowardice on not listing the title or author.

So now Superfreakonomics is in. Authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner ofter lots of juicy material on finding terrorists and alternatives to dominant theory on global warming effects and cures. Fascinating tidbits on Sudhir Venkatesh's new work on the economics of prostitution. Interesting studies on altruism, and am a big fan of cheap and simple fixes. I did enjoy reading it. Was amused that both Levitt/Dubner and Malcolm Gladwell were chasing the same research of one particular scientist.


Caveat 1--I understand hiding footnotes in the back, but I wish the author's had more often at least cited the scientists involved in the studies. There's an implication that more work is Levitt's than is actually the case.

Caveat 2--At 200 pages, this was way too short! Especially if you are exploring other folks work, why can't we have more? I was left very hungry for another chapter or two.

Caveat 3--Come speak at Milwaukee (2 hours north, maybe 2.5 if you live by the University of Chicago) and let me sell books. I am hungry for a big event and have no pride about begging.

1 comment:

Daniel Goldin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.