Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner: Excerpt 1

My first economics book. Well, not exactly, I have read textbooks before, but hell, they ain’t no match for this one. Not that that’s saying a lot about this particular book (because my textbooks are seriously low standards to compare with) but it gives one some idea. I bought this one since I wanted to read up something about economics — and it had to be something that wouldn’t kill the tiny flicker of interest in my mind.  I’m glad to say this one hasn’t.  It has also piqued my curiosity quite a bit. Not just about economics but about the mechanics of this book itself.

The book itself doesn’t seem to have a certain purpose. Rather it seems to have certain randomness. Like someone decided to freely associate with and about economics. So it’s not as if the writers want to really make a point. Although they do claim that the point is to show how economics works everywhere and everything. Sure. Fine. One could buy that, only once you read the book this seems like such an apology of a ‘point’. Something they ‘had’ to come up with, so they picked whatever seemed most obvious.

Anyhow, the book does have certain observations that are correct. Both authors do ‘uncover’ certain underlying premises about human life that seem to at work in the economics of society.  Therefore certain noteworthy excerpts have warranted mention and extrapolation.

Chap 2. How is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents – Page 55

“…… people respond strongly to strong incentives. And there are few incentives stronger than the fear of random violence — which, in essence, is why terrorism is so effective.”

Well, fear is a very strong incentive. And although fear of random violence may be a strong incentive, there are ones much stronger. Stronger as incentives. Since they will produce reactions that will be stronger, in a very quiet, un-noisy manner, but yet, very strong. Fear is a unique emotion. It has unbelievable motivational qualities. Most people (almost all, actually) function out of fear. It remains one of the primary factors for function in people.  To the stone-age man (I like this term, unscientific as it may be) fear was the only motive — he hunted because he was afraid of starving, he sought protection because he was afraid of  the wild, he sought a mate because he was afraid of extinction and he sought other stone-age men because he was afraid of being alone.  People haven’t changed much. Their reasons haven’t changed much.

One of mankind’s most fundamental “creations” — Religion — came out of a grotesque surrender to fear. This statement has two aspects: That of religion being a fundamental creation and that it exists because of fear. That religion was created by man becomes obvious since there is no proof of the existence of Religion independent of man. He created it since it served a purpose. This purpose was control. Control over the minds of those who could be controlled. What kind of a person can be controlled by another? One who subordinates himself, his mind, his ability to think to that of another person. One who has no sense of ‘self’. A person without a self is no longer a human being, but just a creature who lives out of a simple pain pleasure mechanism like all other animals and therefore, like them, is motivated only by fear. The creature’s lack of self incapacitates him to have any other motivating factor, since any other factor would require the capcity of thinking. Religion was created to control such creatures. And it thrives, due to the existence of such creatures.