Sunday, September 28, 2014

Walk with Freakonomist

I'm crossing off the long pending, strongly recommended book 'Freakonomics' from my 'Books to read' list. This book was first published in 2005, in the sense its published a decade ago and I still find the content fresh and very much related. I pick books after reading blurb, then I will choose to read if I find the preface and introduction interesting. I found this book to be unique at every level.

'The book doesn't carry any unifying theme' which is repeatedly accepted and quoted in the book which I find awkward. But Why should one have an unifying theme? because every other book has one. Both the question and answer is present in the book itself, such is the book. It is fulled with questions that are not asked by everyone and statistical answers(not empirical), this will amaze the ordinary being, as Mr. Confusion I found them legit.
The book is actually collection of papers by Steven D. Levitt, economist, it is co-authored by Stephen J Dubner who has brought out this in novice format. The Notes sections which can be dumbly renamed as references has 18 pages all pointing to economics papers. I have a revised version printed in 2006, it has bonus material which adds 200 more pages in addition to original content. Bonus material is exciting to read, this has excerpts from their blog at website: Freakonomics, here they address all the challenges and reviews for the book. Of course they are really different as they have identified themselves as Freakonomist. The arguments and counter arguments in this blogs are a good read, which I can't publish here, feel free to follow the link.

As quoted already this book doesn't have a theme but it is classified into sections of related questions. The star of all question is "Where have all the criminals gone?" to which their controversial reply - 'they are aborted as fetus'. While different sociologist and economist tries to answer the question with answers like innovative policing, tight vigilance etc., Levitt sights the Roe vs Wade case as reason. He explains that woman makes best decision on 'if she can bring up the child to be a good person' and hence an abortion makes sure a probable child growing in a rough neighborhood will not become a criminal. The answer has raised wide variety of emotion but I find it as the most convincing answer.

Other question that I liked is How school teachers cheats?, How tax payers cheats?, what makes them pay?, How your real estate agent exploits you? and there boring discussion too on Why Sumo wrestlers cheat or how? Ku Klux Klan mystery and How naming a child can impact its growth - which I find annoyingly long.  On parenting part except the naming stuff there are sections for us to learn from, like which is likely to kill children -swimming pool or gun?

There is one more question that made me studious, why do drug dealers still live with their mother? answer is they don't earn enough. While explaining this he tells us a small story on how Sudhir Venkatesh helped him in getting the data and how he got those data. I was drawn to this topic so much that I watched few videos on it where Levitt goes on to compare drug dealers organization structure with McDonald. That he explains as men at the top enjoys all the comfort and money while foot soldiers/ waiters in McD's case gets minimum wage not enough to sustain their life on own. All the data used in the research and theory are from USA, what were you expecting from an American economist? So does that mean its not worth reading in India? are you kidding? this inspires us to ask our own question and answer it.

Best part and that I can personally relate to is when Dubner had 'rancid chicken in French roast, Manhattan' and wrote about it in their blog. Which is very much in line with my own rants about Dominos and its cold pizza, if you want to know googling 'dominos' with 'shiva' or 'scribble' will throw up awesome results pointing my blog *quenched* thank you readers. Without the influence of Freakonomics I have asked such questions in the past, but now this has given me enough confidence to publish my research on them. You can expect them to be published soon, so what unusual question you have in mind? can you share it? can we author a book on it?