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If Books Could Kill

Michael Hobbes & Peter Shamshiri

Books, Politics, Arts, Society & Culture, News

4.67.3K Ratings

🗓️ 2 November 2022

⏱️ 73 minutes

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Peter. Michael. What do you remember about a book called A Freak Enomics?


If I recall correctly, the thesis of the book is had my mother aborted me, I would not have committed so many crimes.


Alright, welcome to If Books Good Kill. From your episode. Are we taglining this, Mike? I don't think so. I think that was the tagline. I don't know. I've done that for two shows already.


The dumb books that captured our collective imagination. Yes, the books that did to our brains, what Jigsaw did to Robin Hood.


I'm Michael Hobbs, I'm a journalist and the co-host of Maintenance Fays.


I am Peter Shamsheri, I am a lawyer and the co-host of the Five to Four podcast.


The books are fascinated by dumb ideas and how they spread through the population. A couple of months ago, we started talking about how to do a podcast about the dumbest ideas of the last 50 years.


The more we thought about it, the more we realized that a good way to do it would be by going through airport books, which are kind of like the super spreader events at this point of American stupidity.


They're the natural vessel for pseudo science and fake history. And just sort of quintessentially American, you know. All of this complex knowledge and information, boiled down into a mush, and packaged and sold for 2495 to people who forgot to charge their Kindle for the flight.


This is the seventh episode that we recorded, but the first episode that we're releasing because I started reading Freakonomics and then I realized that this book is the perfect overture.


The quintessential airport book.


The quintessential like wrong and bad airport book. It's like really shocking how bad this book is. And it's also like the badness of the book is also matched by like how influential it was.


What do you actually remember about the book itself and like the era?


It comes out in 2005, is that right?


Just five, yeah.


Okay, so in the 80s, you have sort of like the Chicago school economists who start to like posit all of these theories that are that basically boil down to like we can solve most social problems with like economics principles.


And then you get something like Freakonomics, which feels like the mainstreamification of that concept, right? Just taking that sort of nihilistic neoliberal sort of viewpoint and bringing it to the masses.


Exactly. I mean, you cannot underestimate how popular this book was. So it sold four million copies. It was on the bestseller list for 39 weeks.


I think an underrated aspect of this book's influence is the fact that they had a New York Times blog and a podcast like five years before cereal.


I mean, I listened to that podcast for years. Like there wasn't that much else to listen to.


It was like this or fucking Ricky Jervais. And it's like that's what you listen to when you were washing dishes.


I also think the subtitle of the book is important because it's a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. Like this guy's outside the mainstream and he's saying things they don't want you to hear is also like one of the dominant paradigms of the ways that Americans are liable to believe bullshit.


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