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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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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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452. Jeff Immelt Knows He Let You Down

Not so long ago, G.E. was the most valuable company in the world, a conglomerate that included everything from light bulbs and jet engines to financial services and The Apprentice. Now it?s selling off body parts to survive. What does the C.E.O. who presided over the decline have to say for himself? 
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451. Can I Ask You a Ridiculously Personal Question?

Most of us are are afraid to ask sensitive questions about money, sex, politics, etc. New research shows this fear is largely unfounded. Time for some interesting conversations!
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450. How to Be Better at Death

Caitlin Doughty is a mortician who would like to put herself out of business. Our corporate funeral industry, she argues, has made us forget how to offer our loved ones an authentic sendoff. Doughty is the author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory. In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, she is interviewed by guest host Maria Konnikova.
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449. How to Fix the Incentives in Cancer Research

For all the progress made in fighting cancer, it still kills 10 million people a year, and some types remain especially hard to detect and treat. Pancreatic cancer, for instance, is nearly always fatal. A new clinical-trial platform could change that by aligning institutions that typically compete against one another.
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448. The Downside of Disgust

It?s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our disgust reflex?  You can help fix things ? as Stephen Dubner does in this episode ? by chowing down on some delicious insects.
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447. How Much Do We Really Care About Children?

They can?t vote or hire lobbyists. The policies we create to help them aren?t always so helpful. Consider the car seat: parents hate it, the safety data are unconvincing, and new evidence suggests an unintended consequence that is as anti-child as it gets.
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446. ?We Get All Our Great Stuff from Europe ? Including Witch Hunting.?

We?ve collected some of our favorite moments from People I (Mostly) Admire, the latest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network. Host Steve Levitt seeks advice from scientists and inventors, memory wizards and basketball champions ? even his fellow economists. He also asks about quitting, witch trials, and whether we need a Manhattan Project for climate change. 
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Trust Me (Ep. 266 Rebroadcast)

Societies where people trust one another are healthier and wealthier. In the U.S. (and the U.K. and elsewhere), social trust has been falling for decades ? in part because our populations are more diverse. What can we do to fix it?
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445. Why Do We Seek Comfort in the Familiar?

In this episode of No Stupid Questions ? a Freakonomics Radio Network show launched earlier this year ? Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth debate why we watch, read, and eat familiar things during a crisis, and if it might in fact be better to try new things instead. Also: is a little knowledge truly as dangerous as they say? 
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444. How Do You Cure a Compassion Crisis?

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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443. A Sneak Peek at Biden?s Top Economist

The incoming president argues that the economy and the environment are deeply connected. This is reflected in his choice for National Economic Council director ? Brian Deese, a climate-policy wonk and veteran of the no-drama-Obama era. But don?t mistake Deese?s lack of drama for a lack of intensity.
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PLAYBACK (2015): Could the Next Brooklyn Be ... Las Vegas?!

Tony Hsieh, the longtime C.E.O. of Zappos, was an iconoclast and a dreamer. Five years ago, we sat down with him around a desert campfire to talk about those dreams. Hsieh died recently from injuries sustained in a house fire; he was 46.
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442. Is it Too Late for General Motors to Go Electric?

G.M. produces more than 20 times as many cars as Tesla, but Tesla is worth nearly 10 times as much. Mary Barra, the C.E.O. of G.M., is trying to fix that. We speak with her about the race toward an electrified (and autonomous) future, China and Trump, and what it?s like to be the ?fifth-most powerful woman in the world.?
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441. Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 2: Digital)

Google and Facebook are worth a combined $2 trillion, with the vast majority of their revenue coming from advertising. In our previous episode, we learned that TV advertising is much less effective than the industry says. Is digital any better? Some say yes, some say no ? and some say we?re in a full-blown digital-ad bubble.
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440. Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 1: TV)

Companies around the world spend more than half-a-trillion dollars each year on ads. The ad industry swears by its efficacy ? but a massive new study tells a different story.
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439. Please Get Your Noise Out of My Ears

The modern world overwhelms us with sounds we didn?t ask for, like car alarms and cell-phone ?halfalogues.? What does all this noise cost us in terms of productivity, health, and basic sanity?
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438. How to Succeed by Being Authentic (Hint: Carefully)

John Mackey, the C.E.O. of Whole Foods, has learned the perils of speaking his mind. But he still says what he thinks about everything from ?conscious leadership? to the behavioral roots of the obesity epidemic. He also argues for a style of capitalism and politics that at this moment seems like a fantasy. What does he know that we don?t?
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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.
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437. Many Businesses Thought They Were Insured for a Pandemic. They Weren?t.

A fine reading of most policies for ?business interruption? reveals that viral outbreaks aren?t covered. Some legislators are demanding that insurance firms pay up anyway. Is it time to rethink insurance entirely?
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436. Forget Everything You Know About Your Dog

As beloved and familiar as they are, we rarely stop to consider life from the dog?s point of view. That stops now. In this latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, we discuss Inside of a Dog with the cognitive scientist (and dog devotee) Alexandra Horowitz.
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435. Why Are Cities (Still) So Expensive?

 It isn?t just supply and demand. We look at the complicated history and skewed incentives that make ?affordable housing? more punch line than reality in cities from New York and San Francisco to Flint, Michigan (!).
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434. Is New York City Over?

The pandemic has hit America's biggest city particularly hard. Amidst a deep fiscal hole, rising homicides, and a flight to the suburbs, some people think the city is heading back to the bad old 1970s. We look at the history ? and the data ? to see why that?s probably not the case.
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?Don?t Neglect the Thing That Makes You Weird? | People I (Mostly) Admire: Ken Jennings

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.
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433. How Are Psychedelics and Other Party Drugs Changing Psychiatry?

Three leading researchers from the Mount Sinai Health System discuss how ketamine, cannabis, and ecstasy are being used (or studied) to treat everything from severe depression to addiction to PTSD. We discuss the upsides, downsides, and regulatory puzzles.
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432. When Your Safety Becomes My Danger

The families of U.S. troops killed and wounded in Afghanistan are suing several companies that did reconstruction there. Why? These companies, they say, paid the Taliban protection money, which gave them the funding ? and opportunity ? to attack U.S. soldiers instead. A look at the messy, complicated, and heart-breaking tradeoffs of conflict-zone economies.
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?One Does Not Know Where an Insight Will Come From? | People I (Mostly) Admire: Kerwin Charles

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 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. 
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