Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Recently, I had the pleasure to experience a book called Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This book is about a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. Indeed this book was very interesting, it tries to explain a lot of things that normal people don't even try to explain. It tries to quantify things that aren't quantifiable and using empirical facts to reach astonishing conclusion.

The book explores why conventional wisdom is so often wrong, where criminologist to real estate agents to political scientist bend the facts due to ignorance or plain selfish motives. However, knowing what to measure, how to measure the necessary data, can help us understand life and enlighten us from conventional wisdom.

Some of the questions answered in this book are:
  1. What do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common? Do teachers cheat to have a better score for their Teachers Evaluation, similarly, are Sumo wrestlers they actually set up wresting matches? How do you find out?
  2. How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real-estate agents? What kinds of secrets does this too group keeps from you for their own benefit. What does the real-estate agent mean by "well-maintained".
  3. Why does a car's value drops the moment it leaves the lot, and what do online dates cheat about and can you really trust what online daters say about themselves.
  4. If you think a drug dealer makes a lot of money, why does drug dealers still stay with their moms. Or why prostitutes earns much more than an architect. What does a drug dealer, high school quarterback and and an editorial assistant have in common. How the invention of crack cocaine mirrored the invention of nylon stockings.
  5. Where have all the Criminals gone? In the early 1980's, some criminologist and experts claims that the crime and violence in year 2000 would be a blood bath. But it seems that the prediction was wrong....what really happened? Why the 1960's a good time to be a criminal. Why capital punishment doesn't deter criminals. Do police actually lowers crime rates? Is a a gun more dangerous than a swimming pool?
  6. What makes a better parent? Why a good school isn't as good as you think? Eight things that make a child do great and 8 things that don't. For example, would your children do better in school if you were to bring them to the museum once a month?
The book was more a combination of philosophy, math and science and some of the results was amazingly surprising. For example, could you think of how abortion could help to reduce crime? Well it turns out that abortion was the reason why crime in the US dropped in 1995 onwards. And this is because, about 20 years ago, the laws prior to 1970 was against abortion, and so when a single mother fights for her rights to abort a child because she thinks she is not ready and would therefore be an unfit mother. She won the legal case and change the laws of abortion, and 20 years later the crime starts falling.....why is that? You just have to read the book to find out. I shall not spill the beans here....

The book made me think. Why is it that in such a conservative country like Malaysia, there are some people who still throw new born babies in the dumpster, which is far from our cultural and religious beliefs. Why does this happen? Are they afraid of being charge of wetlock? Or perhaps, its more than that....could it be that the social penalty is more unbearable. I guess it must be something attributed to the laws of abortion in Malaysia. I do not condone abortion, but what are people like you and me doing to help against this from happening. If unfit parents are force to become parents...what could possibly happen to their children...if not in the dumpster while being a fetus or eventual criminals in the future. But if our cultural and religious beliefs are against that, then our people, you and me, and hence the government that we choose, and the country that we live, should do something to address this problem. Because just by teaching them morals, won't really stop them. Particularly, social scientist in Malaysia should study, why people throw babies, what made them to act so callous. What could be a social, moral or monetary incentive to stop them from doing so. To know the answers to that mystery questions, a sufficient study and data gathering should be collected. Most mother's who feel that they are unfit are afraid to face the public due to all kinds of punishment the mother would be indignation, capital law punishments as well as being stoned to death in some countries. Sometimes, experts or so called experts hail their knowledge and put fear into local ignorant people (some call them sinners) who are claimed to be doom and damn. And so they act against their believe and start to act like animals. Can we stop this from there an avenue that will re-educate lost young souls from acting like animals? Or do we just ignore it, or face our cheeks the other way and call them sinners? What do you think?