The Hidden Economy
Release Date: October 01, 2010
Starring: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J.
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 93 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Director: Alex Gibney, Rachel Grady &
Heidi Ewing, Seth Gordon,
Eugene Jarecki, Morgan
Executive Producer: Seth Gordon, Michael Roban,
Paul Fiore, Jay Rifkin, Damon
Producer: Chad Troutwine, Chris Romano,
Writer: Seth Gordon
Address Comments To:Bill Banowski, CEO, Magnolia Pictures
1614 West 5th St.
Austin, TX 78703
Eamon Bowles, President, Magnolia Pictures
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New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 924-6701; Fax: (212) 924-6742
Website: www.magpictures.com; Email: info@ magpictures.com
Shot in different segments by different directors, the movie analyzes the ways in which everyday situations affect the bigger economic picture of our lives and by extension, society. For instance, one segment explores how the names given people at birth are often affected by our parents’ race or social standing and can have a positive or negative effect on gaining employment or other successes throughout our lives. Another segment explores how sumo wrestling, while imbued with the image of a time-honored tradition in Japan, is actually the most corrupt sport on earth. Another studies whether giving poor children money to improve their grades pays off with success. Smaller segments detail how public schoolteachers have been found to cheat for students on standardized tests in order to improve their school district’s results, and how the use of incentives as rewards even affects a toddler who is offered M&M’s every time they properly use the toilet.
All well and good, but the film’s remaining major segment explores the extremely dark issue of whether the fact that America’s violent crime rate has dropped dramatically since the early 1990s, when it had been expected to soar. The economist attributes that to the possibility that Roe v. Wade has greatly diminished the pool of potential young career criminals. During this segment, the filmmakers and authors knock down numerous other possible reasons and arrive at this conclusion being likely, leaving out all moral considerations of the issue in a stark balance-sheet approach that doesn’t take into account whether taking human life justifies the potential crime-saving opportunities down the line. Nor do they account for the equal likelihood that abortion has slaughtered millions of doctors, lawyers and other productive members of society. This is a controversial segment that also doesn’t acknowledge that numerous other popular social scientists and economists, including some who are “pro-choice”, have argued strongly against these findings ever since the book was published.
The segment, however, is couched between other portions that intrigue, entertain or enlighten. Thus, while mature viewers should approach all of the segments with some caution, most should experience an intellectually satisfying, provocative time at the movies. Since MOVIEGUIDE® cannot, however, exhaustively research all the points made in this movie, viewers should be careful and do research of the opposing viewpoints before they accept anything in FREAKONOMICS as dogma. The movie also has brief foul language, brief drug references and suggestive dancing by skimpily clad women in one scene.
Some of the segments in FREAKONOMICS are intriguing and worth pursuing. However, as the abortion segment shows, there’s a strong sense of moral relativism in some segments. This leads to a Romantic worldview overall suggesting that the ends justify the means. The movie also contains brief foul language, brief drug references and suggestive dancing by skimpily clad women in one scene. Thus, extreme caution is warranted. Viewers should be careful and do research of opposing viewpoints before they accept anything in FREAKONOMICS as dogma.