Monday, Mar. 07, 2011


As Stephen J. Dubner wrote on his blog on Feb. 28, Freakonomics, which recently moved to a new Web address, has "taken on a life of its own," morphing from book to blog to podcasts to movie and now an online home away from the New York Times. Yet the blog retains its thriving, daily heartbeat.

Each hour, Dubner and Steven Levitt and their team of expert Freakonomists crank out fun, fascinating posts on everything from Romanian witches and tomato gel spheres to the subcultures of knitting and drug dealing. Their obsessions are infectious: I don't follow football, but love their posts on the NFL, as well as everything they write on prostitutes, baby names and fruit stands.

The magic of Freakonomics is its ability to anchor a giant idea — "the hidden side of everything — in compelling human stories and research. One of my all-time favorites is Dubner's "What's the Best Advice You Ever Got?" in which he recounts a fishing trip he took when he was 14. "If you spend all your time catching the little fish, you won't have time — or develop the technique, or the patience — to ever catch the big ones," he learns. It's a lesson in opportunity costs, wrapped in a touching personal story.

Frank is a senior writer at the Wall Street Journal and the author of the book Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich. His blog, the Wealth Report, is on