Wannabes: TMSIDK Episode 15

Tim Harford, Carla Hayden and Rahmein Mostafavi are panelists. The "Undercover Economist," the Librarian of Congress and the comedian join TMSIDK in Washington, D.C. — the city that wants to be a state — to learn about wannabes, from international spies to new human organs. Femi Oke is fact-checker.

Who Needs Handwriting?

Season 6, Episode 14 This week on Freakonomics Radio: The digital age is making pen and paper seem obsolete. But what are we giving up if we give up on handwriting? A famous economics essay features a pencil (yes, a pencil) arguing that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to […]

How Can This Possibly Be True?

A famous economics essay features a pencil (yes, a pencil) arguing that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.” Is the pencil just bragging? In any case, what can the pencil teach us about our global interdependence -- and the proper role of government in the economy?

Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You’re Driving?

Remember when keeping up with the Joneses meant buying a diamond-encrusted cigarette case? Such ostentatious displays of wealth during the Gilded Age prompted economist Thorstein Veblen to coin the term conspicuous consumption.

Conspicuous consumption has hardly gone away -- what do you think bling is? -- but now it's got a right-minded cousin: conspicuous conservation. Whereas conspicuous consumption is meant to signal how much green you've got, conspicuous conservation signals how green you are. Like carrying that “I'm not a plastic bag” bag, or installing solar panels on the side of your house facing the street -- even if that happens to be the shady side.

Conspicuous conservation is the theme of our latest podcast, called "Hey Baby, Is That a Prius You're Driving?" (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the embedded media player, or read the transcript here.) It centers around a paper by Alison and Steve Sexton, a pair of Ph.D. economics candidates (who happen to be twins, and who happen to have economist parents), called “Conspicuous Conservation: The Prius Effect and Willingness to Pay for Environmental Bona Fides.” Why single out the Toyota Prius?