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

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