Thursday, May 21, 2015

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

There is no good answer to that question, which is why the subtitle makes a lot of sense. The authors of Freakonomics collected pieces from their blog in the book When to Rob a Bank...and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants. In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Freakonomics,  Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner gathered articles from their blog, a blog they started even though Levitt didn't know what a blog was.

I'm going to admit that some of the articles on economics were beyond me. Even though I play backgammon, I found the piece about the statistics of backgammon to be boring. However, I was intrigued by "If Public Libraries Didn't Exist, Could You Start one Today?" Neither author insists their ideas are correct. They wrote them to be thought-provoking.

There are funny articles that point out how ridiculous our ideas are. One showed a padlock on a diaper-changing station. Then there was the "lie of reputation", used, for instance, when a person says they've read a book when they haven't. They don't want people to think less of them. There's an entire chapter about gambling, and a chapter exploring crime and guns. But, there's one article that will probably hit close to home with a number of readers. It's called "Dental Wisdom", wisdom from Dubner's dentist, Dr. Reiss. I had heard this from a dentist once, and even mentioned it recently in conversation. Dr. Reiss said dental decay is getting worse and worse for people in middle age and above because of the medication we're taking for heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. Because many of these medications produce dry mouth, meaning less saliva which kills bacteria, and that leads to tooth decay.

The saddest article was the one by Levitt's father, a doctor, who watched his daughter die of cancer. Oh, and that article about robbing a bank? The take is the U.S. usually isn't worth it. And, one woman who embezzled money from a family bank was caught because she was afraid to leave work for fear someone would catch what she was doing with the books, so she never took a vacation.

When to Rob a Bank is thought-provoking, funny at times, and even sad. And, there's probably an article or two that readers will find warped. Sometimes, it's too complicated. But, Levitt and Dubner have once again managed to bring economics to the ordinary person.

The website is

When to Rob a Bank...and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062385321 (hardcover), 387p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

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