Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Sales of firearms have soared in America over the past twenty years. But fewer people are purchasing.

Today America's guns are concentrated in the hands of a comparatively small number of enthusiasts.

Their love of add-ons and special features has been a boon to gun manufacturers. Their periodic fear of anti-gun regulation has made sales spike in the past. But relying on a concentrated market of mega-buyers can come at a cost.

A couple of weeks ago the biggest labor union in Germany negotiated a big new deal with hundreds of German companies. Workers didn't just get a raise, they also won the option of working just 28 hours a week for up to two years without losing ground in their careers.

We talked to Simon Kuper of the Financial Times about the increasing need for companies to consider flexible working arrangements, as employees work longer and our lives become more complicated.

Tyler Cowen is an economist at George Mason University, but here at The Indicator we like to think of him as a speed-reading, hyper-prolific, polymath blogger — who does economics on the side.

We sometimes play a game with Tyler, a game he actually invented for his own podcast. It's called Overrated/Underrated. We ask him about a book, an idea, a movie, or really anything, and then he tells us whether he thinks it's overrated or underrated.

Today we discuss inflation as an economic threat, the influence of lobbyists, infrastructure, and Chinese food.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2014.

Certain things are just hard to improve. The classic example: the mousetrap. And for a while, the pallet was the mousetrap of good transportation.

In its way, the pallet is perfect. It's cheap and easy to make. It keeps things a few inches off the floor and works with a forklift. If you get cold, you can burn them. Amazing.

Today on the show: Yes, you can build a better pallet.

Project Lakhta was the Russian campaign to spend a million dollars a month to destabilize American democracy.

But that money didn't pay for sophisticated hackers or deadly assassins. Instead, it bought Facebook ads and Twitter accounts.

Today on the show: Russia's plan to mess with our election was crude, expensive ... and surprisingly effective.

Wildfires aren't like other natural disasters. You can't trace a hurricane to the first gust of wind, but you actually can trace your way back to a wildfire's first spark. And sometimes, someone has to pay.

In 2007, the Witch Creek Fire caused billions of dollars worth of damage in Southern California. While the fire was still burning, wildfire investigators showed up on the scene, and traced the flames back to where they began. The results spawned a ten year legal battle over who should pay for the damage.

Hops are the cones of the hop plant. They're used in making beer. Craft beer lovers love hops. (Just ask them; they'll tell you.)

As the market for craft beer exploded over the hops business boomed. Until it didn't.

Today on the show: The craft beer explosion, and the hops boom and bust that went with it.

We're trying a new thing (for us): We ask guests to tell us about something they read that changed how they see the world.

Today, Diane Coyle — an economist who writes a blog about economics books — tells us about Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling.

Coyle says it's helped her understand everything from why it's so hard to get the water temperature in the shower just right to why ABBA wore such ostentatious costumes on stage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Racial disparities in home lending, a practice sometimes called redlining, is alive and well in the United States.

That's the big picture takeaway from new data analysis by the Associated Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting of two years of mortgage lending.

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