October 28th, 2009


more on Superfreakonomics mansplaining prostitution to us

So I made the mistake of watching Steven Levitt on the Daily Show last night. And then I wanted to scream. A lot.

Gee, thanks for letting us know that we're getting our silly "morals" get in the way of your pure, pure science. Sady Doyle and Echidne of the Snakes already have written some pretty good take-downs of their (really, incredibly shoddy) economics and feminism, but I feel the need to reiterate a few things.

First of all, economics is at it's heart, the study of choices. What choices are the best for the individual, what choices keep the economy efficient, what choices benefit society as a whole. In the excerpt they've provided, they seem to be ignoring the ways in which some prostitutes do not have the same choices others do due to their race and class and environment. They seem totally uninterested in understanding or exploring how this different range of choices changes the way in which prostitution operates and functions.

And we're not just talking about how much these people are getting paid. These are entirely different markets, here, with entirely different market forces at work. Even I can see this, and I haven't been paid handsomely to write a book.

While we're on the topic of stupidity, can I just say that I am still seeing red over Levitt's comment about how they were trying to take "morality out of the picture"? I get that economics (and economists) likes to pretend it's a completely amoral discipline of cold, hard facts, but this is so patently untrue, it really is quite staggering. Economics is a discipline based on flawed assumptions, and the assumptions it makes cannot be amoral. In this excerpt, they use white, male, middle-class, and heterosexual as the default, and this is a moral choice on their parts. This is an assumption that cannot be construed as "neutral" or "scientific," because it fails to reflect the realities that some of their "rational actors" behave in. Also, you, as white, male, heterosexual, Ph.D. are not nearly as objective about these issues as you think we are. Our ladybrains are not confusing us in this issue.

God, I am not surprised that they're just churning out crap for the paycheck these days, but seriously, this is just bullshit disguised as science. Please stop with your condescension.

Oh, and Levitt? The reason why people are up in arms over your global warming section is that it is downright wrong, not because you are so boldly telling the hard truths. Plus, you fail at statistics.