Archives for



Who Runs the Internet? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “Who Runs the Internet?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

It begins with Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt talking about whether virtual mayhem — from online ranting to videogame violence — may help reduce mayhem in the real world. There is no solid data on this, Levitt says, but he hypothesizes: 

LEVITT: Maybe the biggest effect of all of having these violent video games is that they’re super fun for people to play, especially adolescent boys, maybe even adolescent boys who are prone to real violence. And so if you can make video games fun enough, then kids will stop doing everything else. They’ll stop watching TV, they’ll stop doing homework, and they’ll stop going out and creating mayhem on the street. 

This episode then moves on to a bigger question about the Internet itself: who runs it? As Dubner asks: “Who’s in charge of the gazillions of conversations and transactions and character assassinations that happen online every day?” Read More »



How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

In this podcast you’ll hear the economist John List, who is no stranger to this blog’s readers, give us the gospel of fundraising — what works, what doesn’t, and why. List and economist Uri Gneezy write about the science of charitable giving in their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life (which you all helped name, sort of). Gneezy has also appeared previously on Freakonomics Radio, in our podcast “Women Are Not Men,” describing his research on gender and competition in Africa and India.

In this episode, List gives us a lot of ideas about how to successfully raise money — like using good old-fashioned guilt, for instance. (It’s hard to say no when a Girl Scout knocks at your door, and not just because Thin Mints are delicious.) Also, people love winning prizes, so attaching a lottery or raffle to your fund-raising effort is a good idea. There’s also a herd mentality: people are more inclined to donate if they hear their friends are donating. Read More »



How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) It’s another installment of our FREAK-quently Asked Questions, in which Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt answer questions from you, our readers and listeners. 

Steve Reda, a 22-year-old in the Washington, D.C., area, asks if kids today are more careful using credit as opposed to cash. (It’s a question that makes Dubner recall his salad days, back when he fell in love with economics and the “mental accounting” research done by Richard Thaler, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.) This leads to a conversation about spending in general, which leads to Levitt’s counterintuitive advice for the youth of today (advice passed down from Milton Friedman to José Scheinkman and on to Levitt): Read More »



Whatever Happened to the Carpal Tunnel Epidemic?

This week’s episode asks “Whatever Happened to the Carpal Tunnel Epidemic?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Stephen Dubner recalls his days at The New York Times (where he wrote stuff like this, this, and this), when newsrooms were full of two kinds of people: those suffering from wrist pain and those who feared they soon would. Many people had some sort of elaborate computer keyboard setup to remedy the situation — including Steve Levitt, who used a keyboard that folded up in the middle to ease his wrist pain. (He’d been keying in hours and hours of data. Levitt claims it was worth it, by the way: the data led to a paper about campaign spending, which he says was his “first good journal publication.”)

So where did all those white-collar carpal tunnel syndrome victims go? Read More »



Who Are the Most Successful Immigrants in the World?

This week’s episode was inspired by a conversation that Stephen Dubner had on an airplane. (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) He was on his way to South Africa when fellow passenger Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, told him something remarkable: “If you look at ten or twenty or thirty of the richest countries around the world, among the richest people in those countries is someone from Lebanon.” Of course Taleb would say this, Dubner thought. He is Lebanese. But the idea stuck. And that’s what this week’s episode is about.

How successful is the Lebanese diaspora? And how did they get to be this way? Read More »



Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce?” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)  

This episode was inspired by a question from a reader named John Dolan-Heitlinger, who wrote the following: 

My wife has observed that in marriages where there is a son there is less chance of the husband leaving the marriage.  

I wonder if that is true.  

Thanks for your consideration. 

Read More »



Should Tipping Be Banned? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “Should Tipping Be Banned?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) 

As we all know, the practice of tipping can be awkward, random, and confusing. This episode tries to offer some clarity. At its center is Cornell professor Michael Lynn, who has written 51 academic papers on tipping. A few examples: 

Are Christian/Religious People Poor Tippers?”
Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping
Determinants and Consequences of Female Attractiveness and Sexiness: Realistic Tests with Restaurant Waitresses
National Personality and Tipping Customs

Because Lynn has largely built his career around tipping, it came as a bit of a surprise when Stephen Dubner asked him what he would change about the practice: 

LYNN: You know, I think I would outlaw it. 

Read More »



Can You Be Too Smart for Your Own Good? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “Can You Be Too Smart for Your Own Good? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) 

In this episode Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner field questions from podcast listeners and blog readers. (You can listen to earlier FAQ episodes here, here, here, here and here.) In this installment, they talk about circadian rhythms (no, not cicada rhythms) and whether modern life is killing us; the incentives for curing cancer; if you can be too smart for your own good — which leads to a discussion of marriage markets and autism; whether legalizing gay marriage would affect the economy; and why people can be trusted to pay for bagels but not for music.

Once again, thanks for all of the great questions. As Levitt has said before, he really loves doing these FAQs, because …

LEVITT: The questions we get are so strange that you never could have made them up. 

Keep ‘em coming!