Rank #1: 356. America’s Hidden Duopoly
We all know our political system is “broken” — but what if that’s not true? Some say the Republicans and Democrats constitute a wildly successful industry that has colluded to kill off competition, stifle reform, and drive the country apart. So what are you going to do about it?
Rank #2: 359. Should America Be Run by … Trader Joe’s?
The quirky little grocery chain with California roots and German ownership has a lot to teach all of us about choice architecture, efficiency, frugality, collaboration, and team spirit.
Rank #3: Pick of the Week: Are the Rich Really Less Generous Than the Poor? (Ep. 288)
From the archive — A series of academic studies suggest that the wealthy are, to put it bluntly, selfish jerks. It's an easy narrative to swallow — but is it true? A trio of economists set out to test the theory. All it took was a Dutch postal worker's uniform, some envelopes stuffed with cash, and a slight sense of the absurd.
Rank #4: There’s a War on Sugar. Is It Justified? (Ep. 285 Rebroadcast)
Some people argue that sugar should be regulated, like alcohol and tobacco, on the grounds that it’s addictive and toxic. How much sense does that make? We hear from a regulatory advocate, an evidence-based skeptic, a former F.D.A. commissioner — and the organizers of Milktoberfest.
Rank #5: Pick of the Week: Is America Ready for a “No-Lose Lottery”? (Ep. 309)
From the archive — Most people don't enjoy the simple, boring act of putting money in a savings account. But we do love to play the lottery. So what if you combine the two, creating a new kind of savings account with a lottery payout?
Rank #6: Pick of the Week: The Demonization of Gluten (Ep. 304)
From the archive — Celiac disease is thought to affect roughly one percent of the population. The good news: it can be treated by quitting gluten. The bad news: many celiac patients haven't been diagnosed. The weird news: millions of people without celiac disease have quit gluten – which may be a big mistake.
Rank #7: Pick of the Week: How to Get More Grit in Your Life (Ep. 246)
From the archive — The psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that a person's level of stick-to-itiveness is directly related to their level of success. No big surprise there. But grit, she says, isn't something you're born with — it can be learned. Here's how.
Rank #8: 374. How Spotify Saved the Music Industry (But Not Necessarily Musicians)
Daniel Ek, a 23-year-old Swede who grew up on pirated music, made the record labels an offer they couldn’t refuse: a legal platform to stream all the world’s music. Spotify reversed the labels’ fortunes, made Ek rich, and thrilled millions of music fans. But what has it done for all those musicians stuck in the long tail?
Rank #9: 375. The Most Interesting Fruit in the World
The banana used to be a luxury good. Now it’s the most popular fruit in the U.S. and elsewhere. But the production efficiencies that made it so cheap have also made it vulnerable to a deadly fungus that may wipe out the one variety most of us eat. Scientists do have a way to save it — but will Big Banana let them?
Rank #10: 355. Where Does Creativity Come From (and Why Do Schools Kill It Off)?
Family environments and “diversifying experiences” (including the early death of a parent); intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations; schools that value assessments, but don't assess the things we value. All these elements factor into the long, mysterious march towards a creative life. To learn more, we examine the early years of Ai Weiwei, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, Maira Kalman, Wynton Marsalis, Jennifer Egan, and others. (Ep. 2 of the “How to Be Creative” series.)
Rank #11: People Aren’t Dumb. The World Is Hard. (Ep. 340 Rebroadcast)
You wouldn’t think you could win a Nobel Prize for showing that humans tend to make irrational decisions. But that’s what Richard Thaler has done. The founder of behavioral economics describes his unlikely route to success; his reputation for being lazy; and his efforts to fix the world — one nudge at a time.
Rank #12: 358. Yes, the Open Office Is Terrible — But It Doesn’t Have to Be
It began as a post-war dream for a more collaborative and egalitarian workplace. It has evolved into a nightmare of noise and discomfort. Can the open office be saved, or should we all just be working from home?
Rank #13: 354. How to Be Creative
There are thousands of books on the subject, but what do we actually know about creativity? In this new series, we talk to the researchers who study it as well as artists, inventors, and pathbreakers who live it every day: Ai Weiwei, James Dyson, Elvis Costello, Jennifer Egan, Rosanne Cash, Wynton Marsalis, Maira Kalman, and more. (Ep. 1 of the “How to Be Creative” series.)
Rank #14: 366. This Economist Predicted the Last Crisis. What’s the Next One?
In 2005, Raghuram Rajan said the financial system was at risk “of a catastrophic meltdown.” After stints at the I.M.F. and India’s central bank, he sees another potential crisis — and he offers a solution. Is it stronger governments? Freer markets? Rajan’s answer: neither.
Rank #15: How to Win Games and Beat People (Ep. 247 Rebroadcast)
Games are as old as civilization itself, and some people think they have huge social value regardless of whether you win or lose. Tom Whipple is not one of those people. That’s why he consulted an army of preposterously overqualified experts to find the secret to winning any game.
Rank #16: 373. Why Rent Control Doesn’t Work
As cities become ever-more expensive, politicians and housing advocates keep calling for rent control. Economists think that’s a terrible idea. They say it helps a small (albeit noisy) group of renters, but keeps overall rents artificially high by disincentivizing new construction. So what happens next?
Rank #17: 367. The Future of Meat
Global demand for beef, chicken, and pork continues to rise. So do concerns about environmental and other costs. Will reconciling these two forces be possible — or, even better, Impossible™?
Rank #18: 353. How to Optimize Your Apology
You said, “I’m sorry,” but somehow you haven’t been forgiven. Why? Because you’re doing it wrong! A report from the front lines of apology science.
Rank #19: 357. Can an Industrial Giant Become a Tech Darling?
The Ford Motor Company is ditching its legacy sedans, doubling down on trucks, and trying to steer its stock price out of a long skid. But C.E.O. Jim Hackett has even bigger plans: to turn a century-old automaker into the nucleus of a “transportation operating system.” Is Hackett just whistling past the graveyard, or does he see what others can’t?
Rank #20: 351. Here’s Why You’re Not an Elite Athlete
There are a lot of factors that go into greatness, many of which are not obvious. A variety of Olympic and professional athletes tell us how they made it and what they sacrificed to get there. And if you can identify the sport most likely to get a kid into a top college — well then, touché! (Ep. 3 of “The Hidden Side of Sports” series.)