Although Levitt and Dubner write about highly charged topics, they write in a manner that does not offend most readers. How do they use language and style to achieve this balance?
Though Levitt and Dubner take on very controversial topics (such as their claim that the availability of abortions to mothers of little means explains the drop in crime in the 1990s), they do so in a way that seems palatable to most readers. Part of their approach lies in using personal anecdotes and related stories. For example, instead of presenting Roe v. Wade as just a court case, they delve into the personal story of Norma McCorvey, a poor woman in Texas who became the lead plaintiff in the case. Her story helps to add color and life to the idea that women who wanted abortions were often poor and unable to support their children after they were born, hence explaining why abortions reduced crime from children who were not supported well in their youth and who went on to become criminals.
In addition, the authors provide related examples. They provide information about money in political races to show that just because two variables are correlated, one does not necessarily cause another. These related examples help them explain why just because the reduction in crime went along with other variables, it was not caused by these variables. Finally, the authors have an approachable, lively style that is not academic or dry, making their thoughts more accessible to different types of readers.
Freakonomics does indeed discuss thought-provoking and controversial topics, but because of the authors' use of a tongue-in-cheek tone and self-depracating humor, readers are able to digest the work without letting their bias overrule logic. Levitt and Dubner's tone is especially important in sections where they discuss the KKK, the intentional placement of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods, and the link between names and income. While the statistics are often unpleasant and disturbing, such as those related to the KKK's use of a fear-mongering reputation to control so many people and Margaret Sanger's promotion of abortion to control minority populations, the authors deftly present those facts and then demonstrate the ironic link between the ugly statistics and human nature. Because Levitt and Dubner choose to remain matter-of-fact throughout the book and do not take themselves too seriously, they successfully convince their readers to examine their own motives for personal choices and philosophical viewpoints.