Note: This review is by my husband Jim.
Levitt and Dubner became famous ten years ago when they published Freakonomics, a book with many thought-provoking and counter-intuitive insights into human behavior and society. Most of those insights were stimulated by careful economic analysis. Among their more startling conclusions was that the pronounced drop in crime statistics that occurred in the early 1990’s coincided with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion throughout the country. They reasoned that the decision greatly reduced the incidence of the birth of unwanted children, who are more likely to grow into adults who commit crimes.
The authors followed up with a sequel entitled Think like a Freak, a somewhat less successful effort to apply similar analysis to a new range of phenomena. They also began to publish a blog. This book is a compilation of their favorite blog posts. Because each entry is short and not likely to be related to the next one, the book is ideal for reading in spare moments. It can be sampled or read consecutively.
The articles cover such subjects as an argument for the abolition of the penny, and why it would probably do Pepsi little or no economic good to know the formula for Coke. They discuss why so many Americans over-estimate the probability of a terrorist attack, and make several interesting suggestions to reduce gun violence in America (not including making guns illegal — that, after all, seems to be impossible). They explore what might help you win at poker, why there are so many fake memoirs in the world, and if growing your own food is really better for you and/or for the planet. They point out that companies singled out in business literature as exceptional are often not very successful five to ten years later. And yes, the best time to rob a bank is . . .never – the return on investment related to risk is terrible.
Evaluation: This book is full of very short, entertaining essays (some just two pages long) about everyday phenomena that become less mysterious when subjected to simple economic reasoning. At the very least, you will come away from this book with some fascinating conversation starters.
Published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015