I’m a recent new listener to a variety of podcasts, as I now find myself with a long commute, and Freakonomics is now in my standard rotation. As such, my partner suggested I check out the book, so I dropped it into my audiobook queue (see previous: long commute) and I knocked it out fairly quickly, as it is a short listen clocking in at just under seven hours.
If you are unfamiliar, here is the description of the podcast, from their website: ” Host Stephen J. Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.” Essentially, Levitt is painted as the sort of “bad boy of Economics,” who finds meaning where others don’t, and explores topics in unique ways. The book pre-dates the podcast, so it is interesting to start at the beginning of their fruitful and longstanding partnership. The content of this book was utterly fascinating, but where it fails for me is in the structure and delivery of the material.
The book is co-written by the two, but read by Dubner. As the book is mostly about Levitt and his findings, it adds almost an element of fandom where it seems Dubner is gushing about Levitt who maintains an air of mystery, a la the Wizard of Oz, nearby but just out of reach. In audio format, the structure is almost undetectable as Dubner takes us from topic to topic, sometimes not wrapping up one concept before moving on. In addition, there are occasionally a few bars of ambient music used at the end of a subject, though what they are marking is hard to tell and it isn’t consistent or seemingly at the end of a chapter.
And now about the content. I have never found Economics particularly interesting but the connections Levitt makes between goings on of every day life leave you scratching your head. Like how he suggests (and has the data to back it up) that the legalization of abortion is what led to an incredible decrease in crime. A possibly unpopular opinion, but an intriguing one. I don’t know enough about Economics to know where all the information is sound, but it made me think of the connectivity of the world in a new way.
I’m glad I gave it a try, and will continue with the podcast, but probably won’t be compelled to check out their other book.