Sorry for the delay to those who have been desperately awaiting my latest book review, but I was out of cellphone range (hurray).
I read Freakonomics (Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner) a couple of years ago. I had been meaning to read it for a long time before I finally got round to it, because I was put off by the title to be frank. In the introductory explanatory note to Superfreakonomics the authors admit to the alarm expressed by their publisher over the first book: “…you could hear the sound of palms smacking foreheads: ‘this pair of bozos just delivered a manuscript with no unifying theme and a nonsensical, made-up title!’” Such was the success of that book the publishers did not even blink at the title Superfreakonomics.
Freakonomics was of course controversial for the suggestion that the dramatic reduction in the crime rate in the United States could be traced back to the landmark Roe v Wade decision. I seem to recall the theory was that fewer children were born into the kinds of environments that tended to produce the drivers of crime.
This time the authors take on a range of subjects from prostitution, suicide bombers, apathy and altruism and climate change. Their approach encourages the reader to look at things a different way – whether you agree with their conclusions or not, it is an entertaining read.
My favourite chapter is on apathy and altruism, largely because it reinforces my view about the impact of television and the effect that it has had on the generations born since its insidious takeover of the lounges of the modern world. But that is only a small part of a chapter that revisits the Kitty Genovese case (where 38 witnesses allegedly did nothing while she was murdered in the street outside her apartment building) and also the experiments on altruism which failed to repeat the results in a live situation contrasted with the laboratory results where people knew they were being tested. It appears that we might just be a little more altruistic when we know or think we are being watched.
It’s all good fun and does make you think. Here’s the link to their flagrant self-promotion!