Economist Levitt and journalist Dubner capitalize on their megaselling Freakonomics with another effort to make the dismal science go gonzo. Freaky topics include the oldest profession (hookers charge less nowadays because the sexual revolution has produced so much free competition), money-hungry monkeys (yep, that involves prostitution, too) and the dunderheadedness of Al Gore. There's not much substance to the authors' project of applying economics to all of life. Their method is to notice some contrarian statistic (adult seat belts are as effective as child-safety seats in preventing car-crash fatalities in children older than two), turn it into "economics" by tacking on a perfunctory cost-benefit analysis (seat belts are cheaper and more convenient) and append a libertarian sermonette (governments "tend to prefer the costly-and-cumbersome route"). The point of these lessons is to bolster the economist's view of people as rational actors, altruism as an illusion and government regulation as a folly of unintended consequences. The intellectual content is pretty thin, but it's spiked with the crowd-pleasing provocations-"`A pimp's services are considerably more valuable than a realtor's'" -that spell bestseller. (Nov.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
After their runaway hit Freakanomics, Levitt (economics, Univ. of Chicago) and journalist Dubner (Turbulent Souls: Choosing My Religion and Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper) return with new investigations. Readers will learn how the cure for childbed fever-a simple matter of doctors washing their hands-was teased out of hospital mortality statistics. The authors also examine the consequences of a garbage-collection tax imposed in Ireland: the intention was to reduce waste, but it led homeowners to burn trash in their backyards, and this tripled the rate of people setting themselves on fire. Other topics include the economics of prostitution, whether reducing carbon emissions to stop global warming stacks up against hard scientific evidence, and how a computer algorithm assists in the identification of possible terrorists. Verdict Readable, irreverent, insightful, and an exemplary representation of analytical thinking, this is for readers who like to think-or possibly be infuriated.-Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.