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The Maddest Men of All: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Ogilvy & Mather's Rory Sutherland, an enthusiast of
behavioral economics. (Photo: Betsy Weber)

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 »


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Hacking the World Bank: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Since its inception in 1944, the World Bank, a multilateral organization charged with financing the development of poor nations, has been led by macroeconomists, bankers, and government insiders. The White House’s 2012 nomination of President Jim Yong Kim – a physician, anthropologist, and academic who used to advocate dismantling the Bank — broke the mold. He is the focus of our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Hacking the World Bank.” (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.)

In less than three years, Kim has overhauled the Bank and laid out ambitious goals — including a 2030 deadline to rescue the more than 1 billion people who live in extreme poverty. Kim is also — along with the Bank’s chief economist Kaushik Basu — eager to apply the insights of behavioral economics to development policy. That is the focus of Kim’s conversation today with Stephen Dubner. 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 »



Great Companies Needed

My good friend and colleague John List has very ambitious summer plans.

We’ve both believed for a long time that the combination of creative economic thinking and randomized experiments has the potential to revolutionize business and the non-profit sector. John and I have worked to foment that revolution through both  academic partnerships with firms as well as a project of John’s called the Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI), whose mission is “evidence-based research on charitable giving.” Read More »



Lend Your Voice to Freakonomics Radio

We’re working on an episode about behavior change — essentially, how to get yourself to do the things you should be doing but often don’t. It revolves around the fascinating research of Katy Milkman at Penn. For example, she and her colleagues have noted a “Fresh Start Effect”:

The popularity of New Year’s resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks. … We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.

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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 »



Someone Else’s Acid Trip: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


At first glance, Kevin Kelly is a contradiction: a self-described old hippie and onetime editor of hippiedom’s do-it-yourself bible, The Whole Earth Catalog, who went on to co-found Wired magazine, a beacon of the digital age.

In our latest edition of FREAK-quently Asked Questions, Kelly sits down with Stephen Dubner to explain himself; the episode is called “Someone Else’s Acid Trip.” (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, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Kelly argues that there is in fact little contradiction between his past and present. 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 »



Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


What if there were a small step you could take that would prevent you from getting sick, stop you from missing work, and help ensure you won’t play a part in killing babies, the sick, and the elderly?

That actually exists: it’s called the flu shot. But a lot of people don’t get it. Why? That’s the question we try to answer in this episode of Freakonomics Radio. (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 »