awesome ultimate expert hen (mdyesowitch) wrote,
awesome ultimate expert hen

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Freakanomics: Explanatory Note and Introduction

An explanatory note of my own: I do not expect to do this for every chapter. I just want to get all my thoughts down before I lose my outrage.

Explanatory Note: Once upon a time there were two humble, self-effacing lads. They found it hard to be humble, because they were just damn talented. Still they persevered, until other people noticed how freaking talented they were. Then they, uh, I mean we, wrote a book. And here it is. Aren't you damned lucky to be reading it?

Introduction: Unifying themes and why they suck, and why our minds are too great to be constrained, also, it would be boring.
Abortion and the crime rate:
Theory: Crime dropped in the 90s because abortion became legal in the 70s so all the potential hoodlums weren't be born.
Proof: Studies have shown that disadvantaged children are more likely to become criminals.
Questions: Were there actually fewer disadvantaged children being born? There's no supporting evidence to show that criminal potential pool was actually decreased during this time. I'm not saying such things don't exist, I'm just saying, that's not a given proof and without it, the whole argument is specious. What's needed to prove out this argument is demographics and statistics showing the decline in birthrate among the target audience and the statistics of abortions broken by economic status. Or would that be too boring too?

Real-Estate sales:
Theory: real-estate agents do not try to get the best prices for their clients.
Proof: They sell their own homes for an average 3% higher margin. The incentives for the agent to sell a client's house for that same 3% margin isn't worth the effort (and additional expense in advertising) of attempting to get better offers so they encourage clients to sell to the first acceptable prospective buyer, rather than waiting for the best price.
Questions: The agent is not personally responsible for paying for the advertising, so that "expense" cited drops out of the equation. They are responsible for creating and placing the ad, therefore effort is relevant, and I'll allow that element.
Suggestions: A larger factor than the small increase in personal sales commission is the pressure from an agency to turn over the house quickly, make the money and move on. If personal incentives were all that was needed to secure larger sales for the agency, the the agencies themselves would offer additional incentives. Even doubling the amount of personal sales commission is more then offset by the additional revenue that generated it. Or do we assume that the agencies are run by financial idiots, but the agents themselves are geniuses who can calculate effort/reward ratios?

Theory: There's a not lot of money spent on campaigns. (This is actually the secondary theory, but since I agree with the primary theory - that win potential generates money, not the other way around, I'm leaving that one alone, although mentioning it, just so no one thinks I'm completely discounting his theories wholesale.)
Proof: Americans spend the same amount on chewing gum per year.
Questions: WTF? Chewing gum benefits millions of Americans. Does the political process? I know you can argue that question either way, but I'm going to stand by my argument that a consumable product "Americans buy in a year" is a more tangible benefit than 1 year of political campaigning. Also, I content that the cost of chewing gum is going up at a much slower rate.
Tags: books
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