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When Willpower Isn’t Enough: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


One of the most compelling talks I saw at this year’s American Economics Association conference was by Katherine Milkman, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at Penn. She holds a joint Ph.D. in computer science and business, but her passion is behavioral economics — and, specifically, how its findings can be applied to help people in their daily lives. Milkman and her research are the focus of our latest Freakonomics Radio episode, “When Willpower Isn’t Enough.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »



This Idea Must Die: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Are you an idea junkie? Of course you are! It’s exciting to hear about ideas, especially new ones. There’s a progression that happens when you hear a new idea – you run it through your brain, try to envision where it might lead. Who will benefit from this new idea? Who will it hurt? Will it be worth the cost? Is it legal; is it morally defensible? Is it, in fact, a good idea?

In our latest episode of Freakonomics Radio, we run that progression in reverse. Rather than asking if a new idea is a good one, we ask whether it’d be better if some of the ideas we cling to were killed off. The episode is called “This Idea Must Die.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »



The Maddest Men of All: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Our previous Freakonomics Radio episode, “Hacking the World Bank,” discussed how Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, is using the insights of behavioral economics to fight poverty. Kim acknowledged that non-profits like the World Bank are playing catch-up:

KIM: If you were to go to Ogilvy or any of the big public-relations companies and give them this [new World Bank report on behavioralism], I think they would laugh at us in the sense that they would have been utilizing these insights very aggressively for a very long time.

This week — voila! — we have a story about how Ogilvy (& Mather), the global marketing and advertising giant, is indeed pushing the limits on how behavioral insights can be applied in the real world. The episode is called “The Maddest Men of All.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »



Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Next week, the White House is hosting a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (known to most laypeople as “terrorism”). It was originally scheduled for last year but got delayed – and then put back on the calendar after the Paris attacks in January. What should we expect from a summit like this? “Alas, I’m expecting very little of a positive nature,” Col. (Ret.) Jack Jacobs tells us. “I view this principally as a media event. I hope I’m wrong.”

Just in case the summit does turn out to be primarily a media event, we thought we’d take our podcast – which technically, is a media event – and turn it into a terrorism summit. This week’s episode is called “Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »



How Efficient Is Energy Efficiency? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Arik Levinson is an environmental economist at Georgetown who spent some time as a senior economist for environmental issues with the Council of Economic Advisors (C.E.A.) under President Obama.

“One of my jobs,” he says, “was helping the White House evaluate the environmental policies coming out of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency. And I quickly realized that most of the policies that I was seeing involved energy efficiency.” Read More »



How Safe Is Your Job? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Economists preach the gospel of “creative destruction,” whereby new industries — and jobs — replace the old ones. But in this era of technological wonder, has creative destruction become too destructive?

That’s the question we ask in our latest podcast, “How Safe Is Your Job?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »



That’s a Great Question! A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


Having been at the Freakonomics Radio podcast for a while now, I’ve noticed a trend. During an interview, you ask someone a question and, before they answer, they say “That’s a great question!” Believe me, most of the questions I ask aren’t that great. So what’s going on here? Where did this reply come from? Is it a verbal tic, a strategic rejoinder, or something more?

That’s the topic of our new episode, called (shockingly) “That’s a Great Question!” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

You’ll hear from the linguist Arika Okrent, who examined a few huge databases for us (including the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English) to see if the phrase is indeed as common as it seems. Read More »



Some Other Explanations for Why Public Bathrooms Are the Way They Are

From a podcast listener named Katie McGreer, some really interesting comment on our recent episode “Time to Take Back the Toilet“: I am an avid listener of the Freakonomics podcast and I just wanted to respond to the recent episode on noise in public washrooms (or the lack of buffers).  I was having a discussion […] Read More »