Read an Early Excerpt from When to Rob a Bank

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In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Freakonomics comes this curated collection from the most readable economics blog in the universe. When Freakonomics was first published, its authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, started a blog — and they’ve kept it up. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. In When to Rob a Bank, they ask a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken?

Dubner and Levitt wound up publishing more than 8,000 blog posts on Many of them, they freely admit, were rubbish. But now they’ve gone through and picked the best of the best. You’ll discover what people lie about, and why; the best way to cut gun deaths; why it might be time for a sex tax; and, yes, when to rob a bank. (Short answer: never; the ROI is terrible.) You’ll also learn a great deal about Levitt and Dubner’s own quirks and passions, from gambling and golf to backgammon and the abolition of the penny.

Below you can read an early excerpt of When to Rob a Bank, comprising the introduction and first chapter. Enjoy!



Love your work.

Teresa Lee

Hello! I am a teacher in an inner-city school in Brooklyn, New York, currently forced to teach economics out of my certification. When I started listening to your podcast, I decided to include it in my curriculum. I currently have students listen to parts of your podcast on Fridays and I have dubbed it, "Podcast Fridays." I find topics that I hope would be interesting to my students and have they reflect on them. Most recently, I have asked my students to write you questions and comments in relation to this blog post!

- How do you find and generate ideas for blogs?
- Why would you want to think like a terrorist?
- Why would airlines allow lighters but not toothpaste?
- If I were a terrorist, I would create an airborne disease.
- What do you think of the police brutality?
- Is blogging the best way to get your voice heard?
- Aren't you afraid of the government coming to you for your comments?

We would be VERY happy if you provided us with a response.

Thank you!



The section about starting a library in today's economy left out one perspective... some people get a library book for free, as I did with your first book and then become so addicted to the genre that whenever I hear that you have a new book I will immediately buy a copy because I cannot wait the few month until my library gets one. I do donate my copy to the library when I am done in hopes to generate new addicts, also it is tax deductible.

Bruce Blondina


I have enjoyed all your books.
A comment on When to Rob a Bank's story of the person who embezzled from the Bank. When I was an officer at a Bank a few decades back, all officers were required to take two weeks together specifically to prevent just the situation you described. It was believed that any maleficence would be evidence in that two week period.


I got this a few day ago (Not from a library ;) ) without knowing you. I am probably getting the rest to an check you post. Just brilliantly written.