My First Book Review: Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

I’ll be first to admit that I have no clue how to write a book review, and this contains “spoilers”, if there is such a thing in a non-fiction book. You’ve been warned.

Freakonomics claims to have no unifying theme, but I actually have found the unifying theme, and I’ll get to that at the end.

But first, let’s get started with the content:

Content Review (spoilers)

“A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” you say? Wow, everything?! How does he do that in a 207 page book?

I was unaware that “everything” only meant cheating, the KKK, real-estate, drug-dealing, abortion, and parenting!

  1. Introduction

    The introduction of this book starts out strong and grabbed my attention. The Steves began to discuss how abortion and crime rates are related. Now this is something new – and politically incorrect, might I add. My style.

    For the record, I will call the authors “The Steves”, since they are named Steven and the more offensively-spelled Stephen.

  2. Chapter 1

    So at this point, we’re excited, and chapter 1 drops this bomb on us: people cheat! You don’t say, Steves?! Tell us more!

    Oh, they go on to clarify: underpaid teachers whose pay increases depend on their students’ standardized test scores are the ones who cheat! Well no shit guys, I never thought of that!

    And sumo wrestlers who have nothing to lose cheat to help a friend out? Dear God I’m so glad you spent an entire chapter dedicated to this garbage.

    The one good thing is that this chapter helps call out the ridiculousness of standardized testing, which is always a good thing. Disappointed but still eager, let’s head over to chapter 2.

  3. Chapter 2

    Let me sum up this chapter in three big words for you so that you don’t have to waste your life reading it: INFORMATION IS POWER.

    Really?! Thanks Steves – Let’s just hope you didn’t melt your computers running Minitab figuring that one out.

    Now, this is the point where our most intelligent readers are done with this book and try to find some other use for it. For people like you, I’ll help fill you in on the rest of the story because have a general taste for misery.

  4. Chapter 3

    Chapter 3 explains to us white folk that drug dealers still live with their mom because they don’t make any money. We white folk are, after all, the audience of this book.

    This is actually the only well-written chapter, and contains a good element of suspense. I was truly interested in reading the story about Vankatesh, a student at the University of Chicago who went to live with gangsters. I wonder if Vankatesh has written a full text about this because it would be pretty cool. As long as he’s not as boring of a writer as Dubner.

    Everything that’s interesting here has almost nothing to do with economics. But that’s beside the point – when you’re writing a shitty book that’s centered around one idea, you need to write something interesting to get your readers to your main argument.

  5. Chapter 4

    Ahhh, here it is! “Where Have All the Criminals Gone?”

    This chapter is based off of Levitt’s ground-breaking study that linked the Roe vs. Wade decision with a sharp decline in US crime rates a couple decades later. This study was written by Levitt in 2001, which you can credit for making his career. It can be found here:

    I have to credit Levitt for two things – first, discovering this when nobody else did. Pure genius. And second, for having the balls to publish it. We all know that it’s not fun to get in between the pro-choice vs. pro-life argument. Steve, you not only got in between it, you dropped a nuclear bomb on it. Cheers to you for this!

  6. Chapter 5

    The next chapter, “What Makes the Perfect Parent”, spins its wheels and goes nowhere for basically the whole time. Not that I’m surprised at this point.

    What this points out is that GENERALLY, smart parents create smart children. For someone who studies genetics in my spare time, I am not surprised. For those of you living in Kansas, sorry to break it to you.

    However, this chapter points out some studies stating that a child’s peers actually have a greater effect on school performance than the parents behavior. Then they completely drop the idea. Way to go, fellas.

    Listen up, my friends. There have been thousands of books, papers, debates, and so on that are about the nature vs. nurture battle. Do you think that these two guys can solve it in 29 double-spaced pages? Give me a break.

  7. Chapter 6

    And finally, the last chapter. Get this jaw-dropper – African Americans like to name their children differently than whitey!

    Now, I know this book was written for unenlightened gringos from the suburbs who have nothing better to read at the airport during their corporate business trips, but I’m pretty sure we had a handle on that whole idea.

    But in come the Steves, who need to tell us about the “Blackness” of certain names (yes, they do actually use the term “blackness”, I shit you not).

So that’s your Freakonomics in a nutshell.

As an engineer whose taken my share of statistical courses, this book is completely disappointing. Sure, they show some percentages, but I want DATA. Prove your claims! Show easy-to-read graphs! Is it that hard to use Minitab or Excel? Come on

As for the book, it has no flow, is far too dry for me, and most information in it just made me think “so what?”

No Unifying Theme?

I disagree that there is no unifying theme to this book. In fact, there is definitely a unifying theme to this book. And that theme is this:

People who are unwilling to raise a child, or are just plain stupid, should stop reproducing.

After all, all the data suggests it. They just don’t come out and say it. What makes a perfect parent is a smart parent who wants to be a parent. Those who knew they were unfit parents, or just wanted to keep spreading their legs around the block, no longer need to infect our gene pool any more than they’ve already infected it with their own being.

And parents in California who name their kid Shithead (yes, this is cited in the book) will yield children who don’t likely stand a chance. No offense to all of you Shitheads out there, I’m just generalizing as always.

So that’s your unifying theme. Because statistically speaking, if you are in the criteria above, your child’s life will suck. But of course, those are just generalizations.

But I do agree with it.


So why in the hell is this book such a best-seller? Here’s what I think:

  • 10% of readers who are actually intelligent will think this book is a total joke, and most likely not finish it.
  • 60% of readers will go bonkers reading this book, thinking that they have become enlightened to the ways of “everything” in the world. They will think that they can now teach a class on statistics, and will recommend it to every other idiot they run into at the airport because it’s changed the way they perceive life or some other nonsense.
  • 20% of reading this book will be so disgusted because they can’t handle the fact that it’s actually a legit pro-choice argument, or that their kid is going to turn out to be an idiot no matter how hard they try.
  • 10% of readers will just have no fucking clue what’s going on and give up after “regression analysis” is first mentioned.

The 60% group will obviously cause lots of people to buy this book, and the 20% will bitch so much that it will get more people to buy it as well (no publicity is bad publicity). Hence, you can see the mob of morons putting this one on the NYT best seller list.

If you can’t figure out what group I’m in, then I haven’t done my job.

As for the authors, we can only conclude that THEIR children will most likely be extremely smart, but terrible writers who are out to rip Americans off.


Comments and hate mail welcome

Posted in by Berto.

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