224 of 266 people found the following review helpful:
, December 11, 2005
Jason Kelly "Author"
This review is from: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of
I expected much more from this book, including some actual economic theory and discussion of
what separates insightful research from background noise. The only thought-provoking piece in
this motley collection of entertaining (to some) factoids is the one about abortion being the
cause of declining crime. Beyond that, everything the book touches is either mundane or
rehashed from somewhere else, primarily the New York Times article by co-author Dubner.
A main premise in the book is that asking the right questions in life is important. It then
proceeds to ask almost none of them. For instance, what do sumo wrestlers and teachers have in
common? I guess the headline itself is good for a snicker, but then we assume that it will move
on to discover some heretofore hidden connection of value to us. Don't get your hopes up.
Instead, after pages of unnecessary background on educational competence testing, it is revealed
that - no! - teachers have cheated to boost their students' scores. What's more, shhh, occasionally
sumo wrestlers have cheated to improve a friend's ranking by letting him win. Again, shocking?
Not at all. Both of these revelations have been explored before and cheating doesn't expose any
commonality between teachers and sumo wrestlers that doesn't stem from both groups being
merely human. People cheat. Teachers and sumo wresters are people. Therefore, they both cheat
and that's what they have in common. Some groundbreaking research, eh? The authors could
just as easily have chosen any arbitrary group of people, found a human trait, and then shown
how both groups exhibit it. For instance, what do umbrella sellers and plumbers have in
common? Both take advantage of urgent situations to charge higher prices. What do Balinese
dancers and corporate lawyers have in common? Both eat smaller lunches during busy seasons.
This book's subtitle is, "A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything". A more
appropriate one would have been, "An Ordinary Economist Ponders Too Long About the
Widely Known Side of a Few Unimportant Subjects". Randomly put together, I might add, and
that's another annoying point. The book has almost no organization whatsoever. Rather than
taking the time to organize the book into a logical manner, the authors joke about it being a
disorganized collection of points and claim that as proof of their rogue status. If that's rogue, I'll
take conventional any day.
It's clear that these authors are intelligent men who probably have something worthwhile to
write. Unfortunately, they didn't write it in this book. The "Freak" in Freakonomics is supposed
to refer to offbeat analysis or an original perspective. Instead it refers to the strange fact that, so
often in publishing, what's of lasting value goes out of print and what's fleetingly entertaining
climbs the charts.
You would do well to skip this one.