When to Rob a Bank | Steven D. Levitt

Summary of: When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants
By: Steven D. Levitt

More Sex, the Better Economy?

The Common Good of Casual Sex and the Proposal for a Sex Tax

Do you believe that sex could contribute to the common good and relate to economics? In More Sex is Safer Sex, University of Rochester economics professor Steven Landsburg argues that healthy and careful individuals should have more casual sex for the benefit of the population. This implies that reckless people who are more likely to contract and spread STDs should be discouraged from having sex. Similar to factories that pollute, Landsburg suggests a tax on sex to control the healthcare costs and lost productivity associated with sex. An individual who engages in sexual activity that spreads disease and costs society money would be taxed, while practitioners of safe sex might receive a tax credit. Landsburg even proposes calling this tax the “Extracurricular Intercourse and Lesser Sex Act Tax” or the “Family Creation Tax”. While this idea is not entirely new, it was not well-received when proposed in 1971 by Democratic legislator Bernard Gladstone.


Get ready to delve into the world of ‘When to Rob a Bank,’ where authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore the unusual, yet fascinating side of economics, human behavior, and social norms. In this summary, we dive deep into peculiar statistics about names and how that affects one’s life decisions, discover our misconceptions about pricing and ecologically friendly choices, and even learn about the perfect day to rob a bank. Prepare to be both enlightened and entertained as you uncover a multitude of warped suggestions and well-intended rants that just might change the way you look at the world around you.

Strange But True Names

Do names influence life events? This summary explores various statistics and anecdotes that suggest the answer may be yes. For instance, a high number of criminals have the middle name Wayne. Additionally, the origin of the name Nevaeh highlights how easily names can catch on. Finally, readers of Freakonomics have shared humorous stories of fitting names, such as Limberhand, an arrested public masturbator, and Dr. Les Plack, a San Francisco dentist.

The Art of Pricing

The book highlights the unpredictable nature of our common sense in matters concerning pricing. It emphasizes the importance of being cautious in our purchasing behaviors, especially when it comes to our health. The author describes the inconsistency in pricing of generic drugs by major pharmacy chains and the need to shop around for better deals. The book also sheds light on bizarre pricing patterns by some businesses, where additional items cost more than the initial ones. Lastly, the author critiques the U.S. government’s decision to keep the one cent piece in circulation despite its cost exceeding its value.

The Hidden Dangers

In Superfreakonomics, the authors revealed that drunk driving is not as dangerous as walking while intoxicated. Our perception of risk is flawed, as illustrated with the fact that horseback riding is more dangerous than riding a motorcycle. We should also be more cautious around people we know, as statistics show that victims of murder, rape, and assault often know their attacker. This information challenges our preconceived notions about danger and encourages us to be more aware and take extra precautions in our daily lives.

The Many Faces of Lies

Why do we lie? It turns out that people lie for different reasons. While some lies do more harm than good, others are worth telling if they benefit us. This article highlights the complexities of human behavior when it comes to lying. From Mexican welfare applicants to bestselling memoirists, we see how people can deceive for various reasons. While some lies are motivated by practical concerns like qualifying for social welfare programs, others stem from shame or the need to be recognized. Even memoirs that purport to be true stories are sometimes creatively elaborated to gain more publicity and credibility. It is then not surprising that memoirs can be more fictional than fiction. Ultimately, the article suggests that lying is a pervasive and multifaceted phenomenon that needs to be understood in its various forms.

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