DATE: 10:35:00 AM
"Oh, Freakonomics! I always wanted to read that."
Steven Levitt, the explorer of everyday riddles, seems to have launched a new kind of fuzzy science. A form of economics that asks and answers the unconventional question about why things work the way they do. Freakonomics operates on the premise that humans operate on incentive: that if morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work.
But why would we want to be "armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties" as the book jacket declares? According to it's marketing machine, Freakonomics has been adopted into high-school and college curricula, as big as Cal, Georgetown, American University, Purdue, and NYU. Levitt speaks at conferences (how I happened upon it) all over the country, and international versions of the book have translated the signature apple-orange logo into sheep peeling to wolf, and to illustrations of city scapes and celebrities. Where can I buy a t-shirt?
Is Levitt's paradigm so unconventional that it redefines the way we view the modern world? Who is this 'forceful,' 'wry,' 'devilishly clever' guy, who apparently can't open a jelly jar without his wife's help?
Perhaps he is not so groundbreaking, as creative. Levitt teaches economics at University of Chicago, won some awards, was named one of Time Magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World," and coined a new word.
Maybe Freakonomics is more a lesson in marketing, than economics.