We will happily sign any and all copies of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”

Malcolm Gladwell sent me the following e-mail the other day:

thought you would enjoy this. a man in the security line at toronto airport today recognized me, pulled out a copy of freakonomics, and made me sign it. we are totally co-branded! cheers, m.

For what it is worth, neither Dubner or Levitt has ever been recognized by a stranger and been asked to sign Freakonomics. (or The Tipping Point or Blink, for that matter).

Malcolm has a typically outstanding piece in the most recent New Yorker on Steven Johnson’s new book.


Stephen Squared: to be spotted in a crowd do something distinctive with your hair, get way more of it or way less of it. This is also a good tactic to get traffic cops to pull you over so you can autograph their copies of your book.This works for Malcolm Gladwell. :)


When are you going to blog your appearance on O'Reily? I don't get Fox so I missed it. Love to see a transcript if you have one.

Princess Leia

From the pictures, Malcolm G looks kind of "freaky" while you guys don't.... You guys are just freaky on the inside. :-)

R Funk

Baby boomer's never got to experience of having their life saving disappear in the collapse of the banking system during the depression. They will get to experience the loss of their pensions by bankruptcy courts. General Motors is the next likely candidate to use bankruptcy to steal wages previous earned for the benefit of the elite share holders. The Republicans have made it nearly impossible for the average American to file for bankruptcy to protect corporation but have made it easier for corporations to file. With the help of a Republican judge the average American's tax dollars will be spent to cover the pension fund insurance cost plus they get the added benefit of losing a significant amount of their pension. Look carefully at the ownership of corporations in the U.S. and you'll find that the benefit will go to a relatively small group of elite shareholders. Not unlike the Bush tax cut for the rich shifting the burden to average Americans while creating the largest deficit in U.S. history. This is interesting timing for those who voted on "value issues". There is an old saying among thieves that the perfect crime is when the victim doesn't recognize they are being robbed. Maybe there is a chance that the "value issues' voters will recognize they have duped when they're standing on the corner in a soup line.


the mtb investor


Also, I did not see your appearance on O'Reily; hope to see something about it.

You have got to see this post, also:


Later, RK

the mtb investor

Get your copy of Tipping Point (at Amazon.com) or Blink (at Amazon.com) to be signed !


whos the happiest man alive



This is so cool you blog. 'Saw you on Daily Show and bought and read your book...in one day!

'Hope you keep discovering cool stuff.


Are you like australian or something?? funky site... i wouldn't pay that much$$ 4 a chicken either


Really cool weblog, guys. Keep it up!

You're now one of my favorite links.


SEO Guru

Thanks for such a good blog, you put an interesting perspective on things. Nice one !


Have you read the Tipping Point? It was actually the
last book that I read before starting on Freakonomics.
What a waste of time. The book is litterally devoid
of any hard facts and passes off correlation as
causation in ways that should shame the author. I
find it peculiar that he would want to be "co-branded"
with you when your books present such opposing
explanations for the late 80/90s decrease in crime. I
would think it a point of pride that he defend his
hypothesis that crime tipped. It's as though Gladwell
is more interested in selling books than the truth.
Maybe that's the problem.

Northwestern Econ


I really enjoy reading your blogs! Great job you guys! Truly thought-evoking, intense and interesting.


Actually this relationship, the fact that Malcolm provides a quote for the cover of your book, I find confusing (except as a marketing tool). As a previous commenter pointed out your book does contradict statements he has made regarding the efficacy of the broken glass theory. I was wondering if you might address this inconsistency and if you two have had any discussion about it. It is odd that he would provide marketing support for a book that tends to refute his own.


its sad that people let their personal convinctions get in the way of simple reason and facts. If 3+3=6, but you know seven is better, change the equation, not the answer.

Along the same lines, I think black culture in general has been doing this to themselves for decades, and I wrote something on my blog about it, partly inspired from this blog. I'd love to hear some intelligent comments. :)



Stephen J. Dubner

Brian said...
Actually this relationship, the fact that Malcolm provides a quote for the cover of your book, I find confusing (except as a marketing tool). As a previous commenter pointed out your book does contradict statements he has made regarding the efficacy of the broken glass theory. I was wondering if you might address this inconsistency and if you two have had any discussion about it. It is odd that he would provide marketing support for a book that tends to refute his own.

Steve Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell took part in a friendly debate on the subject. John Tierney of the New York Times wrote a column about it (full text below). Malcolm said that if he were writing The Tipping Point today, the chapter on NYC crime would come out very differently. This statement signals more than anything his devotion to getting the story -- any story -- right. As any journalist knows, the best available information isn't always 100% kosher.

April 16, 2005
The Miracle That Wasn't

It is an inspirational urban lesson from the 1990's: take back the streets from squeegee men and drug dealers, and violent crime will plummet. But on Thursday evening, the tipping-point theory was looking pretty wobbly itself.

The occasion was a debate in Manhattan before an audience thrilled to be present for a historic occasion: the first showdown between two social-science wonks with books that were ranked second and third on Amazon.com (outsold only by "Harry Potter"). It pitted Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point," against Steven D. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago with the new second-place book, "Freakonomics."

Professor Levitt considers the New York crime story to be an urban legend. Yes, he acknowledges, there are tipping points when people suddenly start acting differently, but why did crime drop in so many other cities that weren't using New York's policing techniques? His new book, written with Stephen J. Dubner, concludes that one big reason was simply the longer prison sentences that kept criminals off the streets of New York and other cities.

The prison terms don't explain why crime fell sooner and more sharply in New York than elsewhere, but Professor Levitt accounts for that, too. One reason he cites is that the crack epidemic eased earlier in New York than in other cities. Another, more important, reason
is that New York added lots of cops in the early 90's.

But the single most important cause, he says, was an event two decades earlier: the legalization of abortion in New York State in 1970, three years before it was legalized nationally by the Supreme Court.

The result, he maintains, was a huge reduction in the number of children who would have been at greater than average risk of becoming criminals during the 1990's. Growing up as an unwanted child is itself a risk factor, he says, and the women who had abortions were disproportionately likely to be unmarried teenagers with low incomes and poor education - factors that also increase the risk.

It's a theory that doesn't sit well with either liberals or conservatives, and Professor Levitt hastens to add that the reduction in crime is not an argument for encouraging abortion - he personally has mixed feelings on whether abortion should be legal. But he says the correlations are clear: crime declined earlier in the states that had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, and it declined more in places with high abortion rates, like New York.

Some criminologists have quarreled with his statistics, but the theory was looking robust at the end of the debate in Manhattan. Mr. Gladwell, while raising what he called a few minor quibbles, seemed mostly persuaded by the numbers.

"My first inclination," he joked at the beginning of his rebuttal, "is to say that everything you just heard from Steven Levitt, even though it contradicts things I have written, is true."

That's my inclination, too, as a less successful exponent of the same theory. (In 1995 I explained the crime decline with my version of the tipping point, the Squeegee Watershed, which became neither a buzzword nor a best seller.) In retrospect, the New York crime story looks like a classic bit of conventional wisdom, as the term was originally defined by John Kenneth Galbraith: an idea that becomes commonly accepted because it is "what the community as a whole or particular audiences find acceptable."
Unlike the abortion theory, which was raised in the 1990's and angrily dismissed, the tipping-point idea jibed reassuringly with everyone's beliefs and needs. Urbanites and politicians welcomed a new reason to crack down on street nuisances. Journalists wanted a saga with heroes. Criminologists and the police loved to see their new strategies having dramatic results.

I still think the police made some difference, and not merely because there were more of them on the streets. The new computerized crime-tracking strategies put new pressure on them.

One veteran cop told me that traditionally only a quarter of the officers had done their jobs, and that the heroic achievement of Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had been to get that figure up to 50 percent.

But it now looks as if the good guys did not take back the streets all on their own, and the moral of the story is less about safe streets than safe beliefs. Professor Levitt's abortion theory is not appealing. But the ideas that make us comfortable are the ones to beware.



Ya know Steven,

Malcombs piece was weak. He seems blind to the fact that the electronic entertainments, the themes they adopt, the marketing, all begins life as text, scripts and the like. Irony, huh!

Nice blog. Now I must read your book.