Ask Your Freakonomics Questions

The Freakonomics Radio beast never sleeps. It wants to be fed, always, more and more. So it has come to this: if you write in your questions in the comments section below, we will answer them — in our podcast! (If you subscribe at iTunes — it’s currently a Top 5 podcast — every new episode will magically arrive in your sleep.) Ask whatever you want of Levitt, me, or the both of us. It may have to do with what we’ve written in the books or the blog or elsewhere. Maybe you want to know how Levitt first thought of the abortion/crime link, or what kind of blackjack player he is, or how he goes about selecting a bottle of wine to bring to a holiday party. We tried this once before, when our publisher wanted to add a Q&A to the paperback edition of Freakonomics, and you all did great. Let’s see if you’ve still got the goods.

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  1. Niknam Hussain says:

    Big fan, have had to buy your books more than once as I lend them out & never get them back.

    My Question:

    I travel extensively and the one constant is corruption, in the sense of bribing officials to get things done or look the other way?

    How does freakeconomics explain the prevalence of financial corruption?

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  2. Thomas Lau says:

    With many different countries (including my own beloved Ireland) facing economic crisis, I was wondering if you or others have looked if different economic groups or peoples have “economic personalities” and if these fit in with existing stereotypes.
    Are the Americans enthusiastic, go-getters
    Germans, reserved pragmatists?
    Who are the romantics? the gamblers? the cynics?

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  3. LP says:

    What’s the cause for the problem of trash in Napoli? How does this aspect of organized crime respond to incentives?

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  4. KewZee says:

    What is the one advice you would give to all those in their 20’s entering this post-2008 economy?

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  5. Ricardo says:

    The brazilian army, federal and local polices have recently joined forces to occupy some of Rio de Janeiro’s slums and ended up seizing tons of drugs and arms. Some authorities estimate that, just in 2 days of action, the drug dealers have lost something close to BRL 68 Millions. Which is the most probable outcome?
    A decrease in crime due to the massive police presence (which in fact is quite localized in the slums) or, at least on the short run, an actual increase in crime rates (especially robbery) due to the drug dealer’s need of financing? Best regards

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  6. Ray says:

    What’s the best way to convert success in a written medium (e.g. a blog) into success in a talk medium (e.g. a podcast)?

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  7. Matthias Whitney says:

    Freakonomics has visited circumcision of children previously, looking at demographics of who chooses to circumcise their children. But could Freakonomics paw through the data to show if there truly are benefits or undue risks to circumcision?

    Proponents tell me that it is more sanitary to have my children circumcised. Opponents tell me that the hospital data is skewed and suppresses how many children die due to the operation. I’ve even read that circumcision is the #1 cause of death in infants in the US according to one extreme opponent.

    Could Freakonomics uncover data that shows whether or not there is a statistical difference between the mortality rates of babies circumcised or not? Can “level of cleanliness” be quantified showing if circumcision is preferable or not?

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  8. Tim O'Keeffe says:

    What do you think about the idea that when an issue becomes economically reasonable, it increasingly becomes morally acceptable?

    For example, I think much of the inimical response directed toward Freakonomics was centered on the abortion/crime chapter because it essentially makes an economic case for a moral issue, strengthening the pro-choice view. (And even though I know there were no political motivations behind this idea, this is still clearly what it does)

    Take the United States providing aid to underdeveloped countries, say. Morally I think we would like to think that human life is, on some level, priceless. However, we often base moral decisions on economic circumstances. A medicine that would save 1 million people at 2$ per pill is almost universally acceptable, while a medicine that would save 1 million people at $2000 per pill is debatable and often unacceptable. Could you comment on this idea?

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