Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

Steven D. Levitt, Author, Stephen J. Dubner, Author . Morrow $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-088957-9

Economist Levitt and journalist Dubner capitalize on their megaselling Freakonomics with another effort to make the dismal science go gonzo. Freaky topics include the oldest profession (hookers charge less nowadays because the sexual revolution has produced so much free competition), money-hungry monkeys (yep, that involves prostitution, too) and the dunderheadedness of Al Gore. There’s not much substance to the authors’ project of applying economics to all of life. Their method is to notice some contrarian statistic (adult seat belts are as effective as child-safety seats in preventing car-crash fatalities in children older than two), turn it into “economics” by tacking on a perfunctory cost-benefit analysis (seat belts are cheaper and more convenient) and append a libertarian sermonette (governments “tend to prefer the costly-and-cumbersome route”). The point of these lessons is to bolster the economist’s view of people as rational actors, altruism as an illusion and government regulation as a folly of unintended consequences. The intellectual content is pretty thin, but it’s spiked with the crowd-pleasing provocations—“'A pimp’s services are considerably more valuable than a realtor’s’” —that spell bestseller. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/05/2009
Release date: 10/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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