Why America’s Economic Growth May Be (Shh!) Over: a New Marketplace Podcast

With the Presidential debate finished, we are officially in the final lap of America's second-favorite spectator sport. (Yes, football is better than politics.) Of all the talking that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will do by Nov. 6, you can bet that a great deal of their breath will be expended on economic matters. Because that's what the President of the United States does, right -- runs our economy?

Well, actually, no. The President has far less influence over the economy than people tend to think -- as we've pointed out not once, or twice, but three times.

That, of course, won't stop the candidates from talking about their plans to "fix" or "heal" or "restore" our economy -- all of which imply that we are in an economic doldrums that is sure to pass. But what if it doesn't? What if the massive economic growth the U.S. has experienced through most of our history is a thing of the past?

That's the topic of our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post.)

What's Wrong With Cash for Grades? A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “What's Wrong With Cash for Grades?”

(You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

In it, Steve Levitt talks to Kai Ryssdal about whether it's effective to pay kids to do well in school. Levitt, along with John ListSusanne Neckermann, and Sally Sadoff, recently wrote up a working paper (PDF here) based on their field experiments in Chicago schools. Levitt blogged about the paper earlier; here's the Atlantic's take.

The Hurricane "Vaccine"

Parts of the East Coast are still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Irene. The storm wreaked havoc, causing more than 40 deaths and billions of dollars in damages. One thing that is striking about hurricanes is that, even after years of study, all we really know how to do is deal with the symptoms; we don't actually have a way to treat the disease itself.

So what if there were a hurricane "vaccine"?

Should Bad Predictions Be Punished?

What do Wall Street forecasters and Romanian witches have in common? They usually get away, scot-free, with making bad predictions. Our world is awash in poor prediction -- but for some reason, we can't stop, even though accuracy rates often barely beat a coin toss.

But then there’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop forecasting. Predictions covering a big crop like corn (U.S. farmers have planted the second largest crop since WWII this year) usually fall within five percent of the actual yield. So how do they do it? Every year, the U.S.D.A. sends thousands of enumerators into cornfields across the country where they inspect the plants, the conditions, and even "animal loss."

This week on Marketplace, Stephen J. Dubner and Kai Ryssdal talk about the supply and demand of predictions. You'll hear from Joseph Prusacki, the head of U.S.D.A's Statistics Division, who's gearing up for his first major crop report of 2011 (the street is already "sweating" it); Phil Friedrichs, who collects cornfield data for the USDA; and our trusted economist and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

From Trash to Cash

What would motivate you to throw away less trash? Perhaps a healthy dose of environmental guilt would do the trick. Or would it take another kind of green — as in cold, hard cash — to force your hand? In the latest Freakonomics Radio Marketplace segment, host Kai Ryssdal talks with Stephen Dubner about how […]

'Tis the Season to Get What You Don't Want

Picture this: Christmas morning, tchotchke-free. This week on the Freakonomics Radio Marketplace segment, Stephen Dubner proposes an idea that might finally put an end to holiday deadweight loss. Remember that patchouli-infused candle your loving aunt gave you last year? You wouldn’t dream of paying more than $1.99 for it, and she paid $30. That’s $28.01 […]

In Vino Veritas, Sort Of

This week on Freakonomics Radio’s Marketplace segment, we ask a simple question about a simple product: wine. It’s the quintessential holiday party gift, but which one should you buy? One would assume that wine, like most other products, follows basic price theory: you get what you pay for. But according to a growing body of […]

The "No-Lose" Lottery

For this week’s Freakonomics Radio segment on Marketplace, I sent host Kai Ryssdal two envelopes. The first one contained an object that Americans spent over $58 billion on last year: a lottery ticket. We know Americans like to play the lottery, even though it’s not a very good investment. The odds of winning aren’t great, […]

It's Election Day: Can You Really Blame the President?

In honor of Election Day, our latest Freakonomics Radio installment on Marketplace asks a question that might make a few political heads explode: how much does the President of the United States really matter? Sure, he’s the “leader of the free world” – but how much unalloyed power does he actually have? Is he more […]