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Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

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Amanda Lawson

on 19 November 2013

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Transcript of Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

FREAKONOMICS
RHETORIC
The rhetorical style of the book is purposefully
simplistic
and
informal
. Syntactical devices are generally eschewed in favor of a logical, unadorned appeal to the average reader.
The book has
clear organization
, with enumerated areas of analyses, serving to present the book as an
irrefutable argument.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Steven Levitt
, an Economics professor at the University of Chicago, was an accomplished and well-known member in his field, who had even received the American Assocation's John Bates Clark Award.
Stephen J. Dubner
, an author for the New York Times and the New Yorker, wrote a profile on Levitt that garnered an
astounding response
for Levitt's unconventional way of thinking. When publishers in New York suggested that Levitt write a book, he proposed the idea to Dubner. The end result was a wonderfully crafted
collaboration,
Freakonomics
.
LITERARY TECHNIQUES
The book journeys though different branches of economics, not through obscure technical jargon, but with
conversational diction
and
interesting metaphors
.
The book utilizes various
unconventional juxtapositions
, both to capture and hold the reader's attention, as well as to propagate their argument of hidden sides.
The authors also strategically arrange their more controversial arguments to persuade the reader more effectively.
AUTHOR'S PURPOSE
Freakonomics was written to make the reader susceptible to the idea that there is a
concealed
yet
obvious
side to everything, if delved into enough. Levitt and Dubner present economics as a "set of
tools
, as opposed to a subject matter" to explore any topic, no matter how
unorthodox
or
peculiar
.
AUTHOR'S ATTITUDE
The attitude that Dubner and Levitt portray in Freakonomics is that of an
objective
tone that is practical and neutral, while still keeping a
light-hearted
feel. The details used are facts that clearly support their
unembellished
way of thinking.
WHAT DOES "FREAKONOMICS" MEAN?
The word defines Steven's Levitt's unorthodox approach to the field of economics- as a system of
incentives
and
players of a game
.
HIDDEN SIDE OF EVERYTHING
Teachers versus sumo wrestlers
abortion=less crime
does parenting even matter?
KKK=real estate agents
OUR OWN FREAKONOMICS IDEA
Moral hazard
and the potential correlation between the proliferation of insurance and an increase in life-threatening purchases
WHY IS POLYGAMY ILLEGAL?


Economic, rather than religious or moral reasons
The government-provided benefits of myriad marriages would make it attractive for men and women to build spousal kingdoms, a threatening possibility to governments everywhere
WHAT ARE INCENTIVES ANYWAY?
As Levitt and Dubner contest, they're everywhere- small or large motivations which serve as the only reason people do anything
These motivations can be based upon religious, utilitarian, aesthetic, social, or environmental reasons, but the most tantalizing incentive?
Money.
From infantry, we are taught this system of give and take conditioning, exhibited in everything from the good feeling of a good deed to a Facebook Like
"should" as a slippery weighing mechanism
MAIN POINTS OF THE BOOK
- “there is no unifying theme of the book, although the aim throughout is to explore the hidden side of things and the subtle relationships that link everyday phenomena.”
- "if morality represents how people would like the world to work, then economics show how it actually does work."
- beauty of incentives...cheating
- nothing is more powerful than information, especially when its power is abused
- convention wisdom is often found to be a web of fabrication
- do parents really matter?" and "the importance of... naming
- dependability of data meets the randomness of life
- correlation does not equal causation
Freakonomics, through its unlikely comparisons and supporting data, makes the reader examine the everyday world with a critical eye. After reading, we were inspired to ask our own atypical questions like these:
Why is the political hierarchy of an English prison far more efficient and structurally sound than our political government?
-incentives
Why hasn't the rate of deforestation been greater affected global trends towards a paperless world?
Is there an end in sight for the perpetual cycle of fame and substance abuse?
Is the government's refusal to supply more aid towards third-world countries a calculated effort to keep earth's population low, ameliorating quality of life for everyone else?
What is the real purpose of ethnically-based scholarships?
He wanted to transform people's perception of economics as a boring unapplicable subject taught in school
Freakonomics-Inspired Theories
-church as brainwashing, Locke's social contract
-government shutdown, legislative entrenchment, aliens yo
-space race funeral as a means of maintaining controllable government hegemony
Delaying space colonization costs 100 trillion lives per second

Math. Just in case you ever needed a reason not to delay space colonization.

Prof. Nick Bostrom (PhD, professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford, director of the Future of Humanity Institute), 2003, Utilitas, "Astronomical Waste: The Opportunity Cost of Delayed Technological Development", Vol. 15, No. 3, http://www. nickbostrom.com/astronomical/waste.html

"Suppose that about 10^10 biological humans could be sustained around an average star. Then the Virgo Supercluster could contain 10^23 biological humans. This corresponds to a loss of potential equal to about 10^14 potential human lives per second of delayed colonization. What matters for present purposes is not the exact numbers but the fact that they are huge. Even with the most conservative estimate, assuming a biological implementation of all persons, the potential for one hundred trillion potential human beings is lost for every second of postponement of colonization of our supercluster."
which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?
importance of names
what's up with those drug dealers living with their moms?
"MoneyGrabber"
Fitz and the Tantrums

Cicero's Appeals
Logos is explained as the use of quantifiable statistical data to back up the authors' claims.
An example of pathos is the comparison in the book between children being more likely to die from a swimming pool instead of a gun, despite common conventional wisdom, as it elicits an emotional response in the reader.
Ethos is used on the cover of the book detailing the authors' credentials and achievements.
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