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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Economics podcasts: my recommendations

Over the last few years or so, I've found myself getting a large share of my news from podcasts.

It wasn't a purposeful, conscious choice.  I feel like I just sort of followed the path of least resistance, and ended up at podcasts.  They have lots going for them!

First and foremost, they're free.

But lets not forget the fact that most come out regularly.  And because its just an audio file, podcasts can be listened to while you drive, work, do the dishes, or go to the gym.  Pretty convenient, pretty accessible, pretty fun.

Some of the podcasts out there are kind of technical and dry.  But there's quite a few targeted at a popular audience, that are also incredibly informative and useful.

In today's post, I'm recommending a few nontechical podcasts for you, the economically curious.  Please subscribe, and get these on your iPod!!  I promise, you will be a more informed (and entertained) person for it.

'Freakonomics Radio'

Every few weeks, Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the authors of the Freakonomics book series publish an episode of their podcast, Freakonomics Radio.  Episodes range in length from 10 minutes to an hour.

Those familiar with the books will recognize the style and subject matter here.  The Freakonomics franchise is all about applying economic methodologies, and the study of human rationality to the weirdest stuff.

Recent episodes have probed traffic laws, avocado cultivation's connection to organized crime, and the measurable dangers (or lack thereof) of marijuana.

Each episode is hosted primarily by Dubner, and involves a lot of interviews with famous contemporary economists and behavioral researchers.

AND...I will also mention that, hands down, it has the best production values of any podcast I know of, independent of subject matter.  They spend some money on this.

Anywho, be sure to check it out.  I'm going to say "heck, just put it on as background noise while you're doing something else," but I know if you hear this podcast once, you won't be able to stop yourself from becoming an obsessive fan.

To listen, visit

'Planet Money'

This is NPR's economic's podcast.  Just about weekly, the Planet Money team puts out a new 15 - 20 minute episode.

The episodes are fairly consistent in style: the journalists pick a major economic trend or news story, and try to find an individual who has been personally affected by it.

Housing crisis?  Planet Money will do an episode on some regular Schmoe with an underwater mortgage.  Utility subsidy cut?  Planet Money will find you someone whose pissed about their bill increasing.

This is the truly remarkable thing about this podcast.  Planet Money knows how to make economics real.  Salient.  Tangible.  They can find away to turn arcane policy and technical planning into a human story.

Planet Money is the best reporting on the affects of economic policy and phenomenon.  I wish more economists would list to it, since it does such a good job of bringing home the real-world consequences of what they do.

Any way, you can listen to this one here.

'More or Less'

More or Less is produced by the BBC, and presented by Tim Harford - a Brit who went from being an economist, to an economic journalist, to an author, and now is just an all around darling of the econ world.  

He's one of those rare gems that understands economics very well, and also knows how to communicate his knowledge.

The show runs sporadically.  Every few months or so, another couple episodes are released.  Episodes are between 10 or 30 mins.

More or Less is not a purely economic podcast, per se, but rather a podcast about public statistics.  In each episode, Tim picks apart newsworthy stats to see if they are being misused, misunderstood or miscalculated.  It's a lot of fact-checking and a lot of smart-ass English quipping.

Think of it as Mythbusters for the numbers, percents, figures and rates you hear on the news, in parliament, or on in conversations/debates with your political friends.

Very entertaining, and very informative.  But don't take my word for it!  Go here, and discover it for yourself.

'Listen to Lucy'

Ok, so this podcast is just plain FUN.

Lucy Kellaway has been writing for the Financial Times of London since 1985.  Her columns have always been about managing businesses, but in the last few years, they have been decreasingly less technical, and more and more op-ed.

Just about every week, Lucy produces a 5 minute podcast, that is always an incredibly acerbic, and always sharp critique of office life.  "Your business wouldn't be so ridiculous if only you'd do this one thing..."  

Its like a fab-bitchy Mary Poppins, from Dilbert's universe.

Anyway, she always makes me laugh, and always gives me something to think about.  Good advice for the working world, and excellent, quick bits of entertainment.  Be sure to listen and subscribe.


For all these podcasts, you can just listen online at the links I've provided.  If you want to subscribe to them, and get them automatically loaded on your iPod/iPad/Phone/device, check out this guide, or just google your questions.

I use an app called RSSRadio for my iPod touch.  It subscribes to my podcasts, downloads automatically any new releases, and cues them up in an easy to manage playlist for me to listen to on my own time.  I recommend it!

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