Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Book 35: Freakonomics

Title: Freakonomics -- A Rogue Economist
Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Who wrote it:
Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Whom I borrowed it from: Queens Library (Forest Hills)

What is it about:
A collection of analysis & social studies
about various social phenomena,
which are written based on an economist's
point of view / research method.
Non-traditional questions are asked
in an economist's way:
- What do School teachers &
Sumo Wrestlers have in common?
- Why do drug dealers still
live with their moms?
- Does parenting matter at all?
etc. : )

What went through my mind:
- Economics was one of the subjects
i dreaded the most back in h/s
(next to Math & Accounting),
but this book presents such a refreshing
approach to the subject matter,
and demonstrates so well, just
how practical & useful Econ can be : )

- It's a well-written book with a cohesive theme,
despite its claim to be lacking of one.
This book is like nothing i've ever
read before : 0 in a good way.

- The only let down i felt,
was that the authors' research doesn't
live up to the Book's(/subject's) title.
Indeed, the issues they discuss
don't have much to do with finance / numbers,
hence the not-so-traditional side of Econ;
Yet at the same time, what they explore
are common social-related questions,
which makes me feel that the word FREAK
is not appropriately coined.

Favorite Quotes:
- "... just because two things
are correlated does not mean
that one causes the other
." (Pg. 11)

- "Morality... represents the way
that people would like the world to work --
whereas economics represents how
it actually does work
." (Pg. 15)

- "An incentive is a bullet, a lever,
a key: an often tiny object
with astonishing power to
change a situation.
We all learn to respond to incentives,
negative and positive,
from the outset of life...
An incentive is simply a means
of urging people to do more of a
good thing and less of a bad thing.
" (Pg. 22-23)

- "Who cheats? Well, just about anyone,
if the stakes are right...
Cheating is a primordial economic act:
getting more for less
." (Pg. 29-30)

- "... people respond strongly to
strong incentives... there are few
incentives more powerful than
the fear of random violence
..." (Pg. 78)

- "... as emotions go,
one of them -- fear -- is more potent
than the rest.

Fear is in fact a major component
of the act of parenting
." (Pg. 197)

- "... it isn't so much a matter of what
you do as a parent; it's who you are
." (Pg. 237)

What came out of this:
*Lessons learned:
A) Incentives = A powerful tool
B) Fear is one of the strongest incentives
C) When analyzing issues, pay attention
to the distinction between causality & correlation.
D) Conventional wisdom is sometimes
believed out of convenience & laziness.
E) Who we are matter a lot more
than what we do.

Why Should you read it, too?
This book would encouage you to think more,
be curious, ask questions, & find the answers
in an organized, analytical way --
it's a good mental exercise for you! ; )

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