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An Evening With the "Freakanomics" Writers

I spent a delightfully entertaining evening with University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitz and journalist Stephen Dubner, authors of the wildly popular Freakanomics, and the just released “frequel” Super Freakanomics. I love these guys, because they do the same thing as I for a living, looking at raw data, absent of preconceived notions, and drawing iconoclastic, out of consensus conclusions that cause a huge public ruckus. No surprise that they are pals with New Yorker magazine columnist, Malcolm Gladwell (see my interview with him by clicking here ). I learned that Chicago prostitutes are like department store Santa’s because they greatly raise prices during periods of seasonal high demand, like around the fourth of July. And while on that theme, I also learned that pimps add far more value than real estate agents, about 25% more. Furthermore, Ford Motors fought mandatory seat belt legislation in the fifties because they were afraid it would advertise the dangers of driving. Drunken walkers suffer eight times more injuries and five times more fatalities than drunk drivers. Also, child car seats offer no safety advantage over conventional seat belts whatsoever, and are just a racket created by the sellers of such seats. The safest thing you can do with a baby is simply place them on the floor of the back seat (They did the crash dummy tests to bear this out). While 100% of hospital doctors admit they should wash their hands, only 73% admit to doing so, while covert monitoring reveals that a scant 9% actually do it, leading to untold numbers of often fatal infections. The evening brought home a truth that I have been pounding into my trainee research analysts for decades; that raw data and facts will trump opinion and spin every time.