Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


I'm about 2/3 of the way through Steven Leavitt's Freakonomics, which has been selling remarkably well. I have to say I'm disappointed. The single most interesting bit so far is the chapter on the distribution of income within the crack industry. The rest of the book (so far) seems to be warmed-over empirics, without much in the way of a firm theoretical base...along the lines of data-mining followed by a quick-and-dirty rationalization.

Even the chapter on the cocaine industry fails, I think, in that it does not do a very good job of explaining tournament theory and showing its application more broadly. In fact, there's no entry in the index for "tournament." The discussion that can loosely be related to tournament theory covers about 3 pages (104 - 106), and very sketchily.

While Freakonomics is certainly entertaining (so far), it's not a book that most of us inside the profession will learn anything from, and it's so superficial that I doubt that even a reasonably well-schooled undergraduate economics major will either.

If the book has a virtue, it's in pointing out that economic questions and issues are, literally, almost everywhere.


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