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In the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the most erratic combinations of topics are discussed. Economics is addressed in the most unconventional way and lead by questions that are not asked of regularly or even at all until now. Levitt and Dubner both compare incongruous subjects that capture your attention and leave you wondering truly how they relate. Throughout the chapters both authors support their claims by using multiple rhetorical strategies. The authors claim there is not a unifying theme for this book and it is proven so throughout each chapter, but there is a shared message, which is economics is the study of incentives.
In chapter 6, “Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?”, the authors utilize logos and statistical evidence such as graphs and charts in order to support and persuade their audience to agree with their claims. The chapter’s main focus is the incentive behind the names parents choose for their newborns and what this represents. The authors used the following charts, “The Twenty ‘Blackest’ Girl Names”, “The Twenty ‘Blackest’ Boy Names”, “The Twenty White Boy Names That Best Signify High-Education Parents”, and “The Twenty White Girl Names That Best Signify High-Education Parents” to support their claims that the incentive for choosing a particular name all falls under the belief that it will influence the child’s development and it also extends to ethnicity and cultural beliefs.
In chapter 3, “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?”, the authors utilize pathos in order to project their underlying message that economics is the study of incentives. The lifestyle of drug dealers is brought to the reader’s attention by comparison. As the authors state that, “an editorial assistant earning $22,00 at a Manhattan publishing house, an unpaid high-school quarterback, and a teenage crack dealer earning $3.30 an hour are all playing the same game, a game that is best viewed as a tournament. The rules of the tournament are straight forward. You must start at the bottom to have a shot”. With this comparison the authors are trying to get the reader to sympathize with the dealer’s unfortunate situation. Although, many are disgusted by such lifestyle the authors give the audience the understanding that for drug dealers that was their only option and their best shot for success. The authors built their claim upon pathos and emotionally appealed there readers in order for them to understand what it is to be a drug dealer; the incentives, or in this case the economics.
In chapter 4, “Where have all the criminals gone?”, the incentives and outcomes of abortion are discussed. The authors state that, “the very factors that drove millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly criminal lives”. As an outcome this claim was drawn, “legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime”.
To support the claim the authors provided the following statistics “violent crime in the early-legalizing states fell thirteen percent compared to the other states; between 1994 and 1997, their murder rates fell 23 percent more than those of other states”. The authors clearly used to appeal to logos and statistical evidence in order to support their claim about the importance of legalizing abortion. In chapter 1, “What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?”, the authors use both logos and pathos to support and build their claim about how closely both groups relate. The authors discuss the similarities between school teachers and sumo wrestlers as they both have incentives to cheat. Teachers have been becoming, “praised, promoted and even richer” because they have been correcting students’ incorrect answers on standardized testing. In comparison, “Sumo wrestlers are given the choice to pay-off their competitors in hopes of becoming a top-ranked sumo wrestler that “is treated like royalty”. Through the use of juxtaposition the authors appeal to the readers by relatively comparing one another and mentioning specific details on how both groups cheat.
In conclusion, economics is the study of incentives. This author developed the claim of these chapters through the utilization of rhetorical strategies such as logos, pathos, and juxtaposition. Not only did the authors use rhetorical strategies but their diction was a major factor of persuasion for the audience. Not only was I intrigued by Freakonomics, but I also agree that economics is the study of incentives.
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