Monday, May 02, 2005


I sent this comment to the writers of the new book Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner.

Gentlemen, I bought and read your book. I have a couple of comments.

1. Regarding sumo, how insightful is your thesis that vested wrestlers throw matches to their 7-7 opponents in a quid pro quo? When I lived in Japan from 96-2001, I noticed that those conducting the tournaments tried to match 7-7 wrestlers on the final Sunday of matches, specifially to avoid the type of collusion you mentioned. Further, as I recall, "smart money" gamblers ALWAYS bet on the 7-7 wrestler if he did happen to be matched agaist one who already had his kachikoshi. Such a bet is the closest you can come to a "lead pipe cinch" without actually being privvy to the comspiracy. Japenese gamblers may not have the benefit of regression analysis, but they have a lifetime of empirical knowledge which results in the same conclusion.

2. Why be reticient about advocating abortion and voluntary sterilization as a crime fighting tools or as a tools for ameliorating many of sociey's ills? I wonder because it seems that later in your book in the parenting section and in the naming section, you bolster the idea that social pathologies are genetically inherited. I think that the half of the American population that generally supports abortion would be gratified to know there is another reason to support its legalization, and it would undercut the idea that many on the pro-life side hold that abortion is an absolute evil. Properly presented, I think you and polititians who embrace your ideas would find a large, receptive audience for them.

Just as Japanese gamblers lacked regression analysis but made the same conclusion you did about 7-7 wrestlers, I think that the American people have noticed that criminal pathologies come out of one socio-economic group, but have been conditioned NOT to give voice to those thoughts. Ironically, your book shows how this conditioning was done in the case of the Klu Klux Klan yet how we still harbor and act on our prejudices if we thing we can get away with them, as you noted in your discussion of the Weakest Link. If academics and writers like yourself are willing to point out statistically that society would be better off with a smaller population of the pathology-producing groups, it will provide society will the cover to talk comfortably about solutions that will actually work to reduce crime and illiteracy such as lifetime incarceration for career criminals, economic incentives for voluntary sterilization and free birth control and abortion.

If you are looking for a unifying theme for this book, I would suggest that you look no further than genetics is desiny.

Thank you for a thoughtful and interesting book.