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Stephen J. Dubner

Season 11, Episode 20

The art market is so opaque and illiquid that it barely functions like a market at all. A  handful of big names get all the headlines (and most of the dollars). Beneath the surface is a tangled web of dealers, curators, auction houses, speculators — and, of course, artists. In this episode, we meet the key players and learn how an obscure, long-dead American painter suddenly became a superstar.

1/13/22

What Do Broken-Hearted Knitters, Urinating Goalkeepers, and the C.I.A. Have in Common?

Curses and other superstitions may have no basis in reality, but that doesn’t stop us from believing.

1/12/22
47:01

Season 11, Episode 19

When Richard Thaler published Nudge in 2008 with co-author Cass Sunstein, the world was just starting to believe in his brand of behavioral economics. How did nudge theory hold up in the face of a global financial meltdown, a pandemic and other existential crises? With the publication of a new, radically updated edition, Thaler tries to persuade Stephen Dubner that nudging is more relevant today than ever.

1/6/22

Season 11, Episode 18

According to a decades-long research project, the U.S. is not only the most individualistic country on earth; we’re also high on indulgence, short-term thinking, and masculinity (but low on “uncertainty avoidance,” if that makes you feel better). We look at how these traits affect our daily lives and why we couldn’t change them even if we wanted to.

12/30/21

Season 11, Episode 17

We often look to other countries for smart policies on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. But can a smart policy be simply transplanted into a country as culturally unusual (and as supremely WEIRD) as America?

12/23/21
50:30

Season 11, Episode 16

You know the saying: “There are no shortcuts in life.” What if that saying is just wrong? In his new book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life, the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy argues that shortcuts can be applied to practically anything: music, psychotherapy, even politics. Our latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.

12/16/21
50:30

“The Art Market Is in Massive Disruption.”

Is art really meant to be an “asset class”? Will the digital revolution finally democratize a market that just keeps getting more elitist? And what will happen to the last painting Alice Neel ever made? (Part 3 of “The Hidden Side of the Art Market.”)

12/15/21
46:10

Season 11, Episode 15

Smart government policies, good industrial relations, and high-end products have helped German manufacturing beat back the threats of globalization.

12/9/21

“I’ve Been Working My Ass Off for You to Make that Profit?”

The more successful an artist is, the more likely their work will later be resold at auction for a huge markup — and they receive nothing. Should that change? Also: why doesn’t contemporary art impact society the way music and film do? (Part 2 of “The Hidden Side of the Art Market.”)

12/8/21
50:48

Season 11, Episode 14

The U.S. is home to seven of the world’s 10 biggest companies. How did that happen? The answer may come down to two little letters: V.C. Is venture capital good for society, or does it just help the rich get richer? Stephen Dubner invests the time to find out. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this . . .

12/2/21

“A Fascinating, Sexy, Intellectually Compelling, Unregulated Global Market.”

The art market is so opaque and illiquid that it barely functions like a market at all. A  handful of big names get all the headlines (and most of the dollars). Beneath the surface is a tangled web of dealers, curators, auction houses, speculators — and, of course, artists. In the first episode of a three-part series, we meet the key players and learn how an obscure, long-dead American painter suddenly became a superstar. (Part 1 of “The Hidden Side of the Art Market.”)

12/1/21
56:45

Season 11, Episode 13

The pandemic may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean we’ll return to full-time commuting and packed office buildings. The greatest accidental experiment in the history of labor has lessons to teach us about productivity, flexibility, and even reversing the brain drain. But don’t buy another dozen pairs of sweatpants just yet. To find out more, check out the podcast . . .

11/25/21

How Do You Cure a Compassion Crisis? (Replay)

Patients in the U.S. healthcare system often feel they’re treated with a lack of empathy. Doctors and nurses have tragically high levels of burnout. Could fixing the first problem solve the second? And does the rest of society need more compassion too?

11/24/21
56:39

Season 11, Episode 12

Is the U.S. really less corrupt than China? A new book by an unorthodox political scientist argues that the two rivals have more in common than we’d like to admit. It’s just that most American corruption is essentially legal. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Is the U.S. Really Less Corrupt Than . . .

11/18/21

What’s Wrong With Shortcuts?

You know the saying: “There are no shortcuts in life.” What if that saying is just wrong? In his new book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life, the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy argues that shortcuts can be applied to practically anything: music, psychotherapy, even politics. Our latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.

11/17/21
46:19

Season 11, Episode 11

Evidence from Nazi Germany and 1940’s America (and pretty much everywhere else) shows that discrimination is incredibly costly — to the victims, of course, but also the perpetrators. One modern solution is to invoke a diversity mandate. But new research shows that’s not necessarily the answer. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: . . .

11/11/21

Is Venture Capital the Secret Sauce of the American Economy?

The U.S. is home to seven of the world’s 10 biggest companies. How did that happen? The answer may come down to two little letters: V.C. Is venture capital good for society, or does it just help the rich get richer? Stephen Dubner invests the time to find out.

11/10/21
49:53

Season 11, Episode 10

In one of the earliest Freakonomics Radio episodes (No. 39!), we asked a bunch of economists with young kids how they approached child-rearing. Now the kids are old enough to talk — and they have a lot to say. We hear about nature vs. nurture, capitalism vs. Marxism, and why you sometimes don’t tell your friends that your father is an economist. . . .

11/4/21

Is the U.S. Really Less Corrupt Than China?

A new book by an unorthodox political scientist argues that the two rivals have more in common than we’d like to admit. It’s just that most American corruption is essentially legal.

11/3/21
59:42

Season 11, Episode 9

Should America be run by … Trader Joe’s? The quirky little grocery chain with California roots and German ownership has a lot to teach all of us about choice architecture, efficiency, frugality, collaboration, and team spirit. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s?” and No . . .

10/28/21

How Much Does Discrimination Hurt the Economy?

Evidence from Nazi Germany and 1940’s America (and pretty much everywhere else) shows that discrimination is incredibly costly — to the victims, of course, but also the perpetrators. One modern solution is to invoke a diversity mandate. But new research shows that’s not necessarily the answer.

10/27/21
55:56

Season 11, Episode 8

Arthur Brooks is an economist who for 10 years ran the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the world. He has come to believe there is only one weapon that can defeat our extreme political polarization: love. Is Brooks a fool for thinking this — and are you perhaps his kind of fool? And: . . .

10/21/21

The Economist’s Guide to Parenting: 10 Years Later

In one of the earliest Freakonomics Radio episodes (No. 39!), we asked a bunch of economists with young kids how they approached child-rearing. Now the kids are old enough to talk — and they have a lot to say. We hear about nature vs. nurture, capitalism vs. Marxism, and why you sometimes don’t tell your friends that your father is an economist.

10/20/21
55:15

Season 11, Episode 7

Breaking news! Sources say American journalism exploits our negativity bias to maximize profits, and social media algorithms add fuel to the fire. Stephen Dubner investigates. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Why Is U.S. Media So Negative?” and “Reasons to Be Cheerful.”

10/14/21

How Can We Break Our Addiction to Contempt?

Arthur Brooks is an economist who for 10 years ran the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the world. He has come to believe there is only one weapon that can defeat our extreme political polarization: love. Is Brooks a fool for thinking this — and are you perhaps his kind of fool?

10/13/21
46:39

Season 11, Episode 6

Do more expensive wines taste better? They should! It’s a cardinal rule: more expensive items are supposed to be qualitatively better than their cheaper versions. But is that true for wine? And: The state-by-state rollout of legalized weed has given economists a perfect natural experiment to measure its effects. Here’s what we know so far — and don’t know — about . . .

10/7/21

Why Is U.S. Media So Negative?

Breaking news! Sources say American journalism exploits our negativity bias to maximize profits, and social media algorithms add fuel to the fire. Stephen Dubner investigates.

10/6/21
51:17

Season 11, Episode 5

The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to policing, as evidenced by more than 1,000 fatal shootings by police each year. But we’re an outlier in other ways too: a heavily-armed populace, a fragile mental-health system, and the fact that we spend so much time in our cars. Add in a history of racism and it’s no surprise that . . .

9/30/21

That’s a Great Question! (Replay)

Verbal tic or strategic rejoinder? Whatever the case: it’s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn’t a “great” one. 

9/29/21
22:49

The Mom Who Stole the Blueprints for the Atomic Bomb.

To her neighbors in the English countryside, the woman known as Mrs. Burton was a cake-baking mother of three. To the Soviet Union, she was an invaluable Cold War operative. Ben Macintyre, author of Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy, explains how the woman who fed America’s atomic secrets to the Russians also struggled to balance her family and her cause. Hosted by Sarah Lyall.

9/25/21
43:34

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