2005’s Freakonomics was one of the most refreshing reads in a long time. It had a theme that I always enjoy, of taking a fresh, evidence-based look at everyday phenomena and challenging the conventional wisdom. Of course, most everybody likes this and Freakonomics was a huge hit. Its examination of how incentives affect behaviour was truly fascinating, for instance that imposing a fine on parents for being late to collect their children from daycare lead to more late parents, as the fine legitimised the overtime asked of the carers. The finances of a major urban crack-dealing operation were also really fascinating.
Journalist Stephen Dubner has again teamed up with economist Steven Levitt and their new book, Superfreakonomics (released in October), has proved more controversial than the original. Unfortunately, the controversy is less to do with the amazing insights they have revealed, but more to do with their sloppy handling of some important topics. Foremost among these was climate change.