Freakonomics Was Published One Year Ago Today
Goodness, it’s been busy. This entire year, and this week in particular. I meant to sit down and write some long and perhaps meaningful note of thanks to everyone involved in the publication of Freakonomics, but time has slipped away and soon the seder guests will be arriving. So let this stand as a very brief thank-you, from Levitt and myself, for all the various encouragements, kindnesses, and challenges that all of you have sent our way. Here is a quick update on recent happenings.
1. We just returned from London, where we spent a couple days promoting the new paperback release of Freakonomics. Even Levitt, who says he hates to do this kind of thing, had a pretty good time. London is fantastic. (It is the city where I, a New Yorker, feel most at home.) For many hours on end we did radio, TV, and print interviews with many arms of the BBC as well as The Guardian, The Times, and even Arena, a magazine for men both younger and hipper than us. We gave a talk at the Institute for Public Policy Research and recorded a series of one-minute Freakonomics audio excerpts for the hottest FM radio station in London. We got to spend time with the excellent folks from Penguin U.K. and William Morris U.K., and we had some beers in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a subterranean pub said to be one of the oldest in London. Between interviews and beers, there were visits to the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Talk of avian flu was in the air, what with the recent discovery of an infected dead swan, the first on British soil. There seemed to be a Starbucks every two blocks, at least in central London, which may explain in part why The Undercover Economist, by our friend Tim Harford, seems to be doing so well there — i.e., he writes quite nicely about the economics of cappuccino. (In addition to having written this book, and writing a twice-weekly column for the Financial Times, Harford is also filming a TV series called “Trust Me, I’m an Economist.”)
2. While we were away, the economist John Lott filed a lawsuit claiming that Freakonomics has libeled him.
3. Also while we were away, this very website was nominated for a Webby Award in the “Best Copy/Writing” category. Among our competitors in that competition are, gulp, The New Yorker. Well, it was nice to be nominated anyway. The Webbys are perhaps best known for requiring that acceptance speeches be no longer than five words. Al Gore, when he won a lifetime achievement award, had this to say: “Please don’t recount this vote.” In the exceedingly unlikely event that we were to win this award, I guess our acceptance speech would inevitably be: “We beat the New Yorker?!”
4. The Jared Paul Stern/New York Post payola scandal, which I briefly blogged about last week, continues to have legs. In the L.A. Times the other day, Joel Stein wrote a funny column about it, including comments from both sides of the Freakonomics aisle (i.e., the economist and the journalist). To me, the most interesting point in the whole affair is that Ron Burkle, by calling attention to Stern’s alleged shakedown, seems to have accomplished exactly what he set out to avoid: the public besmirching of his own name. I had never heard of Burkle before this; now I can read widely about his shenanigans with models, his messy divorce proceedings, etc.
5. On Friday, April 14, at 10:00 p.m., ABC’s 20/20 will devote its full hour to Freakonomics. We don’t really know what to expect but everyone involved in the production of the program has been extremely hard-working and creative, so we have high hopes. The last hour-long 20/20 I saw, “Stupid in America,” was about the U.S. public education system, and it was incredibly interesting, surprising, and provocative.
6. Happy Birthday to our strange little book that keeps on going, and thanks to all of you who’ve helped make it happen.