These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 editionThe original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.
This systematic treatment of the whole field of economic analysis on these lines is a rigorous and elegant non-mathematical statement of the basic principles and problems of contemporary economic theory. The volume is based on models of systems in which there are no capital goods, and in which consumer's tastes, technical knowledge, and the size and composition of the population are static.
This sophisticated restatement of the fundamentals of economic theory also deals with the basic methodological problems of economic analysis. Given the complexity of variables inherent in all economic systems, how is the economist to proceed in dealing with a particular set of interrelated problems? And further, how can the economist be confident that the verdict is more likely to be right than wrong? Meade considers these and other questions in a book important not only to professional economists and their students, but also to those more generally interested in economic policy.
J. E. Meade (1907-1995) was widely known for his analysis on government's policies on taxes, spending, and interest rates that affected trade, trade policies, and economic welfare. In 1977 he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Some of his works include The Theory of International Economic Policy (a two-volume set) and Principals of Political Economy (a four-volume set).
The book is of importance for all those concerned with macroeconomic theory and policy. The description of the meaning of a New Keynesian policy and of the arguments for it have been written in a way which should be intelligible to policy-makers and students, and not only to economists with technical training. Professional macroeconomists will be interested not only in these sections but also in the fully specified macroeconomic model used to analyse New Keynesian policies in economic terms and to carry out a counterfactual re-running of history. In addition, the unusually detailed exposition of the application of control techniques to a difficult multivariable control problem also makes the book of interest to control engineers who wish to acquaint themselves with recent generalisations of classical frequency response methods.