Stephen J. DUBNER: Oh, hang on. Why don’t you say, why don’t you pretend that you’re introducing the episode of the one-hundredth anniversary. So be, like, over the top radio guy: “I’m Steve Levitt from Freakonomics and I want to welcome you to the one-hundredth, whatever…” Something like that. You want to try that?
Steve LEVITT: No. No.
DUBNER: You sure?
LEVITT: You’re better at that.
DUBNER: Let me just. Here, let me just tell you what… We’ll do it line by line. Hi, I’m Steve Levitt.
LEVITT: Hi, I’m Steve Levitt.
DUBNER: From Freakonomics Radio.
LEVITT: From Freakonomics Radio.
DUBNER: And I’d like to say thank you.
LEVITT: And I’d like to say thank you.
DUBNER: For listening to our previous ninety-nine podcasts.
LEVITT: For listening to our previous ninety-nine podcasts.
DUBNER: And I hope you enjoy this number one hundred.
LEVITT: And I hope number one hundred is the most special of them all.
DUBNER and LEVITT: So, that’s it. Ok, great. Good job. Good…
WOMP WOMP WOMP!
* * *
This is the one-hundredth Freakonomics Radio episode, and to thank you for listening to all the other ninety-nine we wanted to put together a kind of greatest-hits package. The problem is we didn’t actually have any “greatest hits,” or any hits of any kind, so instead, we decided to put together a kind of retrospective, to show you what we think about the show. How the show is made. Maybe you’re thinking of starting up your own podcast. So if that’s the case, rule number one is this: Do not invite boring people to be on your show.
Bob BURTON: I run a large organization composed of bounty hunters.
David LESTER: For the first three years of my life my mother told me we slept in an air raid shelter every night.
DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner, from New York.
Thomas PAINE: Thomas Paine, sir. Very nice to meet you. I hope you’re being wary of the Loyalists up there in New York.
Nathan MYRHVOLD: I trained as a physicist, and then I worked with Stephen Hawking on quantum field theory and curved space-time, and the origin of the universe.
Andy ROSENTHAL: I’m the editorial page editor of The New York Times.
Donald RUMSFELD: I’m Don Rumsfeld.
Alice WATERS: I’m Alice Waters.
Glenn BECK: Glenn Beck. I’m an entrepreneur. Reluctant, believe it or not, commentator. And dad.
Steve SEXTON: My name is Steve Sexton, I am a PhD Student at UC Berkeley studying agricultural and resource economics.
Alison SEXTON: I’m Alison Sexton, I’m a PhD student at the University of Minnesota studying health and information economics.
DUBNER: Alright, so I’m a little suspicious, you share a last name, you related to each other, perhaps?
Steve SEXTON: We are, we also shared a womb.
My Freakonomics partner is the inimitable Steve Levitt.
LEVITT: If you want to ask what economists do, I’m probably the wrong person to ask, because I do things that are quite different than what the typical economists do. I study strange things like sumo wrestling and prostitutes, and terrorism, and things like that.
LEVITT: I don’t think mathematics is necessary to understand reality…
LEVITT: I always think to myself: why don’t more people commit suicide?
LEVITT: I just don’t want to have to go places, talk to strangers, things like that.
LEVITT: One of the easiest ways to differentiate an economist from almost anyone else in society is to test them with repugnant ideas, because economists are pretty much immune to repugnance.
LEVITT: I try to talk my grad students into quitting all the time.
DUBNER: Quitting grad school?
LEVITT: Quitting grad school, yeah.
LEVITT: As I look back on my life, one of the greatest regrets I have is that I spent my youth thinking that I could get a date when I never could get a date.
DUBNER: You love kind of teenage girl novels, that’s kind of your favorite.
LEVITT: I know, The Hunger Games is next on my list. I haven’t had a chance to get to that yet.
LEVITT: Just take a little can, like say a baby food jar and fill it with vomit. OK? And wear it around your neck. Think about what a great conversation starter that would be.
DUBNER: With what kind of people? Who are you trying to start a conversation with?
LEVITT: Ladies at ladies’ night at the bars.
DUBNER: And we can’t figure out why people don’t like economists. I don’t understand.
Most of our stories fall into one of two categories. The first category is things you always thought you knew, but didn’t.
Melissa KEARNEY: One in five American adults said their greatest chance of accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars is through the lottery. That number jumps to forty percent for folks making less than $25,000 a year.
Robin HANSON: Signaling theory is another way of talking about showing off. It’s all about what we do to look good. Or at least to not look bad.
Lauren WILLIS: The truth is I don’t have to be very financially literate in order to get along very well financially in life.
David LESTER: Regions with a higher quality of life have a higher suicide rate.
Steve PINKER: Believe it or not, violence has been in decline for long stretches of history, and we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species existence.
LEVITT: Walking drunk is one of the most dangerous activities you can engage in.
Bryan CAPLAN: In all honesty, I do sometimes think, What if my kids don’t turn out well and then everyone blames me? And I would still just say that the data say it was going to happen anyway.
Vikas MEHROTRA: This is what in economics we call the “cobra effect” where you have a well-intended scheme, but instead of solving the problem it makes the problem actually worse.
Mara HVISTENDAHL: Amartya Sen looked at the total number of women in Asia and compared it against the number of women who should be there if the continent had a natural sex ratio. And in 1990, he found that there were a hundred million women who were missing, who hadn’t been born, but who should have been born.
And the second big category of Freakonomics Radio material: things you never thought you wanted to know, but do.
Mary ROACH: Rene Descartes had apparently this sort of room with heads of cows and livestock in different stages of disassembly. And he would sometimes when dinner guests were over he would open the door to this room and say, “These are my books.” And you kind of had to think that after a while people didn’t want to go over to Rene’s house for dinner very much.
Ed GLAESER: …it’s hard to imagine that there was any Bostonian during this time period who did as much damage to the environment as Henry David Thoreau did.
Roland FRYER: I was talking with one of my colleagues here at Harvard, they confessed to me that they dyed their hair gray. And I said, ‘Why would anyone do that?’ He says, ‘Well I want people to take me more seriously.’
DUBNER: Americans will probably eat about 40 million turkeys this month. Now, I hope this doesn’t kill your appetite, but what percentage of those 40 million birds do you think were the product of artificial insemination?
Kai RYSSDAL: Really? That’s the question?
DUBNER: That’s the question. It is really the question this week.
RYSSDAL: Okay, 82.6? I don’t know.
DUBNER: That’s a great guess, great guess. The truth is it’s actually pretty close to one hundred percent.
As we all know, Freakonomics Radio is kinda sorta about economics.
LEVITT: When I met Dubner, he knew nothing about economics…
But somehow, we almost always end up talking about food. Not just on the show, but while we’re in the studio, making the show.
DUBNER: Talk for a minute.
DUBNER: Keep going.
LEVITT: Steven Levitt…chicken wings…forty-five-minute wait. What a pain in the ass.
DUBNER: Uuuuhhhhhhh, I would like to hear the taaaaape, yeaaaahh…. You know what? Let me grab my salad.
DUBNER: Man, doesn’t that make you want a Big Mac? I’m starving. Could we spare Jeff? I’m buying!
DUBNER: Kind of made me want tacos. Hey, you want to go get tacos?
DUBNER: Pizza time!
Adam Scott: Beef, pork, bacon, milk cheese, yogurt, potato chips, corn chips, beer, wine, liquor, coffee, tea, soda pop, illegal drugs, which I don’t really do anyway.
DUBNER: You cheat with bacon?
KARA: Not in my own kitchen, but I’ll go out and order bacon and pancakes. But at home, it would be simply pancakes.
DUBNER: Now, does your husband know about this?
KARA: He knows.
DUBNER: He knows because you tell him, or because you come home with the scent of your lover on your lips?
KARA: A little of both, I have to admit.
DUBNER: If we did a bunch of them even if they are all bad it would be good. How to get the most bang for your buck, trick for your treat, Snickers in your knickers. I got a laugh cramp!
DUBNER: So, Levitt this is our one-hundredth episode of Freakonomics Radio. What do you have to say about that?
LEVITT: That’s ninety-nine more than I expected when you started off on the first one. Maybe one hundred more than I expected.
DUBNER: And if you had to pick an adjective for how it makes you feel—proud, blah blah—what would the adjective be for having participated in one hundred episodes of this podcast?
DUBNER: Really? Truly? I’m so surprised to hear…why gratified?
LEVITT: You know, because I just thought it was such a bad idea from the beginning. I thought it was such a waste of your time and a little bit of my time. And it’s turned out that wherever I go, nobody really wants to talk about the books or the movie, everyone wants to talk about the podcast. Somehow, somehow the podcast turns out to be the medium that works great for us.
DUBNER: Why do you think that is?
LEVITT: It’s short. It’s free. And I think it’s the fact that you can listen to the podcast while you do something else and it takes about half of a person’s brain to capture what we are trying to say.
DUBNER: In addition to thanking people, what do you want to say to our listeners on the occasion of our hundredth episode.
LEVITT: I would say let’s raise our glass to one hundred more.
Freakonomics Radio is produced by WNYC, APM, American Public Media and Dubner Productions. Our staff includes Suzie Lechtenberg, Katherine Wells, David Herman, Bourree Lam, Collin Campbell and Chris Bannon.
But many, many many more people have helped produce the previous ninety-nine episodes, and I’d like to thank them, too. They include:
Amanda Aronczyk, Jesse Baker, Jacob Berman, Corey Boutilier, Krissy Clark, Sean Cole, John Delore, Andrew Gartrell, Elizabeth Giddens, Dwyer Gunn, Diana Huynh, Justin Jimenez, Dylan Keefe, Austin Kilham, Shia Levitt, (no relation to Steve Levitt), Ethan Lindsey, David Maxon, Jeff Mosenkis, Aimee Machado, Chris Neary, Michael Raphael, Kate Rope, Paul Schneider, Jake Smith, Stacey Vanek Smith, Shawn Wen, Veralyn Williams, and Molly Webster, whose voice you may recognize, it sounds like this:
WEBSTER: Are you ready? OK. Freakonomics…Sorry…
Also, a big thanks to all the folks at American Public Media and Marketplace, especially Deb Clark, Peter Clowney, Megan Larson, Judy McAlpine, Sitara Nieves, Kai-otee Ryssdal, Celeste Wesson and J.J. Yore, who answered the door when we first knocked a few years ago. And thanks to everyone here at WNYC, especially Dean Cappello, Ellen Horne, and Laura Walker. Thanks to Peter Fields, even though he’s a lawyer, and thanks to the folks at iTunes and Stitcher and everybody else that gets this podcast into your ears. And, most of all, thanks to you for listening, for spreading the word, and for sending us your comments, ideas, even your complaints. Keep those emails coming at email@example.com or come visit us at freakonomics.com. And if you subscribe to this podcast at iTunes, you’ll get the next episode in your sleep.
Holy cow! I cannot believe you actually listen to the end of our credits. Well, you know what comes next then—yep, it’s the bloopers.
DUBNER: (singing “Honky Tonk Woman”)
DUBNER: Okay, are you ready? I feel like I sound froggy. Do I sound froggy or no? Froggy froggy froggy! Here’s the thing. Duh duh duh. No? Okay.
DUBNER: Does it sound as weird in there as it does in here?
DUBNER: We go down we go down we go down and we go down, we go down down down down down down down down. We’ve got tape and we’ve got tape and we’ve got tape tape tape. Okay, are you still rolling?
DUBNER: I want you…! No, I can’t do it…
DUNBER: What? I didn’t touch anything. No, no. You thought I was making my voice like helium reverb? Oh my God…
DUBNER: I’m on fire. FIRE!