What is Freakonomics?


“A sort of treasure-hunt approach…[which] employs the best analytical tools that economics can offer, but it also allows to follow whatever freakish curiosities may occur to us.”

Its main goal? “To explore the hidden side of…everything.”

I just finished reading Freakonomics, by economist Steven D. Levitt and author/journalist Stephen J. Dubner. And despite the title, the book wasn’t as freaky as it sounds.

The dictionary definition of economics is the “science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of the goods and services or the material welfare of humankind.” Levitt manages to go back to the very basic level of the field by simply “explaining how people get what they want.”

Dubner describes Levitt as a “very smart and curious explorer…He is unafraid of using personal observations and curiosities, he is also unafraid of anecdote and storytelling.”

With these characteristics of curiosity, Freakonomics was born. It explores different and seemingly disparate topics in our world but somehow manages to find a connection between them. For example: why people cheat, how the KKK is similar to real estate agents, what impact parents really have on kids, and various other topics that may seem odd at first. Levitt appears to ask some strange questions—but they are the right ones. In broader terms, the main themes explored in the book include: Conventional wisdom, morality, incentives, cheating, power of information, etc.

Freakonomics is logical, practical…and even though some ideas may sound ludicrous at first (For example, the book credits the huge drop in crime during the 1990s to the Roe vs. Wade court decision legalizing abortion), there are more than enough facts and figures to support all the claims. Economics does rely on data after all, but the difference in this book is how that data is interpreted. Levitt definitely strays away from the typical, mainstream economist.

Freakonomics is refreshing to the mind, whether you agree with Levitt’s theories or not. His unique viewpoint on anything and everything sparks interest and is one that will inspire you too to look at the world from a slightly different angle and totally fresh perspective.


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