April 24, 2005


William Morrow, the publishers, sent out galley proofs of Freakonomics to a bunch of bloggers. The ones who responded with loving recapitulations of the blurb made it onto the official list of "favorite blogs". The longest and most thoughtful response, however, didn't. (Yes, it was by me. But it really is the best review out there.)

I do take some solace in the fact that the likes of Lance Knobel are saying the same thing that I did, if not in as many words. But what puzzles me is why I'm slightly annoyed that the publishers and their blogger lackeys chose simply to ignore me and all of my points. After all, I was clearly being used as part of a marketing campaign, and no marketing campaign wants tough criticism of its product front and center. I had hoped that Levitt, being an academic, would relish a substantive argument, as opposed to a gushing and uncritical tongue-bath. But even academics are human, I suppose. I guess I just really hate it when I start an argument and the other guy simply ignores me!

Posted by Felix at 07:02 PM GMT

Check out the baseball post on their blog, it's the same crap all over again -- I'm the "Martin" objecting in the comments to that post.


They want to assert something really obvious and claim it contradicts the CV. It doesn't, but mainly because the CV isn't as dumb as they think-- or would have you believe, anyway.

Posted by: Martin on April 24, 2005 08:59 PM

Wouldn't it be ironic if we ignored this post?

Posted by: Stefan on April 25, 2005 08:19 AM

Maybe I spoke too soon.

Posted by: Felix on April 27, 2005 05:21 AM

The wonderful Scott McLemee has a review, "Blink Again" in Newsweek. Two paragraphs seem worth quoting:

Any 10 pages of Freakonomics would be the equivalent of a really good newspaper article explaining, say, how to analyze the results of the sumo playoffs in Japan in order to determine whether some wrestlers took a fall. Or how the revelation of secret passwords on a radio program damaged the Ku Klux Klan's ability to collect the dues that made the Invisible Empire a successful business. Or the rise and fall of popular baby names.

But as each idiosyncratic inquiry gives way to the next, no logical pattern takes shape. A reasonably bright 12-year-old might feel condescended to by some accounts of the analytical tools that Levitt uses. One of the most important, the statistical method called regression analysis, is explained only two thirds of the way through the book. The writing is so smooth that it seldom gives traction to anything worth calling a concept, at least beyond the notion that the conventional wisdom is often wrong (itself a piece of conventional wisdom).


Posted by: Charles Stewart on April 27, 2005 05:05 PM

I'm the link that Moveable Type wouldn't let Charles Stewart post above. Click on my nonrigid designator...

Posted by: Scott McLemme's review in Newsweek on April 27, 2005 05:07 PM

I read an excerpt of their chapter on real estate agents in the May issue of Wired magazine...and completely disagreed with virtually everything they said. I'm in the process of posting my disagreement on my blog.

Why let facts get in the way of a snarky writing style?

Jane N-B

Posted by: Jane N-B on May 11, 2005 11:31 PM

I haven't read it yet (that what this afternoon's flight is for), but some of the Crooked Timber people (as well as Tyler Cohen) put together a little series of comments about the book, and got Levitt to respond.

Posted by: mike on May 23, 2005 05:39 PM