Monday, December 19, 2011

Freakonomics: What went wrong?

Statistician Andrew Gelman documents what's wrong with Freakonomics:
The nonfiction publishing phenomenon known as Freakonomics has passed its sixth anniversary. The original book, which used ideas from statistics and economics to explore real-world problems, was an instant bestseller. By 2011, it had sold more than four million copies worldwide, and it has sprouted a franchise, which includes a bestselling sequel, SuperFreakonomics; an occasional column in the New York Times Magazine; a popular blog; and a documentary film. The word “freakonomics” has come to stand for a light-hearted and contrarian, yet rigorous and quantitative, way of looking at the world.
Steve Levitt was a big hero to the Left when he was giving bogus arguments in favor of abortion. He fell out of favor when he gave arguments against global warming. Now he has been shown to be completely wrong on many subjects.

Steve Sailer says:
It’s unfair to denigrate Levitt and Dubner without comparing the reliability of the Freakonomics brand to that of their chief rival, the Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker Brand. My view is that Levitt and Dubner are more trustworthy than Gladwell by a comfortable margin.
Yes, Levitt has the virtue of being sometimes correct. The New Yorker is read for its literary style, and not for the correctness of its essays. It is famous for fact-checking the details, and getting the big picture wrong.

It is funny how someone can get away with being a public intellectual and giving bogus arguments, as long as he stays politically correct. As soon as he steps on the wrong political toes, then he gets criticized.

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