SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
From Russel Miller, for About.com
SuperFreakonomics is the sequel to the bestseller, Freakonomics. Like the original, it is a provocative collection of surprising stories and observations. It may seem like a random grab bag with no unifying themes; however, SuperFreakonomics consistently stresses the importance of incentives and unintended consequences. It also attempts to understand how the world works, not how we wish it would function. The analysis is sometimes dubious and the conclusions overstated. Ultimately, if you liked the original, you’ll enjoy SuperFreakonomics.
- 'SuperFreakonomics' is chock full of fascinating and informative examples and anecdotes.
- The writing is witty and easy for anyone to read.
- The book makes bold conclusions that are often not thoroughly substantiated.
- 'SuperFreakonomics' was published in October 2009.
- Publisher: HarperCollins
- 288 pages
Guide Review - SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - Book Review
SuperFreakonomics tells fascinating and informative anecdotes. Pimps and real estate agents both match buyers and sellers, but pimps add more value. Prostitution has declined over the years not because society has become more moral, but because more women have sex for free. During holidays the demand for sex rises and so does the supply with many part time prostitutes entering the workforce. You may not be able to recognize a terrorist by simply looking at a person, but a fairly reliable terrorist profile exists.
Unifying this seemingly random collection of observations are the themes that incentives matter and unintended consequences are commonplace. When estate taxes are raised, old people with estates tend to die immediately before the higher taxes go into place and when taxes are lowered, they often die just after the cuts go into effect. While some may donate organs for altruistic purposes, those countries that rely on this lose thousands of lives to organ shortages, whereas those that compensate organ giving don’t have wait lists.
While fascinating, SuperFreakonomics does make conclusions on tenuous evidence. It starts with a comparison of drunk walking and drunk driving. It makes a series of assumptions and guesses, makes a few back of the envelope calculations, then concludes "a drunk walker is eight times more likely to get killed than a drunk driver." The original Freakonomics made bold claims on dubious evidence that have since been discredited. Unfortunately, SuperFreakonomics also makes claims that will likely not stand up to serious scrutiny.
SuperFreakonomics is fun, entertaining, and promotes an unusual manner of thinking. If you liked the original you will enjoy this sequel. Just don’t take its specific claims too seriously.