But the big problems that society cares about - crime and disease and political dysfunction, for instance - are more complicated than that. Their root causes are often not so nearby, or obvious, or palatable. So rather than address their root causes, we often spend billions of dollars treating the symptoms and are left to grimace when the problem remains. Thinking like a Freak means you should work terribly hard to identify and attack the root cause of problems.
Of course, this is far more easily said than done. Consider poverty and famine: What causes them? A glib answer is the lack of money and food. So theoretically you can fight poverty and hunger by airlifting vast amounts of money and food into poor and hungry places.
This is pretty much what governments and aid groups have been doing for many years. So why do the same problems persist in the same places?
Because poverty is a symptom - of the absence of a workable economy built on credible political, social, and legal institutions. It's hard to fix that even with planeloads of cash.
-as excerpted from Levitt and Dubner's Think Like A Freak