Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner ask unexpected questions to challenge the way we think by looking at the hidden sides of things. Their new book SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, is a follow-up to their first book, Freakonomics. Read the Freakonomics blog in the New York Times website.

Event: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner will be speaking
Wednesday, October 21, at 7:30 pm
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway at 95th Street
Tickets: $24; Members $20
More information and tickets here.


Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt

Comments [22]

Jo Satin from NYC

If I hear anymore of the kind of insanity being pushed by Levitt and Dubner on your station I will cancel my monthly donation...immediately.

Oct. 22 2009 02:39 AM
Evelyn Gay from Jersey City, NJ

Hi, Leonard

Please give thanks to Gail Collins for acknowledging that the Civil Rights Movement eased the way for Women's Lib. You might also add that it encouraged the Gay Rights movement and broke down quotas at colleges (remember 10% limit on Jewish admissions)?

Every January I have to reiterate this, when someone invariably asks me why we honor Martin Luther King with a holiday.

Oct. 21 2009 01:34 PM
mozo from nyc

If is wasn't for altruism, genus homo would have been extinct long ago.

Oct. 21 2009 01:03 PM
sophia canellos from new rochelle

Most people claim to take a rational approach while others are ideologically driven. Libertarians like the authors are particulatrly arrogant about this claim, yet like your guests they reveal their bias with unrealistically narrow focus, or simply resort to straw-man arguments.

The presumption of the organ-donor system is not the idea that people are inherently altruistic, it's just the opposite. It's guarding against the less savory aspect of human nature.

Do the really believe the wealthy won't jump the line once market incentives are in place?

Oct. 21 2009 12:56 PM
ken l from brooklyn

can i get a refund?

Oct. 21 2009 12:56 PM
Joseph Sannicandro from Montreal, QC

Re: the prostitutes, just look at any developing country for a similar scenario. Even the 'non-professionals' often expect money, though the difference is they are being solicited by men from the advanced industrial economies.

Oct. 21 2009 12:48 PM
why should I donate to wnyc

What was the John's takeaway of prostitute's fees in 1920?

Oct. 21 2009 12:47 PM
Joseph Sannicandro from Montreal, QC

Demonstrating a relationship or correlation does not establish a causal link.

Oct. 21 2009 12:44 PM
Yvonne from Brooklyn, New York


Oct. 21 2009 12:43 PM
Jeremy from NYC

These two are aggressively stupid. How can they possibly brush off concerns about human organ trafficking with a blow off comment like (paraphrasing here) "if you have two organs (kidneys) you only need one, it's no big deal.

Perhaps they should have spoken to a physician or even a transplant donor about the risks and lifelong disability donating a kidney entails.

Also, they completely deflect the point that poor people may be pressed by poverty into donating out of desperation byt introducing the completely irrelevant point that poor people are also on organ donor waiting lists and will also probably not receive an organ while the wealthy have other, presumably criminal, options.

These two have a special job waiting for them with the Chinese politburo, "harvesting" the tens of thousands of dissidents put to death each year.

Oct. 21 2009 12:37 PM


After listening to these people. I have no "incentive" to buy the book or attend this $24 event. Is there at least an open bar at this thing. Because then I can drink at least $24 worth of booze and eat $24 worth of food for it to be worth it. I think I should be compensated to hear these guys speak at this event.

Oct. 21 2009 12:33 PM
ken l from brooklyn

Come on Leonard - I've got the Caldeira disgrace above.

As for Myhrvold: He said on the Superfreaks blog:

"Geoengineering is proposed only as a last resort to try to reduce or cope with the even greater harms of global warming! The global-warming community has treated us to one scary scenario after another. Some are predicted by the science, some are extrapolations beyond current science, and some are not much better than wild guesses, but they could happen. Should we fail at cutting enough and those things occur, geoengineering might offer a better option…"

But Superfreakonomics is arguing that geoengineering is a logical substitute for agressive carbon reductions. Myhrvold does in fact contradict them!!!!!


Oct. 21 2009 12:32 PM
w from NYC

i will bet donation to the station are going way down during this segment! a real disincentive!

Oct. 21 2009 12:31 PM
Adam from NY, NY

1) Geo-Engineering is not as fast as your guests think.
2) Stratospheric aerosols and cloud reflection do nothing about the levels of CO2 in the environment (they only block the sun) so therefore the other problems of CO2 like ocean acidification are not addressed.

These guests are entertaining but somewhat irresponsible in their views.

I still wish them good luck with the book.

Oct. 21 2009 12:26 PM
why should I donate to wnyc

Why don't we use Nuclear Bombs to dig canals or launch rockets?

Oct. 21 2009 12:23 PM
why should I donate to wnyc

Wasn't life insurance started by a church for its members by spreading the risk across these members?

Oct. 21 2009 12:21 PM
Peter from New York City

In Paris, prostitutes had a union, and quite a militant one, agitating for better working conditions, when I was living there (1975-78). I know this from press accounts.

Oct. 21 2009 12:16 PM
ken l from brooklyn

They are very clever and cute but with climate change they are messing with our existence - unconscionable.

As Eric Pooley at has written:

"Caldeira, who is researching the idea, argues that it can succeed only if we first reduce emissions. Otherwise, he says, geoengineering can’t begin to cope with the collateral damage, such as acidic oceans killing off shellfish.

Levitt and Dubner ignore his view and champion his work as a permanent substitute for emissions cuts. When I told Dubner that Caldeira doesn’t believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions, he was baffled. “I don’t understand how that could be,” he said. In other words, the Freakonomics guys just flunked climate science."

The book should be withdrawn by the publisher and the record corrected.

Oct. 21 2009 12:14 PM
kenneth from tenement town

Please comment on the role of thoroughbred owners in

winning horse races.

Oct. 21 2009 12:11 PM
why should I donate to wnyc

Listeners might be interested in this Kirk Douglas classic: Ace in the Hole

Oct. 21 2009 11:59 AM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, CA

Please have the guests comment on the incentives affecting _them_---in particular, you sell more books saying things that some people consider outrageous, or contrary to conventional wisdom, than otherwise.

I'm not a big fan of the conventional wisdom, but sometimes there is good reason why it is conventional, and good reason why some statements engender outrage...on the whole, I think trying to contradict what most people think, or to get their backs up, is as bad a guide to seeing reality with clear eyes as trying to cleave to common belief or placate people. (One good thing about me: I understood this EVEN AS AN ADOLESCENT.)

Oct. 21 2009 11:55 AM
why should I donate to wnyc

Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman on this book's chapter on Global Warming:
"there’s an average of one statement per page that’s either flatly untrue or deeply misleading."[1]

Is there a market mechanism to counter the
"corporate efforts to mislead the public on human-driven climate change."[2]

Was WW2 started or ended by freemarkets?



Oct. 21 2009 11:42 AM

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