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Freaky economics (12 Jul 2005)
"No one individual could hope to explain everything that is going on in modern life," he says. "But we can offer a snapshot of why certain things happen. The data can reveal a great deal about people and their lives."

To me, this reliance on data is both the strength and weakness of Levitt's book. It is what makes his book fascinating and quirky, providing new ways of looking at old problems. But it also means that social phenomena are only ever described - and described in narrow numerical terms - rather than analysed or potentially resolved.

Indeed, when I suggest that some of the issues highlighted in Levitt's book are as susceptible to political solutions as much as statistical analysis, and that sometimes DeShawns do get as good jobs as Jakes, he responds: "Yes, but we cannot fundamentally reorganise society - that would be politically untenable and too expensive.
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