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Stephen J. Dubner

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

Season 11, Episode 4

Among O.E.C.D. nations, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty. How can that be? To find out, Stephen Dubner speaks with a Republican senator, a Democratic mayor, and a large cast of econo-nerds. Along the way, we hear some surprisingly good news: Washington is finally ready to attack the problem head-on. To find out more, check . . .

9/23/21

What Are the Police for, Anyway?

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 barely half of all Americans have a lot of confidence in the police. So what if we start to think about policing as … philanthropy?

9/22/21
48:58

Season 11, Episode 3

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 . . .

9/16/21

Why Does the Richest Country in the World Have So Many Poor Kids?

Among O.E.C.D. nations, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty. How can that be? To find out, Stephen Dubner speaks with a Republican senator, a Democratic mayor, and a large cast of econo-nerds. Along the way, we hear some surprisingly good news: Washington is finally ready to attack the problem head-on.

9/15/21
48:58

Season 11, Episode 2

Behavioral scientists have been exploring if — and when — a psychological reset can lead to lasting change. We survey evidence from the London Underground, Major League Baseball, and New Year’s resolutions; we look at accidental fresh starts, forced fresh starts, and fresh starts that backfire. And we wonder: will the pandemic’s end provide the biggest fresh start ever? To find . . .

9/9/21

All You Need Is Nudge

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.

9/8/21
58:47

Season 11, Episode 1

For all the progress made in fighting cancer, it still kills 10 million people a year, and some types remain especially hard to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, is nearly always fatal. A new clinical-trial platform could change that by aligning institutions that typically compete against one another. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which . . .

9/2/21

Is There Really a “Loneliness Epidemic”? (Replay)

That’s what some health officials are saying, but the data aren’t so clear. We look into what’s known (and not known) about the prevalence and effects of loneliness — including the possible upsides.

9/1/21
40:25

Season 10, Episode 52

Air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million deaths a year and cost the global economy nearly $3 trillion. But is the true cost even higher? Stephen Dubner explores the links between pollution and cognitive function, and enlists two fellow Freakonomics Radio Network hosts in a homegrown experiment. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour . . .

8/26/21

These Jobs Were Not Posted on ZipRecruiter

In a conversation fresh from the Freakonomics Radio Network’s podcast laboratory, Michèle Flournoy (one of the highest-ranking women in Defense Department history) speaks with Cecil Haney (one of the U.S. Navy’s first Black four-star admirals) about nuclear deterrence, smart leadership, and how to do inclusion right.

8/25/21
50:06

Season 10, Episode 51

Americans are so accustomed to the standard intersection that we rarely consider how dangerous it can be — as well as costly, time-wasting, and polluting. Is it time to embrace the lowly, lovely roundabout? To find out more, check out the podcast from which this hour was drawn: “Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished?”

8/19/21

Reasons to Be Cheerful (Replay)

Humans have a built-in “negativity bias,” which means we give bad news much more power than good. Would the Covid-19 crisis be an opportune time to reverse this tendency?

8/18/21
53:45

Season 10, Episode 50

While other countries seem to build spectacular bridges, dams, and even entire cities with ease, the U.S. is stuck in pothole-fixing mode. We speak with an array of transportation nerds — including the secretary of transportation and his immediate predecessor — to see if a massive federal infrastructure package can put America back in the driver’s seat. To find out more, check . . .

8/12/21

This Is Your Brain on Pollution

Air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million deaths a year and cost the global economy nearly $3 trillion. But is the true cost even higher? Stephen Dubner explores the links between pollution and cognitive function, and enlists two fellow Freakonomics Radio Network hosts in a homegrown experiment.

8/11/21
46:01

Season 10, Episode 49

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. To find . . .

8/5/21

Mayor Pete and Elaine Chao Hit the Road

While other countries seem to build spectacular bridges, dams, and even entire cities with ease, the U.S. is stuck in pothole-fixing mode. We speak with an array of transportation nerds — including the secretary of transportation and his immediate predecessor — to see if a massive federal infrastructure package can put America back in the driver’s seat.

8/4/21
49:08

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