Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #95: "Superfreakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Best Nonfiction Book - Instead of Education

Dear kids,

Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Hevitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the equally fascinating follow-up to Freakonomics, draws unexpected, unintuitive conclusions about how world economics really works–how it influences our behavior, personal relationships and daily lives. Read it and/or its predecessor for a hint of how complicated the world really is.

Among other topics, the book:

  • Discusses the economics of prostitution. Says it’s safer and more profitable to go through a pimp. Also says a large percentage of tricks are done for policeman as freebies. Lots of street prostitutes make very, very good money.
  • Discusses the economics of terrorism or suicide bombing.
  • Discusses various problems with hospitals, including: recirculating the air spreads disease; there are info gaps or inefficiencies all over; very difficult to objectively measure doctor skill; chemotherapy is “remarkably ineffective.”
  • Discusses one method for ferreting out terrorists: analyzing their banking habits.
  • Discusses good behavior that’s due to profit motive and good behavior that’s due to true altruism. Example of a lady stabbed three times and the reporter saying thirty-eight witnesses looked on – but story a total fabrication motivated by notoriety it gave journalist and desire of PD to cover up or bury another story.
  • Says much easier to raise charity funds with personal stories than with stats.
  • Discusses Ultimatum and Dictator – games for research studies purporting to measure altruism – and the misleading results.
  • Discusses how, due to the power of unintended consequences, the best fixes are often the simplest and cheapest. Examples: the polio vaccine; doctors washing hands; encouraging doctors to wash hand by placing a scan of a bacteria-filled hand (one from an actual doctor in that hospital) as a screen saver on the hospital computers. Another example: drilling for under-earth oil when whales started to get overfished; the simple seatbelt. (Authors believe that a kid-fitting seatbelt would be a better solution than carseats, and much cheaper, but now that carseat laws are in effect, they aren’t being made.)
  • Discusses one man’s solution to prevent hurricanes (large tires that capture hot water and bring up cold water to the surface).
  • Discusses global warming at length. *Great section.* Says one group of Seattle inventors may have solved it: add liquefied sulfur dioxide to the air. Says CO2 is not the cause of global warming. Very interesting stuff.
  • Demonstrates that monkeys understand money.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.


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