A sequel to the megaselling Freakonomics (2005).
It’s not exactly economics for dummies—or, as Levitt (Economics/Univ. of Chicago) and business journalist Dubner (Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, 2003, etc.) write, “Chicken Soup for the Freakonomics Soul”—but this follow-up is certainly more of the same, a relentlessly enthusiastic cheer for the application of the dismal science to everyday life. That is, everyday life as the world knows it, as when Levitt and Dubner explore some of the curious economic questions on the underside of terror bombings. Econometrics can be a soulless and sometimes divisive business, so the authors may incite some controversy with their report that in the UK, “a person with neither a first nor last Muslim name stood only a 1 in 500,000 chance of being a terrorist,” whereas for a person with both first and last Muslim names the odds went to 1:2,000. (They add, however, that the odds scale way back if the person has a savings account and a life-insurance policy.) Less controversial, perhaps, is their look at the economics of prostitution, with some surprising findings—not least that the average street hooker in Chicago earns only $27 an hour and works only 13 hours a week, drawing about $350 a week. They’re priced out of the market, the ever-provocative authors assert, by women willing to have sex for free. The authors also write that it’s safer to travel by car than by most other means of transport, thanks in part to no less a personage than Robert S. McNamara, and by far less safe to walk drunk than to drive drunk. The authors’ view of the climate crisis through an economic lens is similarly spirited, but certainly worth adding to the debate.
Jaunty, entertaining and smart. Levitt and Dubner do a good service by making economics accessible, even compelling.