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Saturday, March 21, 2020

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life InsuranceSuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ever since I read the first Freakonomics book years ago, I became a super freak and LOVED the real-world expose on things we always seem to take for granted.

Incentives work. Period. They work more to control our behavior than anything else.

Prostitution was huge, years ago, because it paid very well compared to any other kind of work that a woman could do. Often ten times the going rate of anything. Cops turned a blind eye because they could partake of the services. Those other really moral people who tried to stop it found they couldn't because they didn't understand the full circumstances. So what reduced prostitution? Higher wages for women in general. Choice. It was never a matter of morality. It was a matter of going where the money is.

If we compare a geophysical engineering event such as setting off a volcano to combat global warming, it would cost a lot LESS than Al Gore's whole PR campaign that tried to browbeat everyone into altruism. And it would be more effective.

The threat of terrorism is often much more effective than actual terrorism. So put away your bomb and just do some more talking about it.

Microeconomics uses real data, is only as effective as the questions being posed, but is still extremely interesting. And enlightening.

Car seats for kids? No statistical difference in saving kids' lives versus seat belts. The seat belts are the real saviors. So instead of having this huge weird industry with mismatching standards for car seats, why don't we have cars with easily adjustable seatbelts?


The numbers don't lie. But human psychology is FULL of blind spots.

Like doctors and washing hands. To find out that one hospital's doctors only washed their hands 9% of the time they OUGHT to have been washing their hands, proven by swabs and analysis of their hands, versus their self-reporting of 60% or so? Or the other many excuses such as time and effort? No incentive fixed that situation better than putting screensavers up on all the computers that showed a magnification of a single caught doctor's hand.

What kind of truly effective incentives do we need to roll out now, with the Coronavirus? Will washing hands truly make the grade? Maybe we should all get a picture of the virus for our screensavers.

But will that take care of all the people who don't WANT to take it seriously? Those people who will prolong the problem for everyone else by spreading it to their friends and neighbors and to their own family members... all of whom might be trying, very carefully, to quarantine themselves?

Maybe we need a shame bell. The same shame bell that was so ... yeah ... in Game of Thrones.

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