On “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything”

Freakonomics was an immediate success when hitting the bookstores back in 2005. I guess its melding of pop culture with economics was something unexpected, long awaited, and seemed interest in the market. Granted, the book is an easy read with plenty of provocative examples and a clear logical reasoning that is scarce both on television and in many classrooms. However, it seems the authors choose examples primarily to provoke rather than actually show what economic reasoning might contribute to our understanding of the real world. In fact, much of the discussions in the book are but pop-style stories based on correlations found through data mining. The book thereby demotes economics to simple and inductive data analysis and data mining, which is pretty far from the view of economics as a purely deductive science of human action we should be used to. Perhaps this is simply a natural “next step” from the overly mathematized economics of today, but in many of the cases discussed in Freakonomics the authors fail to show how it is economics that has guided their quest for understanding the world. It might as well have been statistics or any kind of fumbling in the dark. In conclusion, economists of the traditional variety may find this book slightly repulsive due to its data-guided reasoning, while economists of the more recent and inductive data-bending kind might find this both fascinating and inspiring. The non-economist public will find that it is an interesting and provocative read, but should not read it hoping to learn economics – there are many much, much better books for that purpose.