This is a book about decisions, incentives, unintended consequences and statistics showing how conventional wisdom isn’t always wise. The examples given are varied and totally unrelated to each other. The conclusions are not fully documented and the generalizations provided do not recognize exceptions or alternative points of view. If you can get past these issues the book is a lot of fun to read. Reading this book is much the same as listening in on a bull session discussion between two clever comedians who know just enough information to be dangerous. The writing is spiced with puns and humor to keep the reader entertained.
I suppose every reader has their own axe to grind or issue to praise from this book. I have too many axes to grind to mention here. However, there is one issue for which I praise the authors, which happens to the issue for which most people are criticizing them. That is their discussion of global warming. I agree with their assertion that efforts to achieve international agreements to limit releases of carbon dioxide require an impossible degree of cooperation to be humanly or politically feasible. The book also indicates that if, by some miracle, such agreements were achieved it would be too late to make any meaning contribution toward preventing global warming.
Based on the above premise, the book suggests that the most effective way to reduce global warming is to use geo-engineering methods to directly address the amount of sun energy reaching the earth. The authors then discuss several optional approaches to achieving this goal.
Their suggestions may sound a bit crazy. But changing human nature—which would be needed to voluntarily reduce use of fossil fuels—is just as farfetched as their suggestions. The use of fossil fuels will probably decrease in the future because of high prices brought about by limited supply. Unfortunately, this won’t happen in time to prevent global warming. But as this book suggests, there are other options available which can provide time for the world’s economy to transition to renewable energy sources. This type of transition will be pushed by true economic reality, not cap-and-trade rules.
The following are some multiple choice test questions that cover some of the issues contained in this book. They provide an indication of the scattered variety of subjects discussed by this book. The questions are copied from Amazon.com. You’ll need to go to the Amazon.com Page
for this book to get the correct answers.
According to Superfreakonomics, what has been most helpful in improving the lives of women in rural India?
A. The government ban on dowries and sex-selective abortions
B. The spread of cable and satellite television
C. Projects that pay women to not abort female babies
D. Condoms made specially for the Indian market
Among Chicago street prostitutes, which night of the week is the most profitable?
You land in an emergency room with a serious condition and your fate lies in the hands of the doctor you draw. Which characteristic doesn’t seem to matter in terms of doctor skill?
A. Attended a top-ranked medical school and served a residency at a prestigious hospital
B. Is female
C. Gets high ratings from peers
D. Spends more money on treatment
Which cancer is chemotherapy more likely to be effective for?
A. Lung cancer
D. Pancreatic cancer
Half of the decline in deaths from heart disease is mainly attributable to:
A. Inexpensive drugs
True or False: Child car seats do a better job of protecting children over the age of 2 from auto fatalities than regular seat belts.
What’s the best thing a person can do personally to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
A. Drive a hybrid car
B. Eat one less hamburger a week
C. Buy all your food from local sources
Which is most effective at stopping the greenhouse effect?
A. Public-awareness campaigns to discourage consumption
B. Cap-and-trade agreements on carbon emissions
C. Volcanic explosions
D. Planting lots of trees
In the 19th century, one of the gravest threats of childbearing was puerperal fever, which was often fatal to mother and child. Its cause was finally determined to be:
A. Tight bindings of petticoats early in the pregnancy
B. Foul air in the delivery wards
C. Doctors not taking sanitary precautions
D. The mother rising too soon in the delivery room
Which of the following were not aftereffects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001:
A. The decrease in airline traffic slowed the spread of influenza.
B. Thanks to extra police in Washington, D.C., crime fell in that city.
C. The psychological effects of the attacks caused people to cut back on their consumption of alcohol, which led to a decrease in traffic accidents.
D. The increase in border security was a boon to some California farmers, who, as Mexican and Canadian imports declined, sold so much marijuana that it became one of the states most valuable crops.