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A book that aims at showcasing the other side of the picture. The side that is deviously concealed or blissfully ignored. In both cases, the information is kept oblivious to the masses. Freakonomics is more inclined towards teasing out the hidden aspects of the social structure than economics itself. It uses economic models to justify changes and trends, and guess what, it works. The whole human race acknowledges that resources are scarce and every choice of a rational human being is based on the best he could get out of that decision.
The first chapter shifts the focus of the reader from the mainstream cause and effect relationship between crime and the social factors that were assumably fitted in the context. The institutionalization and enforcement of laws and economic boom were said to be the cause of the decline in the crime rate but the author believed it was the legalization of abortion two decades earlier, prevented the birth of potential teenage goons. The book is criticized by some economics patrons but it does its job to brainstorm ideas about what might be lying underneath the situation one sees on the surface. The five fundamentals on which the whole book is based might not be the fundamentals that one would like to perceive while looking at the world but they are intriguing enough to keep the reader hooked.
There are sufficient examples to prove dubious activities happening under your nose. From a layman's viewpoint, the book is interesting as it discloses relationships between factors that were, till now, unfathomable or overlooked. Politics and manipulation are the best tools to subjugate these invisible causes. The book tries to prove its fundamentals by examples and it makes the common man believe that economics has a part to play in justifying relationships between factors but economists are not that easy to woo with distorted use of econometrics. The book has been named intelligently but more than economics, it studies the social structure and psychology of human behaviour with ineffective use of economic tools as propelled by various economists. Is this consequential to the context where Levitt tried to prove in his book that political economists and researchers use the data and analysis for their agenda primarily? Well, it does help in defining the relationship between incentives and the low rate of crime in the modern world and how it has been structured over time. Incentives are grouped and organized, again from a social viewpoint and therefore I have stated that it is more like a sociology book. The book intelligently describes the cause and effect with the time factor involved. It highlights that the dramatic change might be attributable to things that have happened quite a time ago, maybe decades!
'Experts and their biased opinions do not spare the research', is subtly highlighted by Levitt. People think statistics is what they see on the graphs and tables whereas there are hidden factors that might be moving the trend in the direction which is visible. These factors are imperative to draw a holistic conclusion and the book states that it is more complex than what one might presume it to be. For example in studying the trend of bad loans of banks, the study might not adjust write-offs by these banks to showcase the true data. The trend line might showcase that these loans are decreasing whereas the older loans are being written off.
The book puts forward the role of incentive to bring down the level of crimes and unethical things. Punishment, praises, material incentives tell a person what path to choose and that's how more and more people choose the right path. Saving humanity, all hail incentives! I think this book is the Robin Hood of more sophisticated books that propel the conventional theory to be driving the changes in the world. It steals the concept and puts its factors into it and we get these unconventional thought-provoking ideas of what might be lying underneath the situation.
The book gives an example of Crack Cocaine and how it reversed the progress of the civil movement in America. The mortality rate soared and the gap between white and black students widened and everything was worse than ever and guess what, the crime rate increased. I think criminology must include economics as its sub-part, now. Crimes around the world are massively affected by economic theories and models, as propelled by this book, at least. Coming back to cocaine, Levitt tried to highlight how dramatic changes might be due to subtle causes. The book explicitly draws attention to the fact that experts are as human as a common man and their foremost agenda is to benefit themselves before anyone else. Think about going to a bank for getting financial advice from experts. What is the expert supposed to do? No, not to compare the plans of all the banks and tell you that the competitive bank might give you a better offer but to tell you instead, how they sell the best plans and how great their financial services and investment options are! Check for the sponsored videos of experts. One another example that was put forward was the increase in Caesarean section deliveries was attributable to the motive of earning from more expensive means more quickly. Levitt puts it on the table as no other economist has ever done.
Can you think Sumo Wrestlers and teachers can be common in any case, other than they are humans? Levitt did. He used these two components from our society to evaluate the psychology of cheating. This is Freakonomics and it freaks us with an unusual pairing like that. Here, the author contradicts his theory that incentives are based on moral and social values and a person rationally chooses the right thing because of the incentive that it offers. But, the teacher aids cheating by his/her students to get incentives from the school. Don't believe me, read it yourself in the book. Well, we know that it is not the principles and position that one holds that drives his decisions, it's INCENTIVES.
The book puts forth real-world issues and the real causes, maybe not holistically researched but intelligently correlated. The book might have some loopholes and the economic models might not have been used as sophisticatedly as they are meant for but maybe because nobody looked at the world that way. When things are new, the data is not available. Even in research, students are asked to choose a topic on which data is available because it takes courage, time, and backlash from patrons to research a topic that might disclose the reality. I think it is a bestseller for the reason that it connected with the folks unconventionally and we need to be very specific about the use of economic tools but to connect the factors and establish a relationship for the first time between factors is challenging and Levitt has done a good job.
Economics is a subject that has principles of science and arts both. It is creative and it has some rigid and universally accepted theories (and hypotheses). Freakonomics is an engaging and enlightening work by Levitt and Dubner but does it respect the conventional economic theories or it is highly inclined towards creating new relations between factors and components. From a layman's viewpoint, the work is exceptional and flaws cannot be detected by a person oblivious of economics and how it works. So, Levitt has done a good job to take them by surprise. It takes a lot of courage to think differently and still be lauded for the work. To follow the flock of sheep is easy but to pave one's way towards a different objective is a cumbersome job. Who could think of the legalization of abortion can affect the crime rate in future or the role of incentives can be more than just being the motivator. For economists and scholars, it is easier to detect the inconsistent flow of applying economic models. The chronological order of the book is from the difficulty level of concepts and how the earlier chapter can be linked to the later chapters. It is quite impressive for an economist to see social issues from an unconventional viewpoint and present it subtly and clearly.
To sum up the summary, it can be said that Freakonomics is a precise work done by Levitt and Dubner in studying the correlation between those aspects that were never mainstream in the research work and to collect data and put it in the econometric model might need some manipulations and modifications, is fine and worked to a good extent. This book will surely make the reader broad-minded and develop a critical viewpoint. Aaron Levenstein rightly said that " Statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital". But Levitt supposedly does not want it to remain concealed anymore!
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