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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn?t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) ? from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. Dubner speaks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, intellectuals and entrepreneurs, and various other underachievers.


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491. Why Is Everyone Moving to Dallas?

When Stephen Dubner learned that Dallas?Fort Worth will soon overtake Chicago as the third-biggest metro area in the U.S., he got on a plane to find out why. Despite getting stood up by the mayor, nearly drowning on a highway, and eating way too much barbecue, he came away impressed. (Part 1 of 2 ? because even podcasts are bigger in Texas.)

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490. What Do Broken-Hearted Knitters, Urinating Goalkeepers, and the C.I.A. Have in Common?

Curses and other superstitions may have no basis in reality, but that doesn?t stop us from believing. 

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489. Is ?Toxic Positivity? a Thing?

 In this special episode of No Stupid Questions, Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth discuss the consequences of seeing every glass as at least half-full. 

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488. Does Death Have to Be a Death Sentence?

In this special episode of People I (Mostly) Admire, Steve Levitt speaks with the palliative physician B.J. Miller about modern medicine?s goal of ?protecting a pulse at all costs.? Is there a better, even beautiful way to think about death and dying?

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487. Is It Okay to Have a Party Yet?

In this special episode of Freakonomics, M.D., host Bapu Jena looks at data from birthday parties, March Madness parties, and a Freakonomics Radio holiday party to help us all manage our risk of Covid-19 exposure.

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486. ?The Art Market Is in Massive Disruption.?

Is art really meant to be an ?asset class?? Will the digital revolution finally democratize a market that just keeps getting more elitist? And what will happen to the last painting Alice Neel ever made? (Part 3 of ?The Hidden Side of the Art Market.?)

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485. ?I?ve Been Working My Ass Off for You to Make that Profit??

The more successful an artist is, the more likely their work will later be resold at auction for a huge markup ? and they receive nothing. Should that change? Also: why doesn?t contemporary art impact society the way music and film do? (Part 2 of ?The Hidden Side of the Art Market.?)

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484. ?A Fascinating, Sexy, Intellectually Compelling, Unregulated Global Market.?

The art market is so opaque and illiquid that it barely functions like a market at all. A handful of big names get all the headlines (and most of the dollars). Beneath the surface is a tangled web of dealers, curators, auction houses, speculators ? and, of course, artists. In the first episode of a three-part series, we meet the key players and learn how an obscure, long-dead American painter suddenly became a superstar. (Part 1 of ?The Hidden Side of the Art Market.?)

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How Do You Cure a Compassion Crisis? (Ep. 444 Replay)

Patients in the U.S. healthcare system often feel they?re treated with a lack of empathy. Doctors and nurses have tragically high levels of burnout. Could fixing the first problem solve the second? And does the rest of society need more compassion too?

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483. What?s Wrong With Shortcuts?

You know the saying: ?There are no shortcuts in life.? What if that saying is just wrong? In his new book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life, the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy argues that shortcuts can be applied to practically anything: music, psychotherapy, even politics. Our latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.

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482. 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.

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481. 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.

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480. 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.

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479. 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.

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478. 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?

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477. 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.

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That?s a Great Question! (Ep. 192 Rebroadcast)

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.  

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?This Didn't End the Way It?s Supposed to End.? (Bonus)

The N.B.A. superstar Chris Bosh was still competing at the highest level when a blood clot abruptly ended his career. In his new book, Letters to a Young Athlete, Bosh covers the highlights and the struggles. In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, he talks with guest host Angela Duckworth.

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476. 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?

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475. 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.

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474. 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.

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Is There Really a ?Loneliness Epidemic?? (Ep. 407 Rebroadcast)

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.

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473. 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.

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Reasons to Be Cheerful (Ep. 417 Rebroadcast)

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?

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472. 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.

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471. 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.

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Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet (Ep. 346 Rebroadcast)

The environmentalists say we?re doomed if we don?t drastically reduce consumption. The technologists say that human ingenuity can solve just about any problem. A debate that?s been around for decades has become a shouting match. Is anyone right?

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470. The Pros and Cons of America?s (Extreme) Individualism

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.

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469. The U.S. Is Just Different ? So Let?s Stop Pretending We?re Not

We often look to other countries for smart policies on education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc. But can a smart policy be simply transplanted into a country as culturally unusual (and as supremely WEIRD) as America?

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468. Nap Time for Everyone!

The benefits of sleep are by now well established, and yet many people don?t get enough. A new study suggests we should channel our inner toddler and get 30 minutes of shut-eye in the afternoon. But are we ready for a napping revolution?

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How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns? (Ep. 289 Rebroadcast)

Nearly two percent of America is grassy green. Sure, lawns are beautiful and useful and they smell great. But are the costs ? financial, environmental and otherwise ? worth the benefits?

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467. Is the Future of Farming in the Ocean?

Bren Smith, who grew up fishing and fighting, is now part of a movement that seeks to feed the planet while putting less environmental stress on it. He makes his argument in a book called Eat Like a Fish; his secret ingredient: kelp. But don?t worry, you won?t have to eat it (not much, at least). An installment of The Freakonomics Radio Book Club.

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466. She?s From the Government, and She?s Here to Help

Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, is as cold-blooded as any economist. But she admits that her profession would do well to focus on policy that actually helps people. Rouse explains why President Biden wants to spend trillions of dollars to reshape the economy, and why ? as the first Black chair of the C.E.A. ? she has a good idea of what needs fixing.

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465. Introducing a New ?Freakonomics of Medicine? Podcast

Bapu Jena was already a double threat: a doctor who?s also an economist. Now he?s a podcast host too. In this sneak preview of the Freakonomics Radio Network?s newest show, Bapu discovers that marathons can be deadly ? but not for the reasons you may think.

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464. Will Work-from-Home Work Forever?

The pandemic may be winding down, but that doesn?t mean we?ll return to full-time commuting and packed office buildings. The greatest accidental experiment in the history of labor has lessons to teach us about productivity, flexibility, and even reversing the brain drain. But don?t buy another dozen pairs of sweatpants just yet.

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463. How to Get Anyone to Do Anything

The social psychologist Robert Cialdini is a pioneer in the science of persuasion. His 1984 book Influence is a classic, and he has just published an expanded and revised edition. In this episode of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, he gives a master class in the seven psychological levers that bewitch our rational minds and lead us to buy, behave, or believe without a second thought.

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These Shoes Are Killing Me! (Ep. 296 Rebroadcast)

The human foot is an evolutionary masterpiece, far more functional than we give it credit for. So why do we encase it in ?a coffin? (as one foot scholar calls it) that stymies so much of its ability ? and may create more problems than it solves?

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462. The Future of New York City Is in Question. Could Andrew Yang Be the Answer?

The man who wants America to ?think harder? has parlayed his quixotic presidential campaign into front-runner status in New York?s mayoral election. And he has some big plans.

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461. How to Stop Worrying and Love the Robot Apocalypse

It?s true that robots (and other smart technologies) will kill many jobs. It may also be true that newer collaborative robots (?cobots?) will totally reinvigorate how work gets done. That, at least, is what the economists are telling us. Should we believe them?

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460. The True Story of the Minimum-Wage Fight

Backers of a $15 federal wage say it?s a no-brainer if you want to fight poverty. Critics say it?s a blunt instrument that leads to job loss. Even the economists can?t agree! We talk to a bunch of them ? and a U.S. Senator ? to sort it out, and learn there?s a much bigger problem to worry about.

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459. Let?s Be Blunt: Marijuana Is a Boon for Older Workers

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 the costs and benefits of legalization.

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458. How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy

In this special crossover episode, People I (Mostly) Admire host Steve Levitt admits to No Stupid Questions co-host Angela Duckworth that he knows almost nothing about psychology. But once Angela gives Steve a quick tutorial on ?goal conflict,? he is suddenly a fan. They also talk parenting, self-esteem, and how easy it is to learn econometrics if you feel like it.

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457. Is Dialysis a Test Case of Medicare for All?

Kidney failure is such a catastrophic (and expensive) disease that Medicare covers treatment for anyone, regardless of age. Since Medicare reimbursement rates are fairly low, the dialysis industry had to find a way to tweak the system if they wanted to make big profits. They succeeded.

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456. How to Fix the Hot Mess of U.S. Healthcare

Medicine has evolved from a calling into an industry, adept at dispensing procedures and pills (and gigantic bills), but less good at actual health. Most reformers call for big, bold action. What happens if, instead, you think small?

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Policymaking Is Not a Science (Yet) (Ep. 405 Rebroadcast)

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?

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How Does New York City Keep Reinventing Itself? (Bonus)

In a word: networks. Once it embraced information as its main currency, New York was able to climb out of a deep fiscal (and psychic) pit. Will that magic trick still work after Covid? In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, guest host Kurt Andersen interviews Thomas Dyja, author of New York, New York, New York: Four Decades of Success, Excess and Transformation.

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455. Are You Ready for a Fresh Start?

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?

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454. Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished?

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?

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453. A Rescue Plan for Black America

New York Times columnist Charles Blow argues that white supremacy in America will never fully recede, and that it?s time for Black people to do something radical about it. In The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, he urges a ?reverse migration? to the South to consolidate political power and create a region where it?s safe to be Black. (This is an episode of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.)

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Am I Boring You? (Ep. 225 Rebroadcast)

Researchers are trying to figure out who gets bored ? and why ? and what it means for ourselves and the economy. But maybe there?s an upside to boredom?

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