When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen L. Dubner is the fourth in the Freakonomics series written by the duo, an economist/journalist pair. This book is a little bit different than the first three, in that rather than longer articles with in depth analysis, this is a curated collection of blog posts from the past ten years or so. Blog posts tend to be roughly a thousand words, more or less, and so don’t have the time to get deeply in to any topic.
To my mind, the fact that the book poses more random questions than answers (the question “When to rob a bank” is not really answered, beyond “never”) does not take away from its value. The economical thinking of topics that are not obviously economical is interesting. This blog seems to be more of a sounding board for ideas and random musings; the brainstorming before the big research project is selected. So, if you go in expecting processed data and conclusions, you won’t get them. If you go in looking for a new way to approach every day problems, you probably will get them.
It is the rare gift of an academic to make academic thinking entertaining, and Levitt and Dubner do so easily. The topics truly are random, from how to cheat successfully in online poker to what time of day is best for crime, to risk aversion, to why people eat more shrimp than in past years, and why more expensive gas might be a good idea.
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