Archives for Think Like a Freak



What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


This week’s episode is called “What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common?” (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.)

The gist? It isn’t easy to separate the guilty from the innocent — but a clever bit of game theory can help. The goal, as Steve Levitt puts it, is “to get the bad guys to come forward and tell you who they are.” It’s a trick that Levitt and Stephen Dubner , in their new book Think Like a Freak, call “teaching your garden to weed itself.”

In the episode you’ll hear what David Lee Roth and King Solomon have in common. Among the possibilities: Read More »



Bring Us Your Questions for the Next Meeting of the Think Like a Freak Book Club

We just released our first installment of the Think Like a Freak Book Club. How does this work? You send in your questions/comments/complaints about the book and we respond in our podcast.

The first installment (“How to Screen Job Applicants, Act Your Age, and Get Your Brain Off Autopilot“) covered Chapters 1-3 of Think. Now it’s time for you to send in questions for Chapters 4, 5, and 6 (see Table of Contents, below). If your question ends up in the podcast, we’ll send you a signed copy of Think Like a Freak or a limited edition Think Like a Freak t-shirt. So fire away! Read More »



A Freakonomics Proposal to Help the British National Health Service

In the first chapter of our new book, Think Like a Freak, we recount an ill-fated interaction that Dubner and I had with David Cameron shortly before he was elected Prime Minister of the U.K. (In a nutshell, we joked with Cameron about applying the same principles he espoused for health care to automobiles; it turns out you don’t joke with Prime Ministers!)

That story has riled up some people, including an economics blogger named Noah Smith, who rails on us and defends the NHS.

I should start by saying I have nothing in particular against the NHS, and I also would be the last one to ever defend the U.S. system.   Anyone who has ever heard me talk about Obamacare knows I am no fan of it, and I never have been. Read More »



Saying “I Don’t Know” in the Navy, the Classroom, and Beyond

The best part of publishing a new book – besides the media blitz — is learning which stories resonate with readers and podcast listeners, and how.

One great example is the book’s second chapter, “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language,” which is about how  people are reluctant to say “I don’t know” when in fact they don’t know the answer to a question or the solution to a problem.

We explored this topic in last week’s podcast, and I wanted to share with you some of the most interesting feedback. Read More »



The Three Hardest Words in the English Language: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s episode is called “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language.” (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.)

So what are the three hardest words? Conventional wisdom suggests: “I love you.” Readers of this blog recently offered up their suggestions of challenging three-word phrases. In their new book Think Like a Freak, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt tell us that the hardest three words in the English language are “I don’t know,” and that our inability to say these words more often can have huge consequences. Read More »



Join the Think Like a Freak Book Club — and Win an Autographed Copy!

Our new book, Think Like a Freak, has just been published and we’d like to talk about it with you. So we are forming the Think Like a Freak Book Club.

How does it work? You write in your questions/comments/complaints in the comments section below and we’ll respond to some of them in our podcast. For now, we’re planning to do three episodes of the Book Club. (But if you know us even a little bit, you know we won’t be afraid to quit after one if it doesn’t work out!) Since there are nine chapters in the book, let’s start with  questions that pertain to Chapter 1, 2, and 3 of Think. Those are: “What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?,” “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language,” and “What’s Your Problem?”

If we choose your question for the podcast, we’ll send you a signed copy of Think Like a Freak or a limited edition Think Like a Freak t-shirt. Thanks! Read More »



Is Thirteen the Perfect Age to Read Think Like a Freak?

From a friend whose young daughter Lea, around 13 years old, grabbed the copy of Think Like a Freak that I send my friend and “is now devouring it.” But that’s not the good part:

She woke up this morning and told me that she had dreamed last night that we were at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were winning 12-0, and when Lea looked around, everyone in the stands was reading Think Like a Freak.

No kidding.

And here’s a note from “an almost 13-year-old,” Charlotte, which came over the transom: Read More »



And the Think Like a Freak Swag Goes to …

Last week, we offered some Think Like a Freak swag to the reader who came up with the best answer to the question “What Are the Three Hardest Words to Say?” Your answers were so good (and plentiful!) that we decided to choose three winners, each of whom can have their pick of a signed copy of our new book or a Think Like a Freak t-shirt. (If you didn’t win, there’s another contest going on right now.)

Winner No. 1 is Kris Fletcher, the first (of many) to provide the same answer we provide in the book: “I don’t know.”

Winner No. 2 is Bob S., who plainly gets the spirit of the Levitt-Dubner collaboration, with “Good point, Dubner.”

And Winner No. 3 is Jake. While a lot of people answered “I was wrong,” Jake had a similar take but opted for “I’ve no excuse,” making a case for why that’s even tougher than “I was wrong”:

“I was wrong” seems to be a common phrase people are mentioning, but I think admitting you are wrong is easy if you don’t have to admit that your inner processes were wrong. All the time, you hear people say something like, “Oh, I was wrong about that, but I didn’t have the data I needed at the time.” Very rarely do you hear someone take full blame for their actions without at least assigning partial blame elsewhere. Admitting that you and you alone were in the wrong is much harder.