[Paleopsych] NYT: 'Blink' Meets 'Freakonomics'
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Sun May 22 01:14:35 UTC 2005
'Blink' Meets 'Freakonomics'
By DAN MITCHELL
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 7-Eleven patron decides between Coke and Pepsi.
Mr. Gladwell has two books at or near the top of The 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 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,"
(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 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.
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