Here We Go Again.

I just got over a month and a half of writer’s block. Yes, a month and a half. Not just a few hours but weeks. At first I blamed the book “Super Freakonomics” and accused it of being repetitive and not as “super” as I expected. But then I further realized, it was probably me who was unenthused, and possibly even being repetitive in my posts. Just guessing that two of the greatest minds in economics, Dubner and Levitt, probably are a little more interesting than what I have been giving them credit for.

But, I don’t want you to think my entire study of economics also hit a block. Instead it did just the opposite. I began conducting my own research on an experiment having to do with behavioral economics. The details of this experiment cannot yet be revealed due to the possibility of others knowledge of the experiment, which could in the end ruin my results. Therefore, just trust me. Somethings coming.

Also I enrolled in an online course through Duke University with professor Dan Ariely called “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior”. In this course I have been watching weekly video lectures and taking quizzes based on the information. I definitely recommend this course or any from Dan, and if you ever have the opportunity to listen or study under this man, take advantage. I’m two weeks into the course and already have learned so much about the basics of behavioral economics. From mental accounting, opportunity costs, and the pain of paying, this course has let me see economics through yet another set of eyes.

I am planning to jump back into my book, reread a few chapters and hopefully get my posts back in full motion. I apologize for anyone who was let down by my inconsistency, but hopefully with these next few posts I can make it up to you. (You, being my imaginary dedicated followers.) Whether it’s for you or for me, with briefcase in hand, I’m back.

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How Is A Street Prostitute Like A Department-Store Santa?

“The answer is obvious: they both take advantage of short-term job opportunities brought about by holiday spikes in demand.”

Balancing supply and demand is one of the basic of understanding economics, let alone life in general. In this chapter Levitt and Dubner identify how a woman can make more money being a prostitute rather other stereotypical female jobs. This is all because the demand for a prostitute’s services are a lot higher than the demand for other positions. (No pun intended.) So since the prostitute noted in the book, Allie, maintained control over her business then she became more successful than most. So why doesn’t every woman want to be a prostitute?

Now to most of you reading that the answer you probably scoffed and said “that’s easy”. But those who actually pondered it, props to you. It’s because the incentive of money isn’t as strong as the incentive of what your family would think, how you would feel, and how its socially wrong. Maybe if prostitution would be legalized then more women would join in the trade because they wouldn’t have the fear of being arrested. But if it were legalized then the demand for prostitutes would probably go down as well. Seeing three or four women on every corner wouldn’t be as enticing as it use to be. Therefore prostitutes couldn’t charge $200.00 per hour, and still have business. It’s all about the balance.

So what does that mean for us? That women should seriously consider prostitution? Or men should dress in red suits around Christmas time to get paid to listen? Or we should all hold a briefcase to appear different from what we really are? No, not necessarily. It means to think in a way where something may make sense, when it never would have made sense before. But that’s just me throwing in my two cents. Pun, this time, was intended.

Introduction: Putting the Freak in Economics.

“When the solution to a problem doesn’t lay right before our eyes, it is easy to assume that no solution exists. But history has shown us again and again that such assupmtions are wrong.”

What’s more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? What’s worst for the community, vehicles or horse-drawn wagons? What’s more deadly, sharks or elephants? The answer is not what you’d think it to be. Society and media can change the way things are interpretated, and then giving off false ideas. So once again Levitt and Dubner are here to address those ideas, and see what the truth behind them really is. Like they said, “We are trying to start a conversation, not have the last word.” But the conversations have already begun.

But even more importantly they did not have the last word. Which is why I believe they are writing the sequel, to keep the conversations going. Plus they never did explain the hidden side of “everything”, so they are taking another step closer to that. How much is everything anyway? Because it looks as if they are going to have a lot of books to write. So grab your breifcase and come on, because this is just the introduction.

And We’re Back….

” The explosive follow-up to Freakonomics.”

Here we are once again. (I can actually say “we” since I’ve had a few visitors now…Oh, the joy!) Levitt, Dubner, my briefcase man, and I are all back together. With the possible addition of prostitutes, Santa, and suicide bombers. Back to write a sequel blog to the sequel book, “Super Freakonomics” and I hope my blog can match the “explosiveness” the book is suppose to convey.

So how is this blog going to be “super” compared to the last, you might ask? Well, personally I failed my challenge for the last blog. Throughout that book I wanted to find a correlation between two local things and relate them back to economics. And I didn’t do that, like I had originally planned way, way back in my very first post. So maybe that’s why I’m here again. Either way, I’m glad to be back.

Epilogue: Two Paths to Harvard.

“The most likely result of having read this book is a simple one: you may find yourself asking a lot of questions. Many of them will lead to nothing. But some will produce answers that are interesting, even surprising.”

The book is now complete. I made it, and I hope you did too. (All of my one views of my blog, which was forced upon my friend, by me…No bitterness intended.) So what now? Move on, read another book, maybe take another shot at a different blog? Yes, but not exactly. Even reading the explanatory note of this book my thinking changed. I began to question everything. Usually my questions already had answers, or were easy enough to figure out. When I was younger, I use to get yelled at by my parents for asking to me questions from “Are we there yet?” to “Why is the sky blue?”. In some sense, one may say I’ve had a knack at economics, and the ideas behind life. But I tend to challenge that.

The questions I ask usually just flip upside down someone’s thinking.You read this book and everything twists around about four times, does a couple flips in the air and then lands upside down, until it makes sense. Now, those questions and theories, are a 10 on the gymnastic scale. So in conclusion I’m going to take a shot at discovering something. Something that’s a 10. Not just why does my economist hold his briefcase? Or why doesn’t LaFonda hold it? Or what is in that briefcase of his? But instead this is the best I currently got:

Is that briefcase holding economist really holding a briefcase at all?

Think about it.

A Roshanda By Any Other Name.

I was named Anna for three reasons. It wasn’t too long, had no nicknames (Other than Ann but my parents didn’t count that), and was popular at the time. My sisters name is Sara for three reasons as well. Not too long, no nicknames, and popular. See the similarities? My parents are middle class people who, in much respect, believe in the average reality of life. And if they had to enter a talent show the would get first place for their talent of settling and accepting reality. We will return to this idea in a bit…

Levitt and Dubner explore the economic consequences of names. What do they really mean? Does Anna mean “graceful” or does it mean average? Does Jimmy really mean “supplanter” or is it a nickname for James, who is prestigious child bound to succeed? Does LaFonda mean “American foundation” or does it really translate to an uneducated African American? If two people had the exact same résumé for applying for a job who would get it; Jimmy or LaFonda?

Now, most of you probably quickly answered the question, then disregarded it and claimed you are not a racist. And that is exactly the point Levitt and Dubner are trying to prove. That names have more that just an impact on people’s lives than some may think. Jimmy may get the hold the briefcase, but LaFonda could be just as worthy.

So returning back to my name. My sister Sara so far has lived up to the stereotype my parents formed for us. But why is my idea of reality so different from theirs? I’m not going to be average even though my name represents my parents ideas. It looks like LaFonda and I have a lot in common.

What Makes A Perfect Parent?

Does reading to your child, living in a good neighborhood, and picking out the “best” school really make an impact on your child’s life? Levitt and Dubner don’t think so. They revealed in this chapter that its not what the parents do, but who the parents are that what factor in on a child’s success. Sure, there might be some correlation behind certain things, but being an “obsessive” parent isn’t as successful as some people think.

For example if Jimmy’s parents are wealthy doctors, but never read to him, he will be just as successful as LaFonda whose parents are factory workers but read to her every night. Why is this? Because growing up in a prestigious environment has more of an impact than over-caring, but yet average parents. Slightly harsh sounding, right?

So Jimmy grows up to be a briefcase holding economist, an LaFonda becomes an assistant to Jimmy, because she just couldn’t get her test scores to be above him.

I challenge this idea. I agree with the idea that its more of who your parents are than what they do that makes an impact on you, but is that it? What a small part of what factors in to make up someone… You never know. Maybe LaFonda might just take that suitcase right out of Jimmy’s hands. And neither of their parents would ever see it coming.

Where Have All the Criminals Gone?

“This isn’t the first time Mr. Levitt’s abortion research has come under attack. Other academics have tried to poke holes in it, and critics across the political spectrum found the research offensive. Conservatives were appalled that it found such positive consequences from a practice many of them found immoral. Liberals felt it smacked of eugenics.” – Jon E. Hilsenrath, Staff Reporter of the Wall Street Journal

Should we be prepared to second-guess, instead of dazzled? This particular chapter has sparked some of the most controversial ideas that Levitt and Dubner’s book uncovers. Like previously noted earlier in my blog, the idea that unwanted children that aren’t aborted are more likely to become troubled adolescents, than are planned and “wanted” children. The proof behind this is the legalizing of abortion in the 1970’s to the crime rate drop in the 1990’s. Not only is the study and idea believed to be immoral by some, but the data is also thought to be incorrect.

Once this book became a best seller, so did the ideas behind it. But not all of them. Many more conservative economist (Wait…Is there such a thing as conservative and liberal economists?…Hmmm.) began to challenge the correlation between abortion and crime rates. Many call the idea immoral, and false accusations. In other studies they challenge that Levitt’s numbers and studies are too narrow to prove such a theory, but Levitt counters saying they are to narrow-minded, and claims that false numbers are only a dent in the whole concept.

So what is it really? A stretch to try to explain something, or the truth? Might just depend on what side you’re on, or how you look at it…Is the man holding the briefcase, or is the briefcase holding him?

You be the judge.

Drug Dealers Living With Their Moms.

“In other words, a crack gang works pretty much like the standard capitalist enterprise: you have to be near the top of the pyramid to make a big wage.”

Why do drug dealers live with their moms? Well its quite an obvious answer. They can’t afford to buy their own house to live in, let alone pay rent for an apartment. But more important of a question, why would you be a drug dealer in the first place? According to the book drug dealers are arrested an average of 5.9 times throughout their period of being in a gang, and have 1 in 4 chance of being killed. Why would anyone take such risks just to deal drugs and make usually less than minimum wage? But then again why does anyone do anything they do? Because everyone wants to succeed in what position life puts them in.

Drug dealing is a very competitive field where only the top of the top live the luxurious life, and everyone below them doesn’t. Instead they all strive to try to beat the top of the top. Which can cause other things they do such as murdering someone just to make a name for themselves. When people are raised in a classy Manhattan home they might want to be a briefcase holding business man just like their dad, versus the poor kid from the Bronx whose dream is to be the head of the gang. they don’t know much of anything other than that is the luxurious life. And everyone responds to incentives, because if the prize is big enough, than the risks usually get bigger as well.

The Ku Klux Klan & Real-Estate Agents.

The power of information. In this chapter Levitt and Dubner show the importance of knowledge and having information. When the Ku Klux Klan’s rituals and ideas were revealed when a man put them as villains on a superman radio show, the attendance for the Klan dropped drastically. Kids would dress up in white hoods and unknowingly mock their parents. What adult man would want to be mocked by his son about a secret society he was in? Not very many. And so that idea greatly affected the Klan. The Ku Klux Klan was a society full of secrets, but when their information fell, into the wrong hands, their white supremacy powers also fell. The Klan is entirely based on the power of its hidden information, much like politicians, stockbrokers, and real-estate agents.

This general idea can be as complicated as the Ku Klux Klan but it also can relate to the simplest of things. For example, the movie “Mean Girls”. A group of girls kept a book called “The Burn Book” where they took pictures of the girls in their highschool and wrote awful comments about them. This book then got out and caused the school to go crazy. But only four girls weren’t in that book. The authors. So everyone knew who wrote it, which then took the most powerful people in the school to be treated not like royalty, but like everyone else. Information can change something so stereotypical as highschool social status, and make all the difference.

So, it really makes you wonder what is in that briefcase, doesn’t it?