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The Freakonomics Approach

June 27, 2006

My Organizations and Markets post on "puzzles" versus "problems," in philosophy and economics, is generating some interesting discussion. Mainstream economists, I suggest, are increasingly avoiding the "big questions," focusing instead on finding and solving cute, clever, but ultimately ephemeral, puzzles. Call it the "Freakonomics Approach." (Or, borrowing the title of Bob Murphy's review of Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics, the "more-fun-than-truth approach.")

Does the popularity of books like Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist signal a trend within economics? If so, what is it — micro over macro, empirical over theoretical, applied over pure, silly over serious? Does this present an opportunity for Austrian economists, either to do the same thing, but better, or to offer an entirely different approach?

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