Unstoppable Freakonomics Brand to now Include Police Procedural

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Steven D. Levitt

According to a report on this week, NBC has purchased a police procedural somehow inspired by or connected to the pop-economics “Freakonomics” brand.

The Freakonomics phenomenon started in 2003 when New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner published a glowing profile of University of Chicago academic Steven D. Levitt. After making Levitt a star, Dubner promptly went into business with him, writing a series of Freakonomics columns and blogs for the New York Times Sunday Magazine with Levitt and eventually publishing a hugely profitable best-selling Freakonomics book in 2005. This led in turn to a follow up book, Superfreakonomics, in 2009, a Freakonomics film in 2010, a lucrative Freakonomics business consulting group etc. Though Freakonomics is commonly viewed as a sort of harmless, quirky pop science in fact Levitt and Dubner have argued for some extreme and controversial positions including the idea that the drop in the U.S. crime rate in the 90s is directly connected to a higher abortion rate among African-Americans and the idea that the entire U.S. prison system should be privatized and used as a source of cheap labor.

The Freakonomics police procedural will be called “Pariah.” According to the report:”In Pariah, the Mayor of San Diego appoints a rogue academic with no law enforcement background to run a task force using Freakonomics-inspired alternative methods of policing. This causes an uproar within the police department as the morally conflicted, conspiracy-minded academic solves crimes by conducting his controversial experiments on citizens of the city.” No word yet on whether he will go on a campaign to get more black women in San Diego to have abortions or to privatize San Diego’s prison system.

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