Freak-Freakonomics (Ariel Rubinstein is the shit!)
I don't care how lame anyone thinks this is, but economic theorist Ariel Rubinstein is the shit. He's funny, self-deprecating, and brilliant. I was just re-reading his delightful, sarcastic review of Freakonomics. (Overly dramatized visual depiction below; hey, conflict sells.)
The review consists of excerpts from his own upcoming super-worldwide-bestseller, "Freak-Freakonomics". It is full of golden quotes such as:
Chapter 2: Why do economists earn more than mathematicians?
The comparison between architects and prostitutes can be applied to mathematicians and economists: The former are more skilled, highly educated and intelligent.
Levitt has never encountered a girl who dreams of being a prostitute and I have never met a child who dreams of being an economist. Like prostitutes, the skill required of economists is “not necessarily 'specialized'” (106). And, finally, here is a new explanation for the salary gap between mathematicians and economists: Many economists are hired to justify a viewpoint but I have never heard of mathematicians who proved a theorem to satisfy their masters.
Levitt is correct when he says: "Information asymmetries everywhere have in fact been mortally wounded by the Internet." (68) The curious reader can roam the Net and discover, for example, that there are some who harbor doubts regarding the (superfluous) story about the fellow who claimed to have defeated the Ku Klux Klan using a trivial tactic. It is also easy to find doubts raised about the validity of Levitt’s two important studies (including the famous and surprising study in which Levitt (and Donahue) argued that the legalization of abortion in the 1970s had a drastic impact on the decline in crime in the U.S. in the 1990s). The two studies were the subject of critiques published in the same academic journals in which Levitt gained recognition. In response Levitt acknowledged "insignificant" errors. There is no trace of the criticism in the book.
Freakonomics aspires to "thinking sensibly about how people behave in the real world. All it requires is a novel way of looking, of discerning, of measuring. This isn’t necessarily a difficult task, nor does it require super-sophisticated thinking." (205) The authors believe that “The most likely result of having read this book is a simple one: you may find yourself asking a lot of questions.” (206)
I do not believe in magicians who know how to teach people to think, to feel and to invent. Levitt claims: "A long line of studies ... had already concluded that genes alone are responsible for perhaps 50 percent of a child’s personality and abilities.” (154). I dare to attribute (without research) 49% to the mother, father and kindergarten teacher. These numbers do not leave much room for Freakonomics.
Did I forget to say, Ariel Rubinstein is the shit? His website even has a giant listing of university town cafe's across the world (with pictures!), with spots I have heard of many times but never visited and now relate to only as mythical, legendary places, like Small World Cafe (left). His entry for Palo Alto, however, is missing the much less cool, though terribly wonderful, 24-hour Happy Donuts (right).
This showdown is not intended to parallel the above in any way.