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Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. For example, Levitt traces the drop in violent crime rates to a drop in violent criminals and, digging further, to the Roe v. Wade decision that preempted the existence of some people who would be born to poverty and hardship. Elsewhere, by analyzing data gathered from inner-city Chicago drug-dealing gangs, Levitt outlines a corporate structure much like McDonald's, where the top bosses make great money while scores of underlings make something below minimum wage. And in a section that may alarm or relieve worried parents, Levitt argues that parenting methods don't really matter much and that a backyard swimming pool is much more dangerous than a gun. These enlightening chapters are separated by effusive passages from Dubner's 2003 profile of Levitt in The New York Times Magazine, which led to the book being written. In a book filled with bold logic, such back-patting veers Freakonomics, however briefly, away from what Levitt actually has to say. Although maybe there's a good economic reason for that too, and we're just not getting it yet. --John Moe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
please take it with a grain of salt.
the second book 'superfreakanomics' was also widely read and has serious issues with it's position on global warming. from wikipedia:
Global warming section
Information in the fifth chapter of the book about global warming proposes that the global climate can be regulated by geo-engineering of a stratoshield based upon patented technology from Nathan Myhrvold's company Intellectual Ventures.
The chapter has been criticized by some economists and climate science experts who say it contains numerous misleading statements and discredited arguments, including this presentation of geoengineering as a replacement for CO2 emissions reduction. Among the critics are Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, The Guardian, and The Economist. Elizabeth Kolbert, a science writer for The New Yorker who has written extensively on global warming, contends that "just about everything they [Levitt and Dubner] have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong."
In response, Levitt and Dubner have stated on their Freakonomics blog that global warming is man-made and an important issue.
Joseph Romm said that SuperFreakonomics had seriously misrepresented the position of climate scientist Ken Caldeira; the book says among other things, that Caldeira's research tells him CO2 is "not the right villain", an assertion Caldeira strongly disputes.
Caldeira has commented
“ I believe all of the ideas attributed to me are based on fact, with the exception of the ‘carbon dioxide is not the right villain’ line. That said, when I am speaking, I place these facts in a very different context and draw different policy conclusions.... I believe the authors to have worked in good faith. They draw different conclusions than I draw from the same facts, but as authors of the book, that is their prerogative. ”
Dubner responded that with hindsight the line describing Ken Caldeira overstated his position, but stated that Caldeira had been sent a preview of the text and had approved it.
Caldeira has acknowledged that he did receive the preview, but disagreed that the errors were his responsibility: "I feel no need to read, fact check, or make detailed comments on documents that arrive in my in-box. I have lots of other things to do, like trying to get my science out the door." As it transpired, Dubner had been apprised of Caldeira's objection to the "right villain" assertion, but did not delete the line as Caldeira expected, although Caldeira believes this was due to a good faith misunderstanding."
Nov 17 2010, 23:32 CET
Some guy named Nathan Myhrvold has patented and owns a technology that can save the earth - if there was an example of copyrights are immoral, this would be it!
Nov 18 2010, 01:59 CET
Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb has a good critique of 'Freakonomics' found here:
Nov 18 2010, 10:35 CET