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The Maddest Men of All Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “The Maddest Men of All“ [MUSIC: Pearl Django, “Almost Home” (from Collected Original Compositions)] Rory SUTHERLAND: I’m Rory Sutherland. I’m the vice chairman of Ogilvy and Mather in the U.K. Stephen J. DUBNER: Now, that is a pretty impressive title. But we should say that you […] Read More »





Hacking the World Bank Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Hacking the World Bank” [MUSIC: The Diplomats of Solid Sound, “Soul Slaw” (from Instrumental, Action, Soul)] Stephen J. DUBNER: Back in 2012, Jim Yong Kim was minding his own business, carrying out his duties as president of Dartmouth College. He was in his third year there. Then […] Read More »





How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “How to Think About Money, Choose Your Hometown, and Buy an Electric Toothbrush.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) It’s another installment of our FREAK-quently Asked Questions, in which Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt answer questions from you, our readers and listeners. 

Steve Reda, a 22-year-old in the Washington, D.C., area, asks if kids today are more careful using credit as opposed to cash. (It’s a question that makes Dubner recall his salad days, back when he fell in love with economics and the “mental accounting” research done by Richard Thaler, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.) This leads to a conversation about spending in general, which leads to Levitt’s counterintuitive advice for the youth of today (advice passed down from Milton Friedman to José Scheinkman and on to Levitt): Read More »





Who Are the Most Successful Immigrants in the World? Full Transcript

 This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Who Are the Most Successful Immigrants in the World?“ [MUSIC: Soulglue, “Steve McQueen” (from Arboretum)]   Stephen J. DUBNER: Once upon a time, I was on a plane with Nassim Taleb. He is a philosopher of sorts, and he writes fascinating books – most recently The […] Read More »





Defending the Indefensible: Your Thoughts on the Benefits of Fuel Subsidies

Last post, I wrote about how many nations in the developing world, such as Egypt, subsidize gasoline and diesel fuel to keep the price at the pump artificially low. There are many ways in which this policy is ineffective, counterproductive, and just plain dumb: it wrecks the public finances of cash-strapped countries in order to create traffic congestion and air pollution, raises the world price of oil, and transfers money from the poor to the wealthy.

In fact, writing about this folly got me pretty irritated, and I’m ashamed to admit I decided to take out my frustration on you readers. So I challenged you to come up with arguments in favor of fuel subsidies, manipulatively using the siren’s song of a prize of Freakonomics swag to get you to twist your brains into pretzels.

Thanks to those of you who gamely tried; many of you confessed it wasn’t easy. For example, poor reader Rob complained that “I’m getting a brain cramp trying to think of a defense for Egypt’s policy.” Rob, I apologize and recommend sitting in a dark room while listening to a CD of soothing ocean sounds for awhile. Read More »





How to Fix College Coaching?

Rutgers University fired Mike Rice – the head basketball coach – last Wednesday. This firing came about after ESPN released a video that showed Rice abusing his players. Such a video had already been seen by Rice’s boss at Rutgers in November, but until the video was shown to the public, Rutgers did not feel compelled to fire Rice.

Former NBA player Paul Shirley (author of Can I Keep My Jersey?) observed the following about the Rutgers case in a recent interview at HuffPost Live (around 13:30):

The thing that people don’t want to hear, but which is true, is that this is probably closer to the norm than not. 

Shirley goes on to note that he doesn’t think many coaches are actually hitting players. But he does note that coaches do tend to have a certain approach in conveying information to players (an approach Shirley describes in the interview).

Is this general approach to coaching effective?  To date, I am not aware of any study of the effectiveness of college coaching.  A study I co-authored with Mike Leeds, Eva Marikova Leeds, and Mike Mondello and published in the International Journal of Sport Finance (full PDF here) looked at 62 NBA coaches across thirty years of data. Across this sample, only 14 coaches were found to have a statistically significant and positive impact on player performance. So most NBA coaches do not appear to make their players more productive. Read More »





100 Ways to Fight Obesity: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “100 Ways to Fight Obesity.” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Steve Levitt runs a  consulting firm called The Greatest Good. It is occasionally hired by a philanthropist or foundation to look into societal problems. That’s what happened recently, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked The Greatest Good to put together a brainstorming session on childhood obesity. Stephen Dubner moderated the event. In this podcast, you get to be a fly on the wall as a dozen participants explore the biological, behavioral, political and economic angles of obesity. Read More »





100 Ways to Fight Obesity: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “100 Ways to Fight Obesity.” [MUSIC: Jonathan Clay; “Carousel” (from Everything She Wants)]   DUBNER: Steve Levitt is my Freakonomics friend and coauthor. He stands about 5-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds. So he does not have a weight problem. But he has been thinking about our collective […] Read More »