A Review of Freakonomics, a Book by Steven Levitt

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Freakonomics Rhetorical Essay

The Freakonomics book is used to educate, entertain, and persuade the average reader about touchy topics that correlate more than what meets the eye. It may appear that there is not one unifying them within the book but when reading the stories you get an idea of why “things are not always as they seem” which gives you a deeper understanding of why or how things really happen.

Freakonomics was co-authored by an the economist Steve D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J.

Dubner. Steve D. Levitt is a highly regarded economist being that he was awarded the John Bates Clark medal for being the most influential economist under the age of 40 and was named one of Time magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.” Levitt received his BA from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from MIT in 1994. Since 1997 he has been a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Stephen J. Dubner is an American journalist that was previously employed by the New York Times as a writer and editor.

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Other than working for one of the world’s most respected media outlets, Dubner himself wrote books such as Turbulent Souls, Confessions of a Hero, and The Boy with Two Belly Buttons. Freakonomics is the result of when an economist and journalist clash.

Time has the most impact on the book being that it talks about both the past and present and how they collide. There is an example used about the downfall of Romanian leander Nicolae Ceausescu’s reign and abortion laws in 1989 compared to the different incentives of policing strategies used in the 1990’s U.

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S.. Even as different as these two thing may seem they have a great correlation in the sense that they revolve around a generation of people growing up in what seemed to be different worlds but with similar values. In this book we see statistics from as far back as the 1890’s and get an understanding of why they are still relevant today. In reading this you gain knowledge of how the past still has such a great effect on our modern day society and how we will continue to see this cycle in the future.

The authors are seen using many rhetorical forms throughout the writing which can be seen in numerical graphs and data. In chapter 3 “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?”, multiple graphs can be seen with different information about the costs that go into being a drug dealer and what they do with their revenue. Of course the data isn’t exact but it gives the reader an idea of why there is such a big majority of drug dealers living at home. Diction was another major form of rhetoric seen used in the book. Many “negative” words such as abortion and murder are used as incentives to convey their overall message.

In Freakonomics there is a great amount of ethical appeals seen within the different stories many of which shift typical views and give some things a deeper meaning. Levitt and Dubner have a way of explaining things in a way that can educate people on hard to learn topics. The idea of the superpredator alone gives the audience a sense of relatability making them feel as if something being discussed by an economist was something they could learn without being made to feel intellectually inferior. Ethos is used to captivate the audience making them want to read more.

Logical appeal is used overall in the story to show why things are the way they are using statistics. There is statistical evidence on page 97 showing why both lynchings and membership have fallen in the KKK. Membership in the clan had a significant drop because many people that wanted to be taken “seriously” were beginning to see it as a joke after the media had berated the group. From this lynchings were rarely seen because of the negative effect it had on the organization through the media. It is logical that with one thing decreasing would impact the other and that is exactly what happened. Another example of logos in the book would be the naming of lower class black children. When born into a life of meager means, typically black families give their children black sounding names so they can relate to those in the community around them. This works as both an advantage and disadvantage because on one hand the child will grow up ‘accepted” by their peers but on the other hand the child may not be seen as someone taken seriously or professionally as an adult. Bias surrounds society constantly and as much as some people don’t want to admit it something as little as your name can impact the way others view you.

Emotion runs through the book and is never lacking even when it may seem the readings may have become “too” factual. For example on page 150 there is a scenario with a little girl named Molly who has two friends named Amy and Imani. In this story Molly is not allowed to play at Amy’s house because her parents own a gun but is instead allowed to go play at Imani’s because she has a swimming pool. Molly’s parents feared that she may be injured from gunplay when in reality more children die or are injured in swimming pool related accidents that they are by guns. Things like this make you question if parents with good intentions actually have a positive impact on their children or if they are doing more harm than good. Another example of the use on an emotional appeal is when the very touchy topic of abortion is brought up. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice this book still manages to hit home and make you question your morals and personal beliefs between what is right and wrong. Going back to Roe v. Wade we see that a young woman named Norma McCorvey fought to have a legalized abortion in Texas. Later we learn that the court ruled in favor of Ms. McCorvey but her personal beliefs wouldn’t allow her to go through with it, so she gave her baby up for adoption and became a strong advocate for pro-life. This story just makes you consider what the circumstances would feel like if you were put in her place without the option to choose what to do with your own body. For something to be considered emotionally appealing it has to be able to stick with you even after reading it, Levitt and Dubner were very successful with this.

Freakonomics is the average person’s way of understanding how and why economics tie in with the most simple things in everyday life. In this story we read of ethos, logos, pathos and more all of which gave us a greater understanding of what really goes on in the world and why things are the way they are. There is never a dull moment when reading this book because there is always something new lurking around the next page.

Works Cited

  1. Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Print.
  2. Stelios Constantinides. “Steven D. Levitt.” Steven D. Levitt – William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor.


Cite this page

A Review of Freakonomics, a Book by Steven Levitt. (2021, Sep 27). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-review-of-freakonomics-a-book-by-steven-levitt-essay

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