From a reader named Eric Geyer:
I was listening to one of your first podcasts, “The Dangers of Safety.” In the podcast, you say “There hasn’t been a single on-field death in the NFL.”
This isn’t completely true — there has been one, I remember it from when I was a kid. A player for the Detroit Lions named Chuck Hughes collapsed and died in the field in 1971. This doesn’t invalidate your point from the story — his death was not related to a football injury, but was caused by a heart attack.
Anyway, in case no other overzealous pedant hadn’t pointed this out, I thought you would like to know
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 »
With the recent sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos, the less-recent sale of the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and the N.Y. Times’s exuberant denial that it is for sale, one thing came to mind: family businesses.
Not an obvious common thread, perhaps. But I have long been interested in how family-run businesses succeed or fail — and in fact this week have just re-released an hour-long Freakonomics Radio podcast on the topic, “The Church of ‘Scionology’” (subscribe here). It features stories on a pair of family beer businesses — Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling — as well as the strange tale of adult adoptions in Japan in the service of corporate stability (i.e., if your son or daughter isn’t up for the job of running your company, then you can simply adopt your successor).
The Post and Journal were long-held family businesses, the Post by the Graham family and the Journal by the Bancrofts. The Times, in an ownership structure similar to the Post, is a public company whose voting shares are controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, and Arthur Sulzberger, like his ancestors before him, is the publisher of the newspaper. I haven’t worked at the Times for some time but the feeling then — and I am told that the feeling persists — is that the Sulzberger family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the editorial integrity of the newspaper, as might be expected of a family steward, but has been less competent than one might wish in shepherding its business interests. (This is all speculation, of course, as there is no counterfactual.) Read More »
Remember this blog post in which a reader asked if the McDouble is perhaps “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”? It spawned a lot of commentary on the blog and we followed it up with a Freakonomics Radio podcast.
Now the question has been taken up by many others, spurred on by a N.Y. Post column by Kyle Smith and echoed by, among others, Yahoo! and the Wall Street Journal in this country and, in the U.K., the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Times.
I have gotten about one zillion media requests to talk further about the story but I am busy writing so I had to turn them down.
If you scroll through the comments on the links above — the Yahoo! post has more than 4,000 comments as of this writing — you will likely be struck, as I was, by how great Freakonomics commenters are compared to the rest of the world. Literate, lucid, knowledgable, and even when you get enraged you manage to say something useful.
All hail the readers of this blog!
Our latest podcast is called “Do You Really Want to Know Your Future?” (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.)
If you could take a test that would foretell your future – at least your medical future – would you? And if you did, how would that affect the way you live your life?
The economist Emily Oster wondered how people at risk for the neurological disease Huntington’s answer those questions. Huntington’s is genetic: the children of a person with the disease have a 50 percent chance of carrying the mutation themselves. Symptoms usually surface in one’s 30s or 40s, worsen over time, and end in death. Oster wanted to know how people with the gene respond to the prospect of a shortened lifespan. Read More »
Like Levitt, tipping makes me uncomfortable. He’ll be happy to know that Sushi Yasuda (my favorite sushi in NYC) doesn’t accept tips in order to stay true to Japanese tradition. In Japan, tipping isn’t practiced as it is considered rude.
A listener named Heather Rush doesn’t like tipping reform at all (and plainly didn’t know me back when I bussed tables, and worse):
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As someone who has spent her whole life working in an industry that offers servers no job security, tolerates rampant sexual harassment, long unregulated work days and no fringe benefits, your suggestion that tipping should be banned because it’s unfair seems trite. Try standing on wet mats for 12 hours while enduring abusive customers, crooked managers, criminal owners, no sick leave, no unemployment and no job security and then I’ll listen to your musings on what the real value of a tip is to the people that served you dinner. Until your first bus-boy shift, however, perhaps you ought to research the real cost of service and why people are content to ignore the “unfairness” of an entire industry so long as their drinks and appetizers arrive on time.
A podcast listener named Amy Young writes in with interesting comments about our recent “Can You Be Too Smart For Your Own Good?” episode:
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As I hold a Ph.D., I too feel well qualified to speak on topics I know nothing about. Actually, the Ph.D. is in psychology, I am somewhat qualified to speak about the topic; however, most of my info comes from having a very bright son and having to do a lot of research to try to figure out how to raise him.
Our latest podcast is called “What Do Medieval Nuns and Bo Jackson Have in Common?” (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.)
The episode is about spite. As in “cutting off your nose to spite your face” spite. That’s where the nuns come in. Lisi Oliver of Louisiana State University tells us about the probable origin of this phrase.
You’ll also hear Bo Jackson talk about a very costly decision he once made that most people would certainly think of as spiteful — and from Dave O’Connor, executive producer of the documentary film You Don’t Know Bo.
The economist Benedikt Herrmann tries to measure spite in the lab (papers are here, here and here), while another economist (Steve Levitt) warns that the real world is more complicated than any lab — and wonders, therefore, if pure spite even exists. Read More »