March 28, 2007


So, when I first heard about the book, Freakonomics, I was very skeptical. I thought it would be a guy trying to peddle social issues based on wild correlations. I was wrong. It's a very practical book regarding the downside of conventional wisdom, and the search for true, causal relationships between events. Frankly, it's about the power of incentive, and how social and economic problems can be looked at through this lens of true incentive to create possible solutions. One thing that the author has gotten in trouble for mentioning over the past few years was a correlation he found with the Roe vs. Wade decision lowering crime rates in America. Hold your initial reaction. With legalized abortion causing less children to be born into poverty, and with crime tending to stem from economic poverty, this DOES make sense. It doesn't claim to make a moral decision, the point is finding the true causes. And the author does clarify that turning that Roe vs. Wade correlation into a moral decision depends on how much you value the life of a fetus. For example, if a fetus is worth 0 lives, then abortion is a fairly practical solution for helping the fight against poverty. If a fetus is worth 1 life, then the 1.5 million abortions a year are far worse than the crime that these abortions eliminate. If we're trying to figure out the equal tradeoff, we would have to believe that roughly 500 abortions is the moral equivalent of preventing one homicide. Fascinating stuff. It's making me very interested in the ideas of governing through incentives as a whole.