A Rogue Economist
Explores the Hidden
Side of Everything
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
AN EXPLANATORY NOTE In which the origins of this book are clarified. INTRODUCTION: The Hidden Side of Everything In which the book’s central idea is set forth: namely, if morality represents how people would like the world to work, then economics shows how it actually does work. Why the conventional wisdom is so often wrong…How “experts”—from criminologists to real-estate agents to political scientists—bend the facts…Why knowing what to measure, and how to measure it, is the key to understanding modern life…What is “freakonomics,” anyway? 1. What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common? In which we explore the beauty of incentives, as well as their dark side—cheating.
Who cheats? Just about everyone…How cheaters cheat, and how to catch them…Stories from an Israeli day-care center…The sudden disappearance of seven million American children…Cheating schoolteachers in Chicago…Why cheating to lose is worse than cheating to win…Could sumo wrestling, the national sport of Japan, be corrupt?…What the Bagel Man saw: mankind may be more honest than we think. 2. How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents? In which it is argued that nothing is more powerful than information, especially when its power is abused. Going undercover in the Ku Klux Klan…Why experts of every kind are in the perfect position to exploit you…The antidote to information abuse: the Internet…Why a new car is suddenly worth so much less the moment it leaves the lot…Breaking the real-estate agent code: what “well maintained” really means…Is Trent Lott more racist than the average Weakest Link contestant?…What do online daters lie about? 3. Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Moms? In which the conventional wisdom is often found to be a web of fabrication, self-interest, and convenience. Why experts routinely make up statistics; the invention of chronic halitosis…How to ask a good question…Sudhir Venkatesh’s long, strange trip into the crack den…Life is a tournament…Why prostitutes earn more than architects…What a drug dealer, a highschool quarterback, and an editorial assistant have in common…How the invention of crack cocaine mirrored the invention of nylon stockings…Was crack the worst thing to hit black Americans since Jim Crow? 4. Where Have All the Criminals Gone? In which the facts of crime are sorted out from the fictions. What Nicolae Ceau?escu learned—the hard way—about abortion…Why the 1960s were a great time to be a criminal…Think the roaring 1990s economy put a crimp on crime? Think again…Why capital punishment doesn’t deter criminals…Do police actually lower crime rates?…Prisons, prisons everywhere…Seeing through the New York City police “miracle”…What is a gun, really?…Why early crack dealers were like Microsoft millionaires and later crack dealers were like Pets.com…The superpredator versus the senior citizen…Jane Roe, crime stopper: how the legalization of abortion changed everything. 5. What Makes a Perfect Parent? In which we ask, from a variety of angles, a pressing question: do parents really matter?
The conversion of parenting from an art to a science…Why parenting experts like to scare parents to death…Which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool?…The economics of fear…Obsessive parents and the nature-nurture quagmire…Why a good school isn’t as good as you might think…The black-white test gap and “acting white”…Eight things that make a child do better in school and eight that don’t. 6. Perfect Parenting, Part II; or: Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet? In which we weigh the importance of a parent’s first official act—naming the baby. A boy named Winner and his brother, Loser…The blackest names and the whitest names…The segregation of culture: why Seinfeld never made the top fifty among black viewers…If you have a really bad name, should you just change...
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