Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Forbes profile of Alvin Roth presents him as Un-Freakonomics.
"In contrast with the authors of bestselling books like Freakonomics, who are fascinated by obscure but intriguing questions like how to detect cheating by sumo wrestlers, Roth relishes real-world challenges." Much of Freakonomics was about crime and education, hardly obscure issues. I liked that Freakonomics presented economists as people who do research to try to find the answers to questions.
The problem with Freakonomics is the marketing, which was successful but dishonest. Graduating from MIT, teaching at Chicago, winning the John Bates Clark Medal, and publishing in top journals are not indicators that one has gone rogue. Exaggerting the novelty of Freakonomics does a disservice to people like Gary Becker, Douglass North and Roger Miller (who tried to sell a version of The Economics of Public Issues under the title of Abortion, Baseball and Weed), Dick McKenzie and Gordon Tullock, and many others.

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