Thursday, 17 September 2015
I'm sure you've heard of Freakonomics.
It all started with a 2005 book by economist Steven D Levitt and journalist Stephen J Dubner called Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. If you've not read it, please do so; it's brilliant. What Levitt and Dubner do is strip away the hype, the spin, the rhetoric and the polemic to reveal the statistical evidence at the heart of subjects as varied as Sumo wrestling, drug dealing, real estate and even the socioeconomic patterns of naming children. To date the book has sold 5.5 million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. In 2009, a sequel called SuperFreakonomics looked at drunk walking, the economics of prostitution, and how to stop global warming among tother things. To date, that book has sold 1.5 million copies. Two further books - Think Like a Freak (2014) and When to Rob a Bank - were also bestsellers. In addition, they've been keeping a blog for 10 years and Dubner has been putting out a free weekly podcast which regularly tops the chart and gets, on average, around seven million monthly downloads. Freakonomics is a phenomenon. There was even Freakonomics: The Movie.
Which is why I'm delighted that Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road? has taken a tentative step into their world.
As I reported on an earlier shedpost, I met Stephen J Dubner earlier this year and we had a chance to discuss various subjects. The result of the conversation was that I promised to send him an early draft of the book in case there's anything there that might interest the Freakonomics audience.
Well, there was. Last week's and this week's podcasts look at some of the extraordinary work being done to bring behavioural economics and cognitive behaviour theory into crime prevention - subjects very close to my heart. Here are links to the two podcasts. Like all of the episodes (and there are over 200 available), they are fascinating and well worth a listen:
Part 1: Preventing crime for pennies on the dollar.
Audio (also available from iTunes and other download sites) and Transcript.
Part 2: 'I don't know what you've done to my husband but he's a changed man'.
Audio (ditto) and Transcript.
At the very end of Part 2, you'll hear that I get a mention. And so does a short quote from Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road? And then Stephen says:
'All this has made me want to make a future episode – or maybe several, actually – about policing and crime. Working title: “What Are Cops For?” I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic from any angle at all, or any suggestions for what kind of stories we should tell, what kind of data we should pursue. Write to us at email@example.com, or give a shout on Twitter.'
I'll be involved in the show. And, if you have any thoughts on the matter, you can have your say too. Either email Stephen at the address above or leave a comment under this shed post and I'll pass it on to him.
It's going to be a very interesting show.