Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Superfreakonomics is the follow-on to the original Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner. Oddly, this one feels at once both less and more significant, but retains the style of the original.

Why less significant? Hard to say, actually. Some of the subject matter - much of which concerns prostitution - just felt less important and interesting to me. Yes, of course, it is a business and economics applies, but I didn't get any new insights as a result of this information.

On the other hand, some of the material - particularly that discussing global warming - felt more important than anything I recall in the first volume. The discussions about how one might approach fixing global warming were interesting and enlightening.

I consider myself something of a realist on the global warming front. It seems pretty clear to me that the planet is warming up, and that humanity is at least somewhat responsible, but the important thing is what we do about it, not the placing of blame or even the fingering of specific causes. And as usual with the media there is a lot of hype and cruft on both sides of the argument, making it difficult to separate truth and falsehood.

It seems likely that we'll have to do something about it in the end and it is interesting to read the proposed mitigations here. The authors appear to think getting to carbon free energy sources is a good idea as soon as we can make it happen - for any number of reasons - but that getting there will probably take longer than we want to wait for those energy sources, or for the carbon we've already emitted to be reduced back to normal levels. I tend to agree on all counts.

In one way this book is much better than the first. I didn't come away feeling that the authors were out to promote themselves, which they did a bit of the first time around.

In a nutshell this is a good but lightweight book. If it, like its predecessor, causes people to think about new things in economic terms, that's a good thing.