Podcast Topic – Becky Lin

Freakonomics Radio is a podcast series that is hosted my Stephen Dubner who is the author of a book by the same name. I was first exposed to the book Freakonomics in a high school economics class which used the book as its textbook in the loosest sense that the term textbook can take on. We frequently did readings from the book and used its examples to demonstrate and describe concepts that we were learning. From it many of my classmates also drew references for papers that we wrote for the class. Freakonomics often combines seemingly really different topics and draws similarities between them, explaining economic concepts and problems using what we would never have even remotely associated with economics. The removal of the constraints of a topic using other topics that an audience can easily associate with makes the podcasts easy to understand and to stay interested in. They start off the economic concepts and problems with stories and explain the concepts by using details and examples from a pop culture reference which makes it highly entertaining. For example, a particular podcast that I listened to was called “What Can Vampires Teach Us About Economics?” which used vampires to demonstrate problems such as legal failure. They bring up the point that vampires may actually prefer to buy blood rather than resort to violence, coercion, compulsion and confiscation to get what they want. What prevents vampires from being able to buy blood is legal failure which is “when the law, for a wide variety of reasons, prevents transactions from taking place in the first place.” (Enrique Guerra-Pujol) Interesting way to also describe similar situations such as say… the drug market.

The way that the podcasts are structured and put together makes it entertaining and engaging. They don’t excessively use terms exclusive to the field of economics and when they do, they’ll take the time to explain it and reconnect the audience to the topic. They make good use of background music to create a mood or tone or otherwise to fill in gaps of silence to allow thought or signal transitions so that the host can further explain. The background music often gives a light feeling which makes the topic take on a lighter, less offensive, and slightly playful tone. When the topic gets to a bit of a deeper, more tense moment the background music fades away to allow for a more serious tone. Comedy helps to ease an otherwise deep conversation and make it more relatable.

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