How many of us have the childhood history of driving our parents to tears with our endless barrage of questions in a quest to find out how the world works? Who is God? Where do babies come from? Why do we need to brush our teeth before we go to bed anyway? And of course, our parents did not always have the right answers.
Or if they did, they often chose not to give us the whole truth in order to preserve our innocence for as long as they could. Then there were the rebuffs (“you should not ask so many questions”) that shot down our need for exploration. Perhaps that is why we as adults, as disillusioned as our parents, stopped asking questions, accepted the world for what it is, and in return are today slighting the queries of our progeny.
Steven D. Levitt, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, never stopped asking these questions. As a result, he obtained answers to his quest of finding out “the hidden side of everything”, based on concrete data and evidence. And Stephen J. Dubner, a writer for The New York Times and the New Yorker, translated Levitt’s findings into what we everyday laymen can easily decipher into an ingenious book called Freakonomics.
The catch is that instead of simply taking Keynes General Theory and describing to us once again how we manage our household and national income, Freakonomics tells us truly how money makes the world go round – or not.
In a bold and witty manner, the book reminds us that not all the answers to our questions are always as simple and obvious as they may seem. Without fear of stepping on any toes, Levitt and Dubner set out to explore and provide answers to critical questions such as how abortion may curb crime, stronger campaigns may not always be the foundation of winning an election, and experts may sometimes purposely misguide you in order to hide their own defective ideas.
Though few would find a unifying theme to this book, the readers must all agree that Levitt has been able to point out to us one thing: The tools of economics may be used to survey and surmise the events and problems of our daily lives in order to gain an ingenious perspective on the relationships that affect us.
And what is simply incredible is that the book touches on all of the age old chapters of our economics text, from defining economics as the study of what, why, where, and how we pursue our incentives to how resources are controlled in order to exploit the public.
It even describes how the choices, status, actions can define the outcomes of their children. Only the examples are more real than using bread and machinery when describing how economics works.
The best aspect of the book is that, despite the fact it mostly cites data from an American perspective, everyone, from economists to politicians, teachers to drug dealers, and, indeed, even parents, may have benefited from reading it. And even better than the best aspect is that, for a change, this book is not a boring read.