Tuesday, July 5, 2011


For a non-fiction video full of serious economic analysis, this video has a lot of laughs!  You have probably seen the best-seller book of the same name (Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything) and, now I learn, a cottage industry of follow-ups.  University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and journalist Steven Dubner teamed up for the first book, which became a huge best-seller, and followed it up with the other books and this movie.

Their trademark is taking things we encounter every day, and attempting to explain them from the point of view of economics.  Broken up into several "chapters," and illustrated with well-done video and animation, Levitt and Dubner demonstrate the economics is all about cause and effect and that incentives can explain much.  Their discussions remind us that economics is not about graphs and money, although those can help in analysis and explanation, but economics is primarily a social science, dealing with relationships and behavior.  It's all about people.

Some of their conclusions may conform with conventional wisdom--like the discussion explaining why people with African-American sounding names tend to do less well economically.  Others may challenge your moral presuppositions--like the correlation of the decrease in crime over the last 30 years with the legalization of abortion.  In any case, you will be informed and entertained at the same time, a worthy goal of any documentary filmmaker.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

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