Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Economics and the Circus

Want a good book to read on a plane trip? Freakonomics is the one – well, for me, anyway!
It’s made economics (a subject I’ve despised since I first came across it at an adult commerce class years ago) into something that’s readable, interesting, quirky and even fun. Of course, it took a mind like Steven Levett’s to bring me to that change of view, but that’s fine. Usually I’m prepared to have my mind changed in regard to my opinions – though my wife doesn’t always agree that that’s the case.
Again and again Freakonomics throws up two seemingly unrelated subjects and works out whether they have more in common than you’d think. I don’t suppose Levett actually sat down and said how can I contrast two totally unrelated subjects; there’s a good deal of thought behind his writing. Nevertheless, he manages to ask crazy questions and show that they’re not so crazy after all.
The writing is a symbiosis: Levett can certainly write without the help of Dubner, but it was Dubner who got the book off the ground. Levett is almost too busy to sit down and write a book.
I don’t know that I can pinpoint what it is about the book that intrigues me so much. Maybe it’s just the lateral thinking approach, something I’ve always enjoyed. Applying it to a subject I’ve seldom enjoyed (I’ve regarded economists as being about as reliable as weatherforecasters) has meant I’ve got access into economics, stats, sociology in a way I’d never have considered possible. I’d compare Levett’s free-ranging approach perhaps to the way Le Cirque du Soleil has changed people’s idea of what the word ‘circus’ means.

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