Steven Levitt Essay

Submitted By Screech93
Words: 1338
Pages: 6

Luis Marquez 5/3/13
Economics Mr. Duffy Freakonomics Economics; is an important subject to understand the workings of finances. The common definition of economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution and consumption of goods. Freakonomics, the title of this book has the reader wondering what this book is about. From the title and even the cover picture it is clear it is not your average text book on economics. Yet, the authors have collected data and analyzed it to come to their conclusions on some unusual hypotheses. The photo on the cover is actually a good visual of the books content, it looks like apple on the outside but is an orange on the inside, signifying there is a hidden side of everything, just as the book subtitle reads. Authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner take on the economics of the day to day situations as their topic for this bestselling book. Steve Levitt in the explanatory note in the beginning of the book is necessary to read to have a better understanding to the author’s purpose for writing the book. They explain they are taking a new way of looking the everyday riddles of life. As the sub-title suggests they are investigating the hidden side of real world issues and the subtle connections that link them together. Levitt’s position is that the economics model is a science available to them with excellent tools for gaining answers to the questions he poses in the book. Levitt feels economics is not just finances and movement of goods. Even so the authors acknowledge a good number of Levitt’s’ peers may not recognize this work as economics at all. Regardless of the controversy, Levitt points out economics is the science of measurements and he is using data and patterns in the data to gain insight. A primary thesis he developed is about incentives. Levitt found that people are driven by them; the incentives do not need to be money, but they are motivational no matter the area. “The study of incentives is how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.” An incentive is simply a means of urging people to do more of a good thing and less of a bad. An interesting concept the author points out is “Morality, represents the way that people would like the world to work-whereas economics represents how it actually does work”. The authors several times oddly bring up that there is no unifying theme to the book, giving the impression the book is not well thought out. Regardless, there are some things that tie the unusual examples together, one being the theory of incentives as being the motivator. The other unifying thread is that conventional wisdom is often wrong, that when looking at situations, layers need to be peeled off and knowing what to measure and how to measure it allows for better understanding. The introduction is the last section of the book that doesn’t leave the reader somewhat confused regarding what they are reading, and if it really does relate to economics or is just quirky stories. It is interesting to see the development of their theory about incentives, as they investigate what makes something so attractive that sometimes people are willing to cheat and behave unethically to attain the incentive. Levitt is able to support his hypothesis that incentives urge people to do less or more of something, in the forms of economic, social, and moral issues. For example placing a sin tax on smoking is an economic incentive to stop smoking and the ban on smoking in restaurants a social incentive that encourages stopping smoking. As the book progresses the authors try to show that economics on a broader level can be more than finances. Attempting to tie incentives and economics together they used examples and situations to support that idea. One of the examples of this is the Chicago public school teachers that cheated or enabled students to cheat on