Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: William Morrow/Haper Collins. 2005. xii+242 pages. Paperback. $17.00.

One should give full marks to the authors for coming up with a most unusual title for a book on economics—a title that grabs one’s attention. The book was most popular having reached the Number Two rank on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction. It consists of a number of articles (six to be precise) authored by Levitt and addressed to a largely lay audience. Although Levitt would like to see himself as a “rogue economist”, in this book he does apply “the basic microeconomic theory of rational utility-maximisation” to subjects that would not be covered in standard economic textbooks. In that sense, his rogue economist’s status becomes doubtful. This apart, the book makes for some interesting reading. Chapter 1 examines the issue of cheating. One would think that students taking their examinations normally cheat. This chapter introduces the notion that teachers also cheat, if the incentives are right. So do Sumo Wrestlers, as Levitt uses statistical analyses to prove how this is done. So one should not be too surprised when people cheat. Morality has no role to play in the decision to cheat.

Mir Annice Mahmood