Yes, the American Economy Is in a Funk — But Not for the Reasons You Think (Ep. 240)

As sexy as the digital revolution may be, it can’t compare to the Second Industrial Revolution (electricity! the gas engine! antibiotics!), which created the biggest standard-of-living boost in U.S. history. The only problem, argues the economist Robert Gordon, is that the Second Industrial Revolution was a one-time event. So what happens next?

The No-Tipping Point (Ep. 239)

The restaurant business model is warped: kitchen wages are too low to hire cooks, while diners are put in charge of paying the waitstaff. So what happens if you eliminate tipping, raise menu prices, and redistribute the wealth? New York restaurant maverick Danny Meyer is about to find out.

The United States of Cory Booker (Ep. 238)

The junior U.S. Senator from New Jersey thinks bipartisanship is right around the corner. Is he just an idealistic newbie or does he see a way forward that everyone else has missed?

Ask Not What Your Podcast Can Do for You (Ep. 237)

Now and again, Freakonomics Radio puts hat in hand and asks listeners to donate to the public-radio station that produces the show. Why on earth should anyone pay good money for something that can be had for free?

How Can This Possibly Be True? (Ep. 236)

A famous economics essay features a pencil (yes, a pencil) arguing that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.” Is the pencil just bragging? In any case, what can the pencil teach us about our global interdependence -- and the proper role of government in the economy?

Who Needs Handwriting? (Ep. 235)

Remember the torture of penmanship class when you were a kid? Now, how often do you take a pen to paper these days? If you’re like the average American, it’s been more than a month since you did. So why do we still bother teaching handwriting in school?

How to Fix a Broken High-Schooler, in Four Easy Steps (Ep. 189 Rebroadcast)

The four interventions that worked for one Toronto  program: counseling, tutoring, social activities,  and financial incentives. (Photo: U.S. Department of Education) Our take: maybe the steps aren’t so easy, but a program run out of a Toronto housing project has had great success in turning around kids who were headed for trouble.

Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem? (Ep. 188 Rebroadcast)

If U.S. schoolteachers are indeed “just a little bit below average,” it’s not really their fault. So what should be done about it?

Do Boycotts Work? (Ep. 234)

At issue: The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the South African divestment campaign, Chick-fil-A! Almost anyone can launch a boycott, and the media loves to cover them. But do boycotts actually produce the change they’re fighting for?

How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future (Ep. 233)

Experts and pundits are notoriously bad at forecasting, in part because they aren’t punished for bad predictions. Also, they tend to be deeply unscientific. The psychologist Philip Tetlock is finally turning prediction into a science — and now even you could become a superforecaster.