The Fix is in-and it’s Cheap and Simple For some reason people always seem to think that every solution needs to be some sort of complex elaborate plan in order for the results to be desirable. However, Superfreakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, proves that sometimes the best fix really can be both simple and relatively inexpensive. In the chapter, The Fix is is-and it’s Cheap and Simple, Levitt and Dubner use a variety of examples to prove that inexpensive solutions really can be the right answer.
One of the most impressive examples that Levitt and Dubner brought to attention was the dramatic change made in the ways of childbirth. Just one hundred years ago the mortality rate of childbirth was 1 out of every 10 mothers died during child birth as a result of puerperal fever. While doctors were aware that these women, and many of their newborn babies, were susceptible to contracting the fever and dying they were unsure as to how the fever was being contracted and therefore unable to remedy the situation.
Doctor Ignatz Semmelweis made it his mission to determine why these women were dying in such drastically high numbers; he soon noticed that women whose babies were delivered by doctors had a high chance of death than those delivered by female midwives. Over time Semmelweis eventually came to the conclusion that the male doctors were performing autopsies and as a result were passing along “cadaverous particles” to these women. Once he had identified the problem it was simple to implement that doctors disinfect after autopsies and the death rate dropped from 9. percent to less than 1. This solution was a cheap and easy fix that saved countless lives. Many of the most ingenious solutions in history have been the result of a cheap and simple fix; from polio vaccines which save the nation billions in healthcare to advances in agriculture that led to the Agricultural Revolution the nation is in better shape thanks to these simple fixes. The car seatbelt is one of the most commonly used fixes, designed to save numerous innocent lives, and was a fairly inexpensive solution to driver safety.
In the 1950’s as a result in the increase of automobile fatalities Ford brought in former secretary of defense, Robert Strange McNamara to help make their cars safer. After analyzing the data he realized the easiest way to improve auto safety was to prevent the passenger from being flung in the event of an accident. For $25 each McNamara had new Ford models feature seatbelts, and while these are one of the most cost effective ways to save a life it took decades of behavioral change before seatbelts have been utilized to their full potential.
Their only major design flaw was that they were designed for adults, so car seats were designed to protect younger passengers; however, this more complicated and expensive fix isn’t necessarily better, after some experimenting Levitt and Dubner proved that car seats are only more effective than seatbelts when the child is under two years old. Another cheap and easy fix that we may soon see was designed to help battle against Mother Nature and hopefully prevent hurricanes.
Hurricanes are fairly predictable, they just don’t have an off switch; a man named Nathan in the Seattle area thinks he may have created and a way to at the very least minimize the effects of hurricane using a fairly simple apparatus to cool the surface temperature of the ocean. His solution would cost roughly $1 billion dollars, which in comparison to the $10 billion a year in hurricane damages isn’t that expensive at all. For once it seems that the title of this chapter was actually an accurate portrayal of the content of the chapter.
Every point made in this chapter demonstrated that even the most simple, inexpensive fix can be an incredible solution. They even used the car seat as a counter point further proving that just because something is more expensive and complicated does not necessarily make it the better choice. While a seatbelt only costs an average of $25 car seats cost at least $50 while premium models can be priced in the hundreds; yet despite the drastic price difference a car seat is only a more effective solution when used on children who are under two years old.
Unfortunately as logical as their argument against car seats people today tend to err on the way of caution, even if it is a more costly alternative. No parent is willing to put their child’s life in danger simply because a couple of economists declare that a seat belt is just as safe. Not to mention the fact that laws are in place requiring parents to keep their children strapped in, but like Levitt and Dubner point out governments are not exactly the best place to look for a simple and cheap solution.
I was very intrigued by their section about Nathan and his discovery with controlling hurricanes. It is impressive that something as monumentally devastating as a hurricane is actually a fairly predictable and potentially controllable thermo dynamic force. With how much devastation this country, and the world as a whole, has seen as the result of hurricanes it is great to see that there is in fact hope to minimize the effects of these disasters.
Nathan proves that if people could simply look for a quick and easy fix to all of our world’s problems we may be in better shape than we thought. While this chapter did make many great points, I felt that there were portions of the chapter that could have been elaborated on quite a bit. The Agricultural Revolution, the Endangered Species Act, and the Polio vaccine were all somehow squeezed into just seven pages. I feel that any of those topics had the potential to be both very informative as well as entertaining.
While at first I could not understand why these sections seemed to be lacking some much needed content, but after reviewing the notes for this chapter it appears that they simply did not have as much research on these topics and as a result were forced to just barely skim the surface of these problems. While Levitt and Dubner may not have gone on in great detail on these topics it was still interesting to see the solutions that people have come up with to solve these problems. It seems that many medical problems do have a relatively easy fix once someone takes the time to do the research and come up with a solution.
Vaccines and other preventative medicines may initially cost a substantial amount in research costs, but the amount of money that is saved, not to mention lives that are spared, makes the cost seem minor in comparison. I think that seems to be one of the points of the chapter; cost is completely relative, yes it may cost a lot initially to create a new vaccine but that is nothing in comparison to the $30 billion in medical expenses that we would be facing if the polio vaccine were not invented. Superfreakonomics provides valuable insight into many economic issues all in a fairly condensed fun and entertaining book.
Prior to reading this book I had little if any desire to understand or learn about economics; however I feel that after reading this as well as their original work Freakonomics I have taken away a greater desire to continue increasing my knowledge of economics. The only flaw I have found so far with this book is that in an attempt to keep the book short as well as entertaining Levitt and Dubner have been limited to keeping things light and not fully diving into the subject fully. I feel this book s a great starting point for students, or anyone who is interested in at least learning a few basic concepts. I can honestly say that prior to having read this chapter I always assumed that the best solutions to any problem needed to be complex and costly. After having read through the chapter I feel that my view point has shifted and I am now willing to think outside the box and look for simpler more cost effective solutions to problems within day to day life. I feel this book as a whole has definitely changes my perception of things quite a bit and made me even more open minded than I had been.
All in all I think that Levitt and Dubner did a great job at making this chapter as well as the whole book work given that they were trying to convey a vast amount of information in a relatively short book. They have shown that by looking at things from a different point of view and being willing to take the risk to think outside the box people are capable of accomplishing great things; sometimes all it takes is one person being willing to take a chance to make a huge difference in the world.