A while ago I had bought ‘Freakonomics‘. Geert had suggested it to me and when I saw it in the little bookshop at London City Airport I decided to give it a try. It’s the revised and expanded version, but it’s because they say so in the book that I know, personally I didn’t really care.

I enjoyed the book, especially the first half, but never found it “dazzling”, “brilliant” nor “a phenomenon” like it states on the cover. The book hasn’t really got a unifying theme (which is ok) but it’s based on a few fundamental ideas that indeed will come back throughout the whole book:

  • Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life
  • The conventional wisdom is often wrong
  • Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle causes
  • “Experts” – from criminologists to real-estate agents – use their informational advantage to serve their own agenda
  • Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world much less so

The incentives part is very interesting. “Understanding them – or, often, ferreting them out – is the key to solving just about any riddle, from violent crime to sports cheating to online dating.” This incentive needs to be very well balanced, but is quite valuable as you can read in the book. Definitely something I’ll keep in mind.

When you pass the middle of the book, reading about “what makes a perfect parent” and such, I started losing interest quite fast though. Overall, I would say Freakonomics offers an interesting view on some very recognizable situations, but the wide range of topics makes it difficult to love it 100%.

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  1. paddyk says:

    I agree – I bought the book last month and read it in a day or two, and while it was fascinating in parts, I missed the whole “revolution” I was promised on the blurb. The crack-gang section was great though – who would have though that drug-dealing would be similar to running a McDonalds…

  2. pieterr says:

    Yep, my review was nothing more than lukewarm, see the last paragraph of my review (in Dutch)

  3. I also got fascinated by the crack-gang part. And the part about the influence of Christian names, like the kid who got named Shithead (pronounced Shatee-ed) :-)

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