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Matt Hickey

 
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The Most Interesting Fruit in the World

The banana used to be a luxury good. Now it’s the most popular fruit in the U.S. and elsewhere. But the production efficiencies that made it so cheap have also made it vulnerable to a deadly fungus that may wipe out the one variety most of us eat. Scientists do have a way to save it — but will Big Banana let them?

4/17/19
38:44

How to Change Your Mind

There are a lot of barriers to changing your mind: ego, overconfidence, inertia — and cost. Politicians who flip-flop get mocked; family and friends who cross tribal borders are shunned. But shouldn’t we be encouraging people to change their minds? And how can we get better at it ourselves?

5/29/19
47:42

How the Supermarket Helped America Win the Cold War

Aisle upon aisle of fresh produce, cheap meat, and sugary cereal — a delicious embodiment of free-market capitalism, right? Not quite. The supermarket was in fact the endpoint of the U.S. government’s battle for agricultural abundance against the U.S.S.R. Our farm policies were built to dominate, not necessarily to nourish — and we are still living with the consequences.

7/31/19
41:34

Season 8, Episode 48

There are a lot of barriers to changing your mind: ego, overconfidence, inertia — and cost. Politicians who flip-flop get mocked; family and friends who cross tribal borders are shunned. But shouldn’t we be encouraging people to change their minds? And how can we get better at it ourselves? Also: a psychology professor argues that the brain’s greatest attribute is knowing what other . . .

8/1/19

Can Britain Get Its “Great” Back?

It used to be a global capital of innovation, invention, and exploration. Now it’s best known for its messy European divorce. We visit London to see if the British spirit of discovery is still alive. Guests include the mayor of London, undersea explorers, a time-use researcher, and a theoretical physicist who helped Liverpool win the Champions League. Dan Schreiber from No Such Thing as a Fish rides shotgun.

10/19/19
60:06

Season 9, Episode 8

It used to be a global capital of innovation, invention, and exploration. Now it’s best known for its messy European divorce. We visit London to see if the British spirit of discovery is still alive. Guests include the mayor of London, undersea explorers, a time-use researcher, and a theoretical physicist who helped Liverpool win the Champions League. Dan Schreiber from . . .

10/24/19

Season 9, Episode 9

Aisle upon aisle of fresh produce, cheap meat, and sugary cereal — a delicious embodiment of free-market capitalism, right? Not quite. The supermarket was in fact the endpoint of the U.S. government’s battle for agricultural abundance against the U.S.S.R. Our farm policies were built to dominate, not necessarily to nourish — and we are still living with the consequences. Plus: Sylvia . . .

10/31/19

Why Does Tipping Still Exist?

It’s an acutely haphazard way of paying workers, and yet it keeps expanding. We dig into the data to find out why.

11/6/19
50:26

How to Save $32 Million in One Hour

For nearly a decade, governments have been using behavioral nudges to solve problems — and the strategy is catching on in healthcare, firefighting, and policing. But is that thinking too small? Could nudging be used to fight income inequality and achieve world peace? Recorded live in London, with commentary from Andy Zaltzman (The Bugle).

11/13/19
49:04

How to Change Your Mind (Replay)

There are a lot of barriers to changing your mind: ego, overconfidence, inertia — and cost. Politicians who flip-flop get mocked; family and friends who cross tribal borders are shunned. But shouldn’t we be encouraging people to change their minds? And how can we get better at it ourselves?

11/27/19
47:31

Honey, I Grew the Economy

Innovation experts have long overlooked where a lot of innovation actually happens. The personal computer, the mountain bike, the artificial pancreas — none of these came from some big R&D lab, but from users tinkering in their homes. Acknowledging this reality — and encouraging it — would be good for the economy (and the soul too).

12/4/19
44:19

How to Hate Taxes a Little Bit Less

Every year, Americans short the I.R.S. nearly half a trillion dollars. Most ideas to increase compliance are more stick than carrot — scary letters, audits, and penalties. But what if we gave taxpayers a chance to allocate how their money is spent, or even bribed them with a thank-you gift?

12/11/19
46:35

Season 9, Episode 15

Tipping is an acutely haphazard way of paying workers, and yet it keeps expanding. We dig into the data to find out why. To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Why Does Tipping Still Exist?” and “Why You Shouldn’t Open a Restaurant.”

12/12/19

Policymaking Is Not a Science (Yet)

Why do so many promising solutions — in education, medicine, criminal justice, etc. — fail to scale up into great policy? And can a new breed of “implementation scientists” crack the code?

2/12/20
44:30

Does Anyone Really Know What Socialism Is?

Trump says it would destroy us. Sanders says it will save us. The majority of millennials would like it to replace capitalism. But what is “it”? We bring in the economists to sort things out and tell us what the U.S. can learn from the good (and bad) experiences of other (supposedly) socialist countries.

3/4/20
44:00

Season 9, Episode 27

Innovation experts have long overlooked where a lot of innovation actually happens. The personal computer, the mountain bike, the artificial pancreas — none of these came from some big R&D lab, but from users tinkering in their homes. Acknowledging this reality — and encouraging it — would be good for the economy (and the soul too). To find out more, . . .

3/5/20

Season 9, Episode 28

Every year, Americans short the I.R.S. nearly half a trillion dollars. Most ideas to increase compliance are more stick than carrot — scary letters, audits, and penalties. But what if we gave taxpayers a chance to allocate how their money is spent, or even bribed them with a thank-you gift? To find out more, check out the podcasts from which . . .

3/12/20

What Does Covid-19 Mean for Cities (and Marriages)?

There are a lot of upsides to urban density — but viral contagion is not one of them. Also: a nationwide lockdown will show if familiarity really breeds contempt. And: how to help your neighbor.

3/25/20
42:23

Season 9, Episode 30

There are a lot of upsides to urban density — but viral contagion is not one of them. Also: past experiments with a universal basic income. And: a nationwide lockdown will show if familiarity really breeds contempt. To find out more, check out the podcast from which this hour was drawn: “The Side Effects of Social Distancing” and “Is the . . .

3/26/20

Is $2 Trillion the Right Medicine for a Sick Economy?

Congress just passed the biggest aid package in modern history. We ask six former White House economic advisors and one U.S. Senator: Will it actually work? What are its best and worst features? Where does $2 trillion come from, and what are the long-term effects of all that government spending?

4/1/20
54:55

Season 9, Episode 31

Congress just passed the biggest aid package in modern history. We ask six former White House economic advisors and one U.S. Senator: Will it actually work? What are its best and worst features? Where does $2 trillion come from, and what are the long-term effects of all that government spending? To find out more, check out the podcast from which . . .

4/2/20

How Do You Reopen a Country?

We speak with a governor, a former C.D.C. director, a pandemic forecaster, a hard-charging pharmacist, and a pair of economists — who say it’s all about the incentives. (Pandemillions, anyone?)

4/29/20
53:49

How the Supermarket Helped America Win the Cold War (Replay)

Aisle upon aisle of fresh produce, cheap meat, and sugary cereal — a delicious embodiment of free-market capitalism, right? Not quite. The supermarket was in fact the endpoint of the U.S. government’s battle for agricultural abundance against the U.S.S.R. Our farm policies were built to dominate, not necessarily to nourish — and we are still living with the consequences.

8/5/20
46:40

Steven Pinker: “I Manage My Controversy Portfolio Carefully”

By cataloging the steady march of human progress, the Harvard psychologist and linguist has become a very public intellectual. But the self-declared “polite Canadian” has managed to enrage people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Steve Levitt tries to understand why.

8/21/20
42:24

Does Anyone Really Know What Socialism Is? (Replay)

Trump says it would destroy us. Biden needs the voters who support it (especially the Bernie voters). The majority of millennials would like it to replace capitalism. But what is “it”? We bring in the economists to sort things out and tell us what the U.S. can learn from the good (and bad) experiences of other (supposedly) socialist countries.

9/16/20
44:24

Kerwin Charles: “One Does Not Know Where an Insight Will Come From”

The dean of Yale’s School of Management grew up in a small village in Guyana. During his unlikely journey, he has researched video-gaming habits, communicable disease, and why so many African-Americans haven’t had the kind of success he’s had. Steve Levitt talks to Kerwin Charles about his parents’ encouragement, his love of Sports Illustrated, and how he talks to his American-born kids about the complicated history of Blackness in America.

9/18/20
39:29

Ken Jennings: “Don’t Neglect the Thing That Makes You Weird”

It was only in his late twenties that America’s favorite brainiac began to seriously embrace his love of trivia. Now he holds the “Greatest of All Time” title on Jeopardy! Steve Levitt digs into how he trained for the show, what it means to have a “geographic memory,” and why we lie to our children.

10/2/20
42:18

Susan Wojcicki: “Hey, Let’s Go Buy YouTube!”

She was the sixteenth employee at Google — a company once based in her garage — and now she’s the C.E.O. of its best-known subsidiary, YouTube. But despite being one of the most powerful people in the tech industry, few outside of Silicon Valley know the name Susan Wojcicki. Levitt talks with her about the early days of Google, how her background in economics shapes the company’s products, and why YouTube’s success has created a range of unforeseen and serious issues.

10/16/20
30:36

Nathan Myhrvold: “I Am Interested in Lots of Things, and That’s Actually a Bad Strategy”

He graduated high school at 14, and by 23 had several graduate degrees and was a research assistant with Stephen Hawking. He became the first chief technology officer at Microsoft (without having ever studied computer science) and then started a company focused on big questions — like how to provide the world with clean energy and how to optimize pizza-baking. Find out what makes Nathan Myhrvold’s fertile mind tick, and which of his many ideas Steve Levitt likes the most.

10/30/20
47:30

Extra: Why the Left Had to Steal the Right’s Dark-Money Playbook

The sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh spent years studying crack dealers, sex workers, and the offspring of billionaires. Then he wandered into an even stranger world: social media. He spent the past five years at Facebook and Twitter. Now that he’s back in the real world, he’s here to tell us how the digital universe really works. In this pilot episode of a new podcast, Venkatesh interviews the progressive political operative Tara McGowan about her digital successes with the Obama campaign, her noisy failure with the Iowa caucus app, and why the best way for Democrats to win more elections was to copy the Republicans.

10/30/20
45:40

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