I love the economic way of thinking, and Levitt and Dubner always exhibit it so eloquently. How do economist think? They ask questions like: “What is the alternative?” “What is the actual cost of this?” And, “Whom does this impact?” Economist try to not only look at what it seen, but also take into account what is unseen. I am trained as an economist, so I naturally enjoy books like this. I hope you enjoy it too.
Two of my favorite quotes:
“But when serious people talk about education reform, they rarely talk about the family’s role in preparing children to succeed. That is in part because the very words “education reform” indicate that the question is “What’s wrong with our schools?” when in reality, the question might be better phrased as “Why do American kids know less than kids from Estonia and Poland?” When you ask the question differently, you look for answers in different places.”
“Why do some incentives, even those created by smart and well-intentioned people, backfire so badly? We can think of at least three reasons: 1. No individual or government will ever be as smart as all the people out there scheming to beat an incentive plan. 2. It’s easy to envision how you’d change the behavior of people who think just like you do, but the people whose behavior you’re trying to change often don’t think like you—and, therefore, don’t respond as you might expect. 3. There is a tendency to assume that the way people behave today is how they’ll always behave. But the very nature of an incentive suggests that when a rule changes, behavior does too—although not necessarily, as we’ve seen, in the expected direction.”