[Paleopsych] NYT: 'Blink' Meets 'Freakonomics'

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Sun May 22 01:14:35 UTC 2005

'Blink' Meets 'Freakonomics'


    THE hot new book "Freakonomics" applies economic analysis to a range
    of human activity - from sumo wrestling to "Seinfeld" - but raises at
    least as many questions as it answers.

    Naturally, readers are drawn to the blog, which picks up where the
    book leaves off. And unlike a lot of writers who blog their books with
    a seeming reluctance, the authors, Steven D. Levitt, an economist, and
    Stephen J. Dubner, a journalist, take to it with the same zeal they
    applied to their book, and the blog is abuzz with activity.

    For example, Mr. Levitt tells of an e-mail message he recently
    received from a fellow trend-tracker, Malcolm Gladwell: A man
    approached Mr. Gladwell at the Toronto airport, asked for an
    autograph, and pulled out a copy of "Freakonomics" for him to sign.
    "We are totally co-branded!" Mr. Gladwell wrote.

    They already were. Mr. Gladwell's name, affixed to his blurb ("Prepare
    to be dazzled") appears above Mr. Levitt's and Mr. Dubner's on the
    cover of "Freakonomics." And Mr. Levitt heaps praise on Mr. Gladwell
    several times on his blog.

    It's no wonder they feel a kinship. The men, along with Jared Diamond,
    the evolutionary biologist and author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel,"
    share a recognition that people are hungry for books that reveal the
    hidden processes that underlie everything from the tides of world
    history to how a [2]7-Eleven patron decides between Coke and Pepsi.

    Mr. Gladwell has two books at or near the top of The [3]New York Times
    paperback ("The Tipping Point") and hardcover ("Blink") best-seller
    lists, but "Freakonomics" is this spring's "it" book.

    In it, the authors explain the economics behind, to take two examples,
    the crack market and the Ku Klux Klan. Why do so many crack dealers
    live with their mothers? Why did the Klan's popularity fade? The
    answers will surprise.

    The blog, at [4]freakonomics.com/blog.php, often taking cues from
    participants, goes even further afield. One particularly amusing post,
    by Mr. Dubner, tells of an ill-fated meal in a New York restaurant and
    incorporates theories of psychology and behavioral economics in
    answering the question "Why pay $36.09 for rancid chicken?"

    This weekend, public radio wraps up "Think Global,"
    ([5]thinkglobal2005.org) an ambitious, weeklong examination of
    globalization that includes contributions from public radio stations
    and independent producers.

    Regular programs, like "Talk of the Nation" on National Public Radio,
    were devoted to the topic, and several documentaries were also

    One of those was "Global 3.0," by American Public Media (the national
    public broadcaster that didn't receive $200 million from the estate of
    Joan B. Kroc, widow of the [6]McDonald's founder).

    The program starts from the should-be-obvious premise that
    globalization creates both winners and losers, and it's not always
    easy to tell which is which. Chris Farrell of "Sound Money" and Robert
    Krulwich, a correspondent for ABC News, the hosts, present deeply
    reported material with a breezy familiarity that never strays too far.
    The Web component is packed with useful links, as well as audio that
    can be downloaded and the program transcript.

    The Birmingham News features an exhaustive collection of material
    relating to the accounting-fraud trial of Richard M. Scrushy, the
    ousted chief executive of HealthSouth. The jury is deliberating. The
    paper's dedicated Web page offers up-to-the-minute news, a
    comprehensive archive, background materials and, most impressively, a
    complete set of the paper's graphs and charts.

    The Supreme Court ruled in favor of mail-order (which really means
    online) wine sales. But before you whip out your platinum card to
    order that case of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill, take a gander at
    Stephen Bainbridge's deconstruction of the ruling at his blog,

    Just for starters, he points out, any or all of the 24 states that now
    prohibit ordering wine through the mail might simply change their laws
    to conform to the ruling while still maintaining the ban. Mr.
    Bainbridge, a wine connoisseur who also teaches corporate law at the
    University of California, Los Angeles, explains how.

    For complete links, go to nytimes.com/business. E-mail:
    online at nytimes.com.


    1. http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/Business.xml
    4. http://freakonomics.com/blog.php
    5. http://thinkglobal2005.org/
    7. http://professorbainbridge.com/

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