*Think Like a Freak*

by on May 10, 2014 at 6:58 am in Books, Economics, Philosophy | Permalink

The authors are Levitt and Dubner and the subtitle is The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain.

This is a beautifully written book, as good as the original Freakonomics.

My favorite parts were the discussion of the Japanese hot dog eater Kobayashi and his training/learning regime, why van Halen had the “no brown M&Ms” clause in its contract, and why Nigeriam spam scammers tell you they are from Nigeria.

You also can get the real story (or at least part of the real story) of how the authors helped the British authorities identify terrorist money laundering.

Addendum: Here is an excerpt from the book.

1 dearieme May 10, 2014 at 7:09 am

“how they helped the British authorities identify terrorist money laundering”: what, the Nigerian scammers? How very sporting of them.

2 So Much for Subtlety May 10, 2014 at 7:43 am

You also can get the real story (or at least part of the real story) of how they helped the British authorities identify terrorist money laundering.

Terrorists don’t need to launder money in the UK. The BBC gave the charity the 7-7 bombers ran a quarter of a million pounds or so.

As long as people are unwilling to even use the word “Muslim” in the same sentence as groups like Boko Haram, I don’t think any amount of clever software or intelligent algorithms will help. Worse, they are a displacement activity – designed to make it look like they are doing something. When they are not.

3 dan1111 May 10, 2014 at 8:57 am

While I have some sympathy to this anti-PC argument, who is actually failing to report that Boko Haram is a Muslim group?

4 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Well, Michelle Obama for one. She manages to give a speech on the kidnapping without mention Muslims, Islam or Boko Haram. Not even once.


5 Xenos May 11, 2014 at 1:31 am

Maybe there is a good reason based on game theory for her to do so. She is a lawyer.

When I cross-examine a witness I often make an erroneous statement, thereby inviting a witness to correct me. Eg.,Q: “…and you threatened to kill your wife on three occasions last year, right?” A: “No, just once!”.

Here, we have a radical group that funds itself by kidnapping and racketeering. Don’t even credit them by mentioning their religious affiliations, let them raise those issues. It is more damning coming from their own mouths.

6 V. Uil May 12, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Methinks you are reading too much into her stance. She has not been a practicing lawyer for a long time.
The likely reason is simply political correctness. Something the Obama crowd are adept at.

7 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm

For another, the Council of Foreign Relations is happy to use the word “Islamist” but goes out of its way to blame everyone but Muslims and Islam:


8 So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2014 at 11:45 pm

After 9-11 The Guardian turned over large parts of its editorial pages to Islamists – this is the paper that described the 7-7 bombers as “uppity” after all. And they continue to delight. Think Islam was involved in Boko Haram’s attacks? No, you fool! Of course not!


The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls, and the massacre of as many as 300 civilians in the town of Gamboru Ngala, by the militant al-Qaeda affiliated group, Boko Haram, has shocked the world.

But while condemnations have rightly been forthcoming from a whole range of senior figures from celebrities to government officials, less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis.

Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change.

9 ummm May 10, 2014 at 8:04 am

want to read this

will wait for the pdf to leak online

10 Brendan May 10, 2014 at 8:49 am

“This is a beautifully written book….”

Well-written? Maybe. Clearly-written? Sure. Beautifully-written? Please. GMAFB.

11 Urstoff May 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

better than Knausgard

12 Z May 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

We should get a few dozen good columns from Steve Sailer out of it, at least. I am disappointed they did not title the book “Superduperfreakonomics: This Time With Far Fewer Mistakes.”

13 Affe May 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

Nigeriam = reason for no brown M&M’s.

14 The Other Jim May 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm

This excerpt is infuriating. You can easily draw the exact opposite conclusion that the authors do from everything they cite.

Nigerian scammers tell you they are from Nigeria because if you ever send them that first bit of money it will be obvious you are sending money to Nigeria. If they said they were Swedish, the gig would be up.

It is insane to say that people who take “The Offer” are greedy losers. A huge percentage of them are useful people can easily get a similar job, so they take your $2000 and go get a similar job.

“The Ordeal” tells you precisely nothing about a person’s guilt or innocence, but instead everything about how they view God and (more specifically) the priesthood. No, these are not related.

And David Lee Roth is a washed-up jerk who already blew far too much of his money, and his income-generation ability these days is limited by his reputation of being an incredibly pretentious douche. Do you think he had any incentive to cast doubt on the M+M story by making this up? Is there any possibility that people respond to incentives?

Nah, silly question. This is economics. Where the only way you can make money is by writing anecdotes in a book.

15 prior_approval May 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm

‘You can easily draw the exact opposite conclusion that the authors do from everything they cite.’

Prof. Cowen obviously has different standards than you do – ‘This is a beautifully written book, as good as the original Freakonomics.’ And one could assume a major aspect of that just might be how flexibly one can interpret facts to support a position – such as positions that bring in a stready stream of page views, or donations.

16 prior_approval May 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm

And here is the final line of a comment concerning the excerpt and trial by ordeal from another professor (via metafilter) – ‘It’s quite possible the most stupid thing I’ve read in a very, very long time, and I teach undergraduates.’

So, as one can see, opinions may differ.

17 Colin May 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

I find it disheartening that I’ve already heard every story in the excerpt (serious, Van Halen and M&Ms?). While I’m the target market, I’m pretty hesitant to spend any money on a book of stories that have floated around the internet and other people’s books for ten years.

18 Colin May 10, 2014 at 4:47 pm

And even the British government and terrorists thing was already in Nate SIlver’s book!

19 anon May 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”~Willa Cather, you can still enjoy the storytelling

20 Pete May 10, 2014 at 11:45 pm

They told the terrorist story already in Superfreakonomics… I’ll still probably read this book, but I’ll be checking it out of the library.

21 usfoodpolicy May 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Maybe Tyler’s joking with us.

Could “beautifully written book” be an underhanded dismissal the substance?

Could “as good as the original Freakonomics” be deliberately faint praise?

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