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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics co-author Stephen J. Dubner uncovers the hidden side of everything. Why is it safer to fly in an airplane than drive a car? How do we decide whom to marry? Why is the media so full of bad news? Also: things you never knew you wanted to know about wolves, bananas, pollution, search engines, and the quirks of human behavior. Join the Freakonomics Radio Plus membership program for weekly member-only episodes of Freakonomics Radio. You’ll also get every show in our network without ads. To sign up, visit our show page on Apple Podcasts or go to freakonomics.com/plus.

  • 2023 / 11 / 30
    513. Should Public Transit Be Free? (Update)

    It boosts economic opportunity and social mobility. It’s good for the environment. So why do we charge people to use it? The short answer: it’s complicated. Also: We talk to the man who gets half the nation’s...

  • 2023 / 11 / 23
    566. Why Is It So Hard (and Expensive) to Build Anything in America?

    Most industries have become more productive over time. But not construction! We identify the causes — and possible solutions. (Can you say ... “prefab”?) RESOURCES:"The Strange and Awful Path of Productivity...

  • 2023 / 11 / 19
    Extra: Jason Kelce Hates to Lose

    Pro footballer and star podcaster Jason Kelce is ubiquitous right now (almost as ubiquitous as his brother and co-host Travis, who's been in the limelight for his relationship with Taylor Swift). After you...

  • 2023 / 11 / 16
    565. Are Private Equity Firms Plundering the U.S. Economy?

    They say they make companies more efficient through savvy management. Critics say they bend the rules to enrich themselves at the expense of consumers and employees. Can they both be right? (Probably...

  • 2023 / 11 / 9
    480. How Much Does Discrimination Hurt the Economy? (Replay)

    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...

  • 2023 / 11 / 2
    564. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 4: Extreme Resiliency

    Everyone makes mistakes. How do you learn from them? Lessons from the classroom, the Air Force, and the world’s deadliest infectious disease. RESOURCES:Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well, by Amy...

  • 2023 / 10 / 26
    563. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 3: Grit vs. Quit

    Giving up can be painful. That's why we need to talk about it. Today: stories about glitchy apps, leaky paint cans, broken sculptures — and a quest for the perfect bowl of ramen.  RESOURCES"Data Snapshot:...

  • 2023 / 10 / 19
    562. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 2: Life and Death

    In medicine, failure can be catastrophic. It can also produce discoveries that save millions of lives. Tales from the front line, the lab, and the I.T. department. RESOURCES:Right Kind of Wrong: The Science...

  • 2023 / 10 / 12
    561. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 1: The Chain of Events

    We tend to think of tragedies as a single terrible moment, rather than the result of multiple bad decisions. Can this pattern be reversed? We try — with stories about wildfires, school shootings, and...

  • 2023 / 10 / 10
    232. A New Nobel Laureate Explains the Gender Pay Gap (Replay)

    Claudia Goldin is the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. We spoke with her in 2016 about why women earn so much less than men — and how it’s not all explained by discrimination.

  • 2023 / 10 / 5
    560. Is This “the Worst Job in Corporate America” — or Maybe the Best?

    John Ray is an emergency C.E.O., a bankruptcy expert who takes over companies that have succumbed to failure or fraud. He’s currently cleaning up the mess left by alleged crypto scammer Sam Bankman-Fried. And...

  • 2023 / 9 / 28
    559. Are Two C.E.O.s Better Than One?

    If two parents can run a family, why shouldn’t two executives run a company? We dig into the research and hear firsthand stories of both triumph and disaster. Also: lessons from computer programmers, Simon...

  • 2023 / 9 / 21
    558. The Facts Are In: Two Parents Are Better Than One

    In her new book The Two-Parent Privilege, the economist Melissa Kearney says it’s time for liberals to face the facts: U.S. marriage rates have plummeted but the babies keep coming, and the U.S. now leads the...

  • 2023 / 9 / 21
    558. When Did Marriage Become a Luxury Good?

    U.S. marriage rates have plummeted. But the babies keep coming, and the U.S. now leads the world in single-parent households. In her new book The Two-Parent Privilege, the economist Melissa Kearney says this...

  • 2023 / 9 / 14
    557. When Is a Superstar Just Another Employee?

    The union that represents N.F.L. players conducted their first-ever survey of workplace conditions, and issued a report card to all 32 teams. What did the survey reveal? Clogged showers, rats in the locker...

  • 2023 / 9 / 7
    556. A.I. Is Changing Everything. Does That Include You?

    For all the speculation about the future, A.I. tools can be useful right now. Adam Davidson discovers what they can help us do, how we can get the most from them — and why the things that make them helpful...

  • 2023 / 8 / 31
    555. New Technologies Always Scare Us. Is A.I. Any Different?

    Guest host Adam Davidson looks at what might happen to your job in a world of human-level artificial intelligence, and asks when it might be time to worry that the machines have become too powerful. (Part 2...

  • 2023 / 8 / 24
    554. Can A.I. Take a Joke?

    Artificial intelligence, we’ve been told, will destroy humankind. No, wait — it will usher in a new age of human flourishing! Guest host Adam Davidson (co-founder of Planet Money) sorts through the big claims...

  • 2023 / 8 / 17
    553. The Suddenly Diplomatic Rahm Emanuel

    The famously profane politician and operative is now U.S. ambassador to Japan, where he’s trying to rewrite the rules of diplomacy. But don’t worry: When it comes to China, he’s every bit as combative as...

  • 2023 / 8 / 10
    Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? (Ep. 454 Replay)

    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?

  • 2023 / 8 / 6
    Extra: A Modern Whaler Speaks Up

    Bjorn Andersen killed 111 minke whales this season. He tells us how he does it, why he does it, and what he thinks would happen if whale-hunting ever stopped.

  • 2023 / 8 / 3
    552. Freakonomics Radio Presents: The Economics of Everyday Things

    In three stories from our newest podcast, host Zachary Crockett digs into sports mascots, cashmere sweaters, and dinosaur skeletons.

  • 2023 / 7 / 27
    551. What Can Whales Teach Us About Clean Energy, Workplace Harmony, and Living the Good Life?

    In the final episode of our whale series, we learn about fecal plumes, shipping noise, and why "Moby-Dick" is still worth reading. (Part 3 of "Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.")

  • 2023 / 7 / 20
    550. Why Do People Still Hunt Whales?

    For years, whale oil was used as lighting fuel, industrial lubricant, and the main ingredient in (yum!) margarine. Whale meat was also on a few menus. But today, demand for whale products is at a historic...

  • 2023 / 7 / 13
    549. The First Great American Industry

    Whaling was, in the words of one scholar, “early capitalism unleashed on the high seas.” How did the U.S. come to dominate the whale market? Why did whale hunting die out here — and continue to grow...

  • 2023 / 7 / 6
    548. Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?

    Actually, the reasons are pretty clear. The harder question is: Will we ever care enough to stop?

  • 2023 / 6 / 29
    Why Did You Marry That Person? (Ep. 511 Replay)

    Sure, you were “in love.” But economists — using evidence from Bridgerton to Tinder — point to what’s called “assortative mating.” And it has some unpleasant consequences for society.

  • 2023 / 6 / 22
    547. Satya Nadella’s Intelligence Is Not Artificial

    But as C.E.O. of the resurgent Microsoft, he is firmly at the center of the A.I. revolution. We speak with him about the perils and blessings of A.I., Google vs. Bing, the Microsoft succession plan — and why...

  • 2023 / 6 / 15
    546. Are E.S.G. Investors Actually Helping the Environment?

    Probably not. The economist Kelly Shue argues that E.S.G. investing just gives more money to firms that are already green while depriving polluting firms of the financing they need to get greener. But she has...

  • 2023 / 6 / 8
    545. Enough with the Slippery Slopes!

    Gun control, abortion rights, drug legalization — it seems like every argument these days claims that if X happens, then Y will follow, and we’ll all be doomed to Z. Is the slippery-slope argument a valid...

  • 2023 / 6 / 1
    544. Ari Emanuel Is Never Indifferent

    He turned a small Hollywood talent agency into a massive sports-and-entertainment empire. In a freewheeling conversation, he explains how he did it and why it nearly killed him.

  • 2023 / 5 / 25
    Make Me a Match (Ep. 209 Update)

    Sure, markets work well in general. But for some transactions — like school admissions and organ transplants — money alone can’t solve the problem. That’s when you need a market-design wizard like Al Roth....

  • 2023 / 5 / 18
    543. How to Return Stolen Art

    Museums are purging their collections of looted treasures. Can they also get something in return? And what does it mean to be a museum in the 21st century? (Part 3 of “Stealing Art Is Easy. Giving It Back Is...

  • 2023 / 5 / 11
    542. Is a Museum Just a Trophy Case?

    The world’s great museums are full of art and artifacts that were plundered during an era when plunder was the norm. Now there’s a push to return these works to their rightful owners. Sounds simple, right?...

  • 2023 / 5 / 4
    541. The Case of the $4 Million Gold Coffin

    How did a freshly looted Egyptian antiquity end up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Why did it take Kim Kardashian to crack the case? And how much of what you see in any museum is stolen? (Part 1 of...

  • 2023 / 4 / 27
    Why Your Projects Are Always Late — and What to Do About It (Ep. 323 Replay)

    Whether it’s a giant infrastructure plan or a humble kitchen renovation, it’ll inevitably take way too long and cost way too much. That’s because you suffer from “the planning fallacy.” (You also have an...

  • 2023 / 4 / 20
    540. Swearing Is More Important Than You Think

    Every language has its taboo words (which many people use all the time). But the list of forbidden words is always changing — and those changes tell us some surprising things about ourselves.

  • 2023 / 4 / 13
    539. Why Does One Tiny State Set the Rules for Everyone?

    Delaware is beloved by corporations, bankruptcy lawyers, tax avoiders, and money launderers. Critics say the Delaware “franchise” is undemocratic and corrupt. Insiders say it’s wildly efficient. We say:...

  • 2023 / 4 / 6
    538. A Radically Simple Way to Boost a Neighborhood

    Many companies say they want to create more opportunities for Black Americans. One company is doing something concrete about it. We visit the South Side of Chicago to see how it’s working out.

  • 2023 / 3 / 30
    How to Hate Taxes a Little Bit Less (Ep. 400 Replay)

    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...

  • 2023 / 3 / 23
    537. “Insurance Is Sexy.” Discuss.

    In this installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club, the economist Amy Finkelstein explains why insurance markets are broken and how to fix them. Also: why can’t you buy divorce insurance?

  • 2023 / 3 / 16
    Why Are There So Many Bad Bosses? (Ep. 495 Replay)

    People who are good at their jobs routinely get promoted into bigger jobs they’re bad at. We explain why firms keep producing incompetent managers — and why that’s unlikely to change.

  • 2023 / 3 / 9
    536. Is Your Plane Ticket Too Expensive — or Too Cheap?

    Most travelers want the cheapest flight they can find. Airlines, meanwhile, need to manage volatile fuel costs, a pricey workforce, and complex logistics. So how do they make money — and how did America’s...

  • 2023 / 3 / 2
    535. Why Is Flying Safer Than Driving?

    Thanks to decades of work by airlines and regulators, plane crashes are nearly a thing of the past. Can we do the same for cars? (Part 2 of “Freakonomics Radio Takes to the Skies.”)

  • 2023 / 2 / 23
    534. Air Travel Is a Miracle. Why Do We Hate It?

    It’s an unnatural activity that has become normal. You’re stuck in a metal tube with hundreds of strangers (and strange smells), defying gravity and racing through the sky. But oh, the places you’ll go! We...

  • 2023 / 2 / 16
    Why Does the Most Monotonous Job in the World Pay $1 Million? (Ep. 493 Update)

    Adam Smith famously argued that specialization is the key to prosperity. In the N.F.L., the long snapper is proof of that argument. Here’s everything there is to know about a job that didn’t used to exist.

  • 2023 / 2 / 13
    The Economics of Everyday Things: Used Hotel Soaps

    Hotel guests adore those cute little soaps, but is it just a one-night stand? In our fourth episode of The Economics of Everyday Things, Zachary Crockett discovers what happens to those soaps when we love ’em...

  • 2023 / 2 / 9
    533. Will the Democrats “Make America Great Again”?

    For decades, the U.S. let globalization run its course and hoped China would be an ally. Now the Biden administration is spending billions to bring high-tech manufacturing back home. Is this the beginning of...

  • 2023 / 2 / 6
    The Economics of Everyday Things: “My Sharona”

    Can a hit single from four decades ago still pay the bills? Zachary Crockett f-f-f-finds out in the third episode of our newest podcast, The Economics of Everyday Things.

  • 2023 / 2 / 2
    Is Economic Growth the Wrong Goal? (Ep. 429 Update)

    The economist Kate Raworth says the aggressive pursuit of G.D.P. is trashing the planet and shortchanging too many people. She has proposed an alternative — and the city of Amsterdam is giving it a try. How's...