Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freaking Out About Superfreakonomics

Around the blogosphere there seems to be quite a bit of freaking out about the about to be released book Superfreakonomics going on. Specifically, about Chapter 5 on climate change. Joshua Gans has a nice set of links to some of the comments and there is some response by Dubner here.

I'm not too surprised by this. I was never that impressed with Freakonomics. Reading through this chapter one of the problems is that they try to cram in way too many points without any or sufficient explanation. But mostly it is just a jumble of half-baked ideas the economics ones just as bad as the natural science ones. For example, the discussion of externalities and Pigovian taxes talks about compensating the victims with the revenue and rather a mixed up discussion conflating individual choices and the choices of countries... Maybe they could have done a better job on the latter with more space... And then they describe Mount Pinatubo as generating "positive externalities"! More appropriate terminology would be simply "economic benefits".

Given this I don't think anyone should be reading Superfreakonomics to learn anything about economics either.

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