Why Is “I Don’t Know” So Hard to Say? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s podcast is a new installment of “FREAK-quently Asked Questions,” in which Levitt and I respond to queries you submitted on the blog. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript below; earlier FAQ podcasts can be found here and here.)

You had so many excellent questions! Sadly, we only had time to field a handful. Ty Spalding asked one of the most interesting: “Why do people feel compelled to answer questions that they do not know the answer to?” Levitt replies:

What I’ve found in business is that almost no one will ever admit to not knowing the answer to a question. So even if they absolutely have no idea what the answer is, if it’s within their realm of expertise, faking is just an important part. I really have come to believe teaching MBAs that one of the most important things you learn as an MBA is how to pretend you know the answer to any question even though you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. And I’ve found it’s really one of the most destructive factors in business -- is that everyone masquerades like they know the answer and no one will ever admit they don’t know the answer, and it makes it almost impossible to learn.

New Freakonomics Radio Podcast: “The Economist’s Guide to Parenting”

Our newest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called "The Economist's Guide to Parenting." This is the second of five hour-long podcasts we’ll be releasing over the coming weeks. Some of you may have heard them on public-radio stations around the country, but now all the hours are being fed into our podcast stream. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)

I know what you’re thinking when you read the title of this podcast. You’re thinking what the **** — economists? What can economists possibly have to say about something as emotional, as nuanced, as humane, as parenting? Well, let me say this: because economists aren’t necessarily emotional (or, for that matter, all that nuanced or humane), maybe they’re exactly the people we need to sort this through. Maybe.

You may remember that we wrote a bit about parenting in Freakonomics; now we've put together an entire roundtable of economists to talk about a great many elements of child-rearing, with one essential question in mind: how much do parents really matter, and in what dimensions? So you'll hear about parents' effect on everything from education and culture cramming to smoking and drinking.

The Economist’s Guide to Parenting

Season 1, Episode 2

Our second hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio is called "The Economist's Guide to Parenting." (You can listen or download via the link above, or read a transcript here. This episode and four more hours will be airing on public-radio stations across the country this summer at various times, so check out your local station's website. And you can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast on iTunes or via RSS.)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking what the **** — economists? What can economists possibly have to say about something as emotional, as nuanced, as humane, as parenting? Well, let me say this: because economists aren’t necessarily emotional (or, for that matter, all that nuanced or humane), maybe they’re exactly the people we need to sort this through. Maybe.

What Would the World Look Like if Economists Were in Charge?

We've just released the third episode of our Freakonomics Radio podcast, and this one strikes close to the heart of many readers. It asks a simple speculative question: What would the world look like if economists were in charge?