Bring Us Your Freakonomics Questions for Another Radio FAQ

It’s time again to record another FAQ podcast (that’s “FREAK-quently Asked Questions”), and we need your help!

Every once in a while, we solicit questions from Freakonomics readers and answer them on Freakonomics Radio. Levitt always has a great time doing this, as evidenced by his answers to why “I don’t know” is so hard to say or why we vote (or don’t).

So fire away in the comments section below, and keep up with the podcast at iTunes or via the RSS feed to see if your question gets answered.

Alvin Lieu

How does one get accepted in the University of Chicago?


I am headed to Boston for art school in the fall and understand you, dear Levitt, attended Harvard. Art is my passion but I secretly wish I was attending school for economics instead (more like in addition to). In what ways can I get plugged into the econ-world of Boston as an art student?

don oesterle

Why aren't age requirement penalties eliminated in pension plans? With people not staying in one place for 30+ years why not allow a freezing without penalty after 20 years and collect at normal retirement age? Most senior workers cost to an employer with benefits, healthcare and pay far exceeds a replacement worker. Wouldn't this create jobs and allow public sector govt workers to move on and start buisnesses, creating even more jobs?

Kieron George

If we toppled the state do you think anarcho-capitalism or anarcho-communism or something else would take it's place?

Kieron George

Do you think that some kind of Egalitarian Slavery could be possible? Slavery has always horribly misused, and the abuse, inhumanity and racism has turned it into something disgusting which it technically isn't by definition.


One of the arguments for keeping a privatized health-care system is that it drives innovation in a way that keeps the USA at the forefront of research. As a graduate student who does research (in a non-medical field) I strongly feel that research funding (NSF, NIH, etc) drives progress more than having a private vs. public system. Is there any way to validate (or disprove) this theory?

I have seen non-military research budgets slashed by the same people that tell us how public health care dooms us to subpar and late technologies. It seems to me that regardless of if we continue towards a nationalized system or if we repeal the current administration's efforts that we will fail to provide technological advances. However, this failure will be because of the research funding issue and have little to nothing to do with the healthcare system.

Kieron George

What are your opinions on Technocracies and the direct integration of scientist and economist into the state?

Kieron George

Is a (representative) lottocracy the best form of democracy? It mathematically ensures a perfect reflection of the public opinion's representation in government. It also encourages better voting as one's vote could be THE VOTE that gets one (or one's representative) elected, and who doesn't enjoy lotteries more than voting?

Kieron George

The only economics training I have is your podcast and Hazlitt's Economics in one lesson. So I was wondering how incorrect is Hazlitt's representation of classical economics compared to the modern economic field. Are there thing he fails to account for? One obvious error he made is his insistence that import and export always balance (as trade surpluses and deficit do exist).

Kieron George

What is the point in the criminal justice system? Reforming criminals? Punishing criminals? Ensuring that an eye for eye is precisely that and not an eye for a toe or an eye for a head? Making the public (feel) safe? A dynamic body capable of preforming any prerogative demanded of them by state or public?

Kieron George

Why do economics and politics seem so closely tied, and how closely tied do you think they should be?

Kieron George

What is the point of the government? It's often measured by it decision regarding economics and sociality, but what is it purpose? It's original purpose seemed to be to give certain individuals power and to protect citizens from danger (be that bandits, other government or even itself), but is that still its purpose, to protect its citizens from harm, ignorance, or unhappiness. Or is the government just a crazy idea with a lot of power that many wish to tame?

Kieron George

Should the government promote market competivity and innovation? Would it be a good idea to kill companies any company that acts anti-competitively, or give corporations lifespan to prevent stagnation, or force companies to produce offspring companies, or get companies to mirror the greatest competitive market on earth, the evolution of life, in any way? Do you think the competitivity of a free market is enough, especially with the corrupting ideas of non-free markets seeded into it?

Kieron George

How can a country in which the majority of jobs are service-oriented sustain itself?

Kieron George

Is a monopoly ever good? I can't think of a situation which couldn't be improved by breaking a monopoly into two (or more) competing (or even cooperating) parts.


What is the most insufferable type of person with whom you regularly come in contact (and it's fair to say, "Those who arrange sentences so as not to end them with prepositions.")?

Kieron George

Should the competition of the economy and the cooperation of the sciences be kept apart? They seems like two conflicting system that both produce progress in different but efficient manners. If no, then how best would they integrate with or into each other?

Kieron George

Should taxes be simplified? I think good way of doing so would be to have four simple taxes, a flat rate citizen tax (a simple small charge to any individual within the country that can't prove they've paid there bit yet), a Georgist tax (a simple small charge on any land ownership), a inheritance tax (100% for the death of all citizens, be they people, corporations or partnerships/marriages) and a variable subscription fee/tax (pertaining to a competitive front to all government services from NASA to the local fire department). What do you think? How would you do taxes?

Vincent Gardiner

In Freakonomics, you said "What the link between abortion and crime does say is this: when the government gives a woman the opportunity to make her own decision about abortion, she generally does a good job of figuring out if she is in a position to raise the baby well." That's one way of describing the apparent link between abortion availability and crime.

But are there other perspectives on the same data? Could one say, for example, that unhappily pregnant women who are pro-choice would turn out to be worse mothers than than women in the same situations who choose to keep the baby? When abortion is unavailable, all of them have the babies. When abortion is freely available, only the anti-abortion mothers have the babies. Crime then drops because the 'bad mothers' are allowed to opt out of raising 'bad kids'.

Can the data make a distinction between the two possibilities?

Phil Pacelli

Is there one sure fire method, other than lowering interest rates, that a government can use to stimulate a lagging economy?