When to Rob a Bank: A Rogue Economist’s Guide to the World

By Steven D. Levitt

Rating: 2 stars

As with any anthology book, this was a bit of a curate’s egg. This is Levitt and Dubner raiding the archives of their Freakonomics blog, picking what they consider to be the choicest morsels and compiling them for our reading pleasure. Unfortunately, one man’s morsel is another man’s pebble. Reading the essays, the main problem that I had was that many of them were too short. They were preliminary ideas that hadn’t been thought out properly yet and developed into a decent argument for the reader (something that the longer segments of Freakonomics did well. I also had a personal problem with many of the pieces that Levitt wrote (the authors identify who wrote each entry, as, unlike the books, they don’t write the blog posts together), as his politics is very far removed from mine.

And I guess that’s where a lot of my issues with the book came in. Some of the ideas being espoused seem ill thought out, plain stupid or dangerous. These include getting rid of tenure, abolishing the NHS (a particular favourite!) and letting people pay for additional votes in elections. I appreciate that some of these were designed to promote debate, but stripped of the comments that may have gone along with the blog they often sound like a slightly crazed man shouting at the world. These were mostly clustered around the first section (“We Were Only Trying to Help”), to which my response might be, “just don’t”.

Dubner seems more measured in many of his posts and sometimes it has interesting things to say. But overall, I’d say stick with the more deeply thought out books and just browse the blog online.

Book details

ISBN: 9780141980966
Publisher: Allen Lane
Year of publication: 2015

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Steven D. Levitt

Rating: 4 stars

This was a very interesting book. Economist Steven Levitt has spent his career applying the tools of economic theory to the Real World and coming up with interesting questions to ask, and even more interesting answers. Some of the questions he asks include: why do drug dealers often live at home with their mothers? What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common? And what really caused the downturn in crime in the US in the late ’90s? The last one is perhaps the most controversial of the lot: Levitt suggests that it had more to do with legalised abortion than the ‘zero tolerance’ policing approach of then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Whilst I may not necessarily agree with all of Levitt’s conclusions, his approach is undoubtedly novel and he certainly provides new perspectives on issues that affect the real world much more than economics is normally perceived to do.

Book details

ISBN: 9780141019017
Publisher: Penguin
Year of publication: 2005

Powered by WordPress