July 3, 2007

My review of Freedomnomics by John R. Lott Jr.

I don't see a link yet, but Tuesday is supposed to be the day my book review comes out in the Washington Times. The last time I reviewed an economics book for a daily newspaper, my review of Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist appeared in the New York Post on December 25, 2005, so the Third of July is a big improvement in terms of being a high traffic day.

Here's the opening:

Harry Truman longed for a one-armed economist who couldn't tell him, "But, on the other hand …" As the economic mismanagement of the 1970s is forgotten and the profession's confidence soars, however, the opposite has emerged: the two-fisted economist. These scholarly brawlers self-assuredly venture far beyond their traditional topics.

Steven D. Levitt's 2005 pop economics bestseller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything featured his views on the Ku Klux Klan (he's against it), real estate agents (they're kind of like the KKK), sumo wrestling (it's dishonest), and, most famously, the legalization of abortion in the 1970s (it reduced crime in the 1990s by, in effect, pre-emptively executing unwanted babies more likely to become criminals).

Freakonomics, which sold three million copies, included a half page of scandalmongering about rival economist John R. Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime, who had attacked Dr. Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory. Dr. Lott responded by suing Dr. Levitt for defamation. Now, Dr. Lott has struck back more constructively with his endlessly thought-provoking Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't (Regnery, pp. 275, $27.95).

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I recently read _Freedomnomics_ and was disappointed by the book, although it was full of interesting ideas. I don't think Lott ever came up with anything that he didn't expect to find and his book just became more and more partisan argument as it went on. Lott has a piece on the deterrent effects of the death penalty, but he utterly ignores one of the most astounding things in _Freakonomics_. According to Sudir Venkatesh's research on Chicago drug gangs, drug dealers face a 25% risk of being murdered. This is far above the tiny chance of being executed in any likely democratic judicial system. There is no shortage of young men willing to be drug dealers. Lott's conclusion about the death penalty may be correct, but his claim is weak when he ignores such a vastly more substantial risk.