We are setting up a new series of interviews for Freakonomics Radio in which we’ll identify interesting/accomplished/prominent people and ask them a series of Freakonomics-ish questions, ranging from their professional accomplishments to personal quirks. I am eager to hear your suggestions on both:
1) The people you’d want to hear from; and
2) What kind of questions you’d like to hear them asked.
No idea is too big/small, outlandish/traditional, etc.
I think that our engineer/mixmaster David Herman does a fantastic job of making Freakonomics Radio podcasts sound great (no matter what you may think of all the talking that interrupts the music and other audio effects).
But there is of course a lot of heterogeneity in personal preferences. Here’s an e-mail we just received from a listener:
Heard your show for the first time yesterday on Tipping. Loved all the speaking clips and analysis. HATED the musical interludes so much that we (my husband, kids and I) cannot fathom ever listening again unless they are removed. They gave us a bad headache and were so distracting from the content that we had to turn the show off before the end. Please consider removing them. Thanks.
Afraid we just lost a family of listeners, as we won’t be removing all music from our episodes. Happy to say this is an uncommon complaint; much more common is an e-mail asking where to get hold of the music that appears. FWIW, every time we put out a podcast, the accompanying blog post includes a transcript of the episode which lists the music.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Baby, You Can Program My Car.” Yes, it’s about driverless vehicles. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)
What was most remarkable, to me at least, was how unremarkable it felt to ride in a vehicle that no one was steering or braking. In other words, it felt normal — not like a science experiment or a rocket ride — and, as amazing a feat of engineering as a driverless car is, I also realized how much of the technology to go driverless already exists in the modern cars we’ve been driving for years (cameras, sensors, automation, etc.).
Our latest podcast is called “Help Wanted. No Smokers Need Apply.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, orread the transcript.)
In many states (21, to be precise), it is perfectly legal for an employer to not hire someone who smokes. This might seem understandable, given that health insurance is often coupled to employment, and since healthcare risks and costs are increasingly pooled. And so: if employers can exclude smokers, should they also be able to weed out junk-food lovers or motorcyclists — or perhaps anyone who wants to have a baby?
The U.S. tax code is almost universally seen as onerous and overly complicated. There is always talk in Washington about serious reform — Michigan Reps. Dave Camp (R.) and Sander Levin (D.) are currently working on it — but, Washington being Washington, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.
So in this podcast we decided to take a look at the tax code we’re stuck with for now and see if there are some improvements, however marginal, that are worth thinking about. We start by discussing the “tax gap,” the huge portion of taxes that simply go uncollected for a variety of reasons. We once wrote about a clever man who helped close the gap a bit. In this episode, former White House economist AustanGoolsbee tells us why the government doesn’t try too hard to collect tax on all the cash that sloshes around the economy.
You’ll also hear from Dan Ariely, who has an idea for turning the act of paying taxes into a somewhat more satisfying civic duty.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How Money Is March Madness?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
The gist: the annual NCAA basketball tournament grabs a lot of eyeballs, but turning them into dollars hasn’t always been easy — even when the “talent” is playing for free.
Last week we posted a survey for Freakonomics Radio listeners. Your response was fantastic — nearly 2,000 listeners — and very helpful. In return, we thought it’d be nice to share some of the data with you. As a big believer in negative feedback, I have just one regret: that we didn’t ask you to tell us what you don’t like about the podcast. Maybe next time.
WHO YOU ARE:
Our listeners are, in a nutshell: rather male (77%); relatively young (45% are 25-35 years old, another 24% are 35-44); well-educated (38% have a graduate degree; another 43% have a bachelor’s degree); and — according to the survey data at least — pretty well-off (17% earn more than $150,000 and another 23% earn between $100,000 and $150,000; then there are the 14% who earn between $0 and $30,000, most of whom are likely students).
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “When Is a Negative a Positive?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
So when is a negative a positive? When the negative is feedback. We focus on a clever research project by Ayelet Fishbachof the University of Chicago and Stacey Finkelstein at Columbia. It argues that positive feedback certainly has its role — especially when someone isn’t yet fully invested in a new project or job — but if it’s improvement you’re after, then going negative is where it’s at:
FISHBACH: The more a person is committed to a goal — and by that I mean the more someone thinks that they absolutely have to do it, they like doing it, it’s important for them to do it — the more negative compared with positive feedback will be efficient.
We have a good sense of the number of listeners (we do roughly 3 million downloads a month) but when it comes to who those listeners are, we don’t know very much. So we’ve put together a listener survey, below. If you have five spare minutes, please fill it in. What can we give you in return? If all goes well, more free podcasts!
Want to be part of an episode of Freakonomics Radio? We’re working on a podcast about names and we want to hear from readers and listeners about their own names — common ones, unusual ones, everything in between. So we’ve set up a voicemail line at 646-829-4478. Give us a call and tell us your full name, and then tell us a little bit about your first name – how you got it and what it means. Thanks!
Addendum: Thank you for all your emails and messages! Our line is now closed. Our names podcast will be out on 4/8/2013.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “The Downside of More Miles Per Gallon.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
The gist: the Federal gas tax is a primary source of infrastructure funding but, politically, it has proven a hard tax to increase. Furthermore, because the tax is a fixed amount (18.4 cents per gallon) rather than a percentage, gas-tax revenues don’t rise even when gas prices do — as has been happening lately.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Sure, I Remember That.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.) It’s about false memory, particularly in the political realm, and how we are more capable of “remembering” an event that never happened if the event happens to synch up with our political ideology.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Introducing ‘Freakonomics Experiments.'” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.)
In it, Steve Levitt tells Kai Ryssdal about a new website we’ve just launched that will help you make tough decisions in life while also taking part in academic research. And there’s Freakonomics swag to be had, too.
A: Freakonomics Experiments is a set of simple experiments about complex issues — whether to break up with your significant other, quit your job, or start a diet, just to name a few.
Sometimes in life you face one of these decisions, and you just don’t know what to do. In the end, whatever you decide will essentially be a flip of a coin. Freakonomics Experiments helps you make the decision by flipping that coin for you. Over the next few months, we’ll then check in with you with surveys and other materials. In turn, you’ll help further scientific research. Unlike most games of chance, participating in this experiment is win-win.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How to Live Longer.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.)
It looks into why Hall of Fame inductees, Oscar winners, and Nobel laureates seem to outlive their peers. The deeper question in the podcast concerns the relationship between status (not income!) and longevity — a fascinating, complex, and controversial topic (here’s a good place to start reading) about which I believe we’ll hear a great deal in years to come. It will be valuable to know what kind of “status boosts” confer health advantages and, conversely, how disappointment and the like can chip away at us.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How Much Does a Good Boss Really Matter?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
LAZEAR: Suppose you look at a firm and you see that the firm is highly productive. Well, it may be highly productive because it has productive workers, because it has productive technology, or because it has good supervisors that are enhancing the productivity of the workers, and it’s not so easy to tease out one effect from another.
So how can you measure the impact of the bosses? Data, people, data. And Shaw came up with a huge data set from a company that included roughly 23,000 employees and 2,000 bosses.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Free-conomics.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
The gist: economists are a notoriously self-interested bunch, but a British outfit called Pro Bono Economics is giving away its services to selected charities. Martin Brookes is one of its founders:
BROOKES: When we first set up Pro Bono Economics, there were some economists who thought it was wrong, in principle, to give a service to charity for free. That if the service of analysis of their data was valuable, they should have to pay for it.
If the supply side was reluctant, so was the demand side:
New York City’s subways and buses carry roughly seven million passengers a day, which goes a long way toward explaining why New Yorkers have one of the smallest carbonfootprints in the U.S. Doesn’t that mean that mass transit is inevitably good for the environment?
Yes, no, and sometimes.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio onMarketplacepodcast is called “Mass Transit Hysteria.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.)
A few weeks ago, we got an e-mail from a reader Vishal Dosanjh, who lives in St. Louis:
My daughter asked me this morning why the fancy neighborhoods are the best places to go trick-or-treating. It puzzled me for a moment and then realized it was an economic question. I gave her an answer about disposable income and societal expectations. Anyway I thought it might be up your alley, and I wonder if it’s even true. Do wealthy neighborhoods/people actually give out better candy? She’s 8 by the way.
We set out to answer Vishal’s question in our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast.
With the Presidential debate finished, we are officially in the final lap of America’s second-favorite spectator sport. (Yes, football is better than politics.) Of all the talking that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will do by Nov. 6, you can bet that a great deal of their breath will be expended on economic matters. Because that’s what the President of the United States does, right — runs our economy?
Well, actually, no. The President has far less influence over the economy than people tend to think — as we’ve pointed out not once, or twice, but three times.
That, of course, won’t stop the candidates from talking about their plans to “fix” or “heal” or “restore” our economy — all of which imply that we are in an economic doldrums that is sure to pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if the massive economic growth the U.S. has experienced through most of our history is a thing of the past?
That’s the topic of our latest Freakonomics Radio onMarketplacepodcast. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post.)
As the A.D. at West Virginia, here’s what Luck saw happening at home football games:
“People drinking far too much at pre-game parties and tailgate parties before games. Sneaking alcohol into games. Leaving at halftime or any point during the game to go back out to the tailgate to drink even more and come back into the game. … They would usually drink hard liquor — ‘get their buzz back on’ and come back into the game for the third quarter. And the police again would know exactly at what point in the third quarter these ‘throw-up calls’ would start to come over the radio.”
We’re working on a new Freakonomics Radio piece about what might best be called “retail etiquette.” It was inspired in part by this blog post, about how the quantity and quality of employees affects a company’s bottom line; and by this e-mail from a listener named Dawn Nordquist:
I’ve noticed that, at the beginning of the podcasts, a short banter between the two of you is included regarding thanking the listening audience. Thanking the listening audience aside, what are your thoughts/observations on thanking in commercial transactions? I have recently been struck by how often I am not thanked when purchasing something.
In a recent podcast called “Save Me From Myself,” which is about the use of commitment devices, we discussed one such measure that’s intended to protect victims of domestic violence. It featured an interview with Brown economist Anna Aizer, co-author of this paper on the topic. A listener named Jay Turley wrote in:
This episode was very interesting, as usual. But the whole “domestic violence” section really irritated me.
As a male victim of domestic violence from a woman, I found it surprising that people such as yourselves completely bought into and promoted the now-disproved tenet that domestic violence equals male-on-female violence.
Our latest full-length podcast, “How Biased Is Your Media?,” is about how academic researchers have been trying to measure the slant of your news.
The most common meme in this realm says that the mainstream media leans to the left. Frank Rich, a former op-ed columnist at the New York Times, who is now a writer-at-large for New York Magazine, says recent history proves this just isn’t true. Take, for instance, how his former employer handled the lead-up to the war in Iraq:
RICH: I think it flies very much in the face of the assumption that the so-called liberal media are out to doom Republicans or conservative causes. The New York Times promoted dubious evidence of Saddam’s weapons programs on its front page. The New York Times is thought by many on the right to be a so-called liberal slanting paper. The Washington Post, also, less elaborately, failed to really vet the evidence. The networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC are often considered by the right to be liberal news organizations. None of them questioned at all the rationale for going to war in Iraq.