Friday, October 23, 2015
I am late on the Freakonomics bandwagon. It appears that the franchise (a blog, a a sequel, a radio show, a movie!) is finally over, and it is most likely a very good thing.
When I worked with Economics students a first year PhD student, with a firm conviction of his own superiority propelled by his lack of skills (he failed out after the qualifying exams) kept a secret blog (a very early 2000s phenomenon, which held a fascination it no longer holds) trashed this book in the blog, and all attempts to creating a pop or even understandable economics.
He was wrong; as he was wrong about his own chances in the program, as no doubt he is wrong about many things right now. Popularization of a particular field in the form of a book is not some bastardization that sullies the sacred art of economics, physics, or chemistry. Rather, it is the ultimate challenge to expose a broader audience to the importance of a discipline. It is not bastardization as much as proselytization.
Freakonomics only fails in its extreme dogmatism. The book propose the not very novel idea that the authors are completely right about particular topics they examine while everyone else is wrong. Yet we all know that in any field of study, differences of opinion, questioning of study methods, research design, and interpretation of data are the bread and butter of organized and scientific inquiry. Without it, we have articles of faith, and not free and open inquiry.
And this is where Freakonomics fails.