Freakonomics and Moneyball
I was an Economics major in college and anytime I tell people that they find it funny–probably because my job is playing music with kids instead of making money with money. I never had any interest in joining the corporate workforce but still found Econ the most interesting department at Middlebury. It incorporated so much about humanity, from history to psychology to our core values. The focus was usually money, but the how and why made the topic endlessly engaging. Stephen Levitt is an economist who brings the study into new realms; he sees the discipline as general tools to study human behavior rather than simply the flow of money. In his book Freakonomics, he tackles a wide variety of subjects, from the somewhat misaligned incentives between real-estate agents and the sellers they represent, to the corporate structure of a crack gang, to the sad realities of the American school system and the relative lack of influence that parents actually exert on their childrens’ lives. He writes in a refreshingly politically incorrect way, demonstrating that statistics often counter conventional wisdom and shedding light on subjects we only think we understand.
I then picked up Moneyball, a book I’ve been meaning to read for years, which looks in-depth at the subject of baseball and the shifting status quo in our evaluation of players and potential. Again, statistics are the epicenter of this change, moving from a talent scout’s subjective interpretaion of skills to a numbers-based approach that has proven successful in this expensive market.
Both books use the tools created by economists to describe the world we live in and enlighten our perceptions of the untruths of conventional wisdom.