The Perils of Drunk Walking (Ep. 55)

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, Stephen Dubner looks at why the first decision you make in 2012 can be riskier than you think. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

The risks of driving drunk are well-established; it's an incredibly dangerous thing to do, and produces massive collateral damage as well. So if you have a bit too much to drink over the holiday and think you'll do the smart thing and walk home instead -- well, that's not so smart after all. Steve Levitt has compared the risk of drunk walking with drunk driving and found that the former can potentially pose a greater risk:

Boo…Who? (Ep. 48)

In our latest podcast, “Boo…Who?”, we deconstruct the age-old act of booing. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

The first thing we wanted to know: What is worthy of a boo? An umpire's bad call? A lousy rendition of the national anthem? Other booers?

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell tells Stephen Dubner that any politician throwing the first pitch at a baseball game is asking for it:

RENDELL: Politics and sports don’t mix. In fact, sports is in some ways the antithesis of politics because winning and losing is decided on the field, not how much money you raise or things like that. And politicians should generally stay away.

Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone? (Ep. 44)

That's the question we ask in our latest podcast. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.) Anyone who has been around long enough can observe that hitchhiking numbers have plummeted. So Freakonomics Radio set out to find the numbers on thumbers and found ... well, not much. Apparently hitchhiking never qualified as an important-enough mode of the transportation sector to generate heavy-duty empirical research.

So we take a whack at explaining the phenomenon. Here's Levitt's take:

LEVITT: Hitchhiking is a classic example of what an economist would call a matching market, where there’s a person who wants a ride, and there’s a person who’s willing to give a ride. There was some sort of equilibrium in which there was a set of people who wanted to hitchhike, and there was a set of people who were willing to pick them up. And somehow that equilibrium got destroyed. So the question is what happened to the equilibrium?

Radio in Progress: Boo!

A few months ago we asked readers a basic question: "Do you boo?" Judging by the number (and nature) of comments the post solicited, the answer is yes. The question was asked as part of an upcoming Freakonomics Radio episode that's all about booing. To borrow the words of one of our guests, writer Robert Lipsyte, we ask: Is booing verbal vandalism, or is it one of the last true expressions of democracy?

For the audience at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, it’s the latter. We recently visited for its talent showcase, Amateur Night. There, booing—and cheering—is a way of voting, to decide who advances to the next round of competition.

Should There Be a Hitchhiking Renaissance?

One of the greatest transportation resources out there is… your backseat. According to a U.S. Department of Transportation report, the average vehicle commuting to and from work has only 1.1 people it. This means that about 80 percent of car capacity goes unused. In a moment when we’re worrying about gas consumption and carbon emissions, […]

The Daughter Test and Why Steve Levitt is Angry About the Online Poker Crackdown

As an economist, Steven Levitt says he has an underdeveloped moral compass. In the past, the University of Chicago professor and Freakonomics co-author has tricked colleagues into drinking cheap wine and opined that drug dealers in Sao Paulo would do a better job keeping communities safe.

But his moral compass went spinning when the U.S. recently cracked down on the top three online poker companies, resulting in 11 indictments. The federal government accused PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker of running their operations illegally, including paying banks to secretly process transactions.

“I think it makes no sense at all,” Levitt says. “Most things that are made illegal, everyone agrees on: homicide, theft--there’s a general agreement. And then there are these other activities that fall into a gray area. I think poker is so obviously on one side of the gray area relative to legality that it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Levitt says he doesn’t usually get riled up over such issues, but then he realized why he got so angry: his daughter.

The Business of Bounty Hunting

Contrary to popular belief, bounty hunters aren't necessarily vigilante justice seekers who sport tattoos and long hair. Thinking about "Dog the Bounty Hunter"? This is what Bob Burton, who has been tracking down bail jumpers since the 1980s, has to say about the reality show:

BURTON: It’s grossly exaggerated. First of all, no one in the industry acts, or rather looks like that. We’re dealing with cops, judges, district attorneys. We can’t look the way he looks. Forget the long hair, you stand out, and it’s pure television nonsense the way he looks.