Robert Smith

The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.  

The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.  

UIS

The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.  

UIS

The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.    

UIS

The following commentary was written by Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.  

In a classic bubble — as we've seen in housing, tech stocks, or Beanie Babies — the fun ends in a crash. Things go belly up, and people can lose a lot of money.

The creators of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering faced such a bubble. The cooler they made their cards, the more the resale value increased — and threatened to send Magic cards the way of the Beanie Baby.

This show originally ran in 2014.

A penny is a strange thing. It is money, but it's just about worthless. It's near impossible to buy something with just one penny. (Trust us. We tried.) And yet, the penny doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

This episode originally aired in 2014.

We go to the auto show to find out why can't you build a car that can be driven anywhere in the world.

Cars could be cheaper. Car companies could make more money. But standing in the way is a disagreement over what counts as "safe enough." Europe has one answer. America has another. Neither is more safe than the other. They're just different.

Episode 468: Kid Rock Vs. The Scalpers

Nov 28, 2018

Note: This episode originally ran in 2013.

Scalpers. They are the bane of performers everywhere, taking reasonably-priced tickets and selling them at a profit.

But the market for scalped tickets only exists because artists set the original ticket prices too low. At the same time, few artists want to charge their fans exorbitant prices for a show. It's bad for the brand.

A version of this episode originally ran in January 2016.

Tonight's Mega Millions jackpot is the largest in history at $1.6 billion. And we've got lottery fever again.

Today on the show, the story of the first known lottery. It goes back to Queen Elizabeth in 1567, involves poems, gold plates, and petty criminals. It didn't go well. And we have the story of lottery legend Stefan Mandel. He created a system to take the luck out of the lottery and won jackpot after jackpot. He tells us how he pulled it off. (Think bank heist but legal.)

This episode originally ran in April 2013.

What causes what? The human brain is programmed to answer this question constantly, and using a very basic method. This is how we survive. What made that noise? A bear made that noise. What caused my hand to hurt? Fire caused my hand to hurt.

But sometimes, we use these simple tools to solve complex problems. And so we get things wrong. I wore my lucky hat to the game. My team won. Therefore, my lucky hat caused my team to win.

This show originally ran on October 14, 2015.

Vince Kosuga was an onion farmer back in the 1930s. A pretty successful one. But farming wasn't enough for him. He also liked to make bets on wheat and other crops.

Then he had an idea: Why not try his luck with the crop he knew best?

In Dakar, Senegal, people can't just flush their poop away. As is the case in many places in the world, it is pretty common for toilets to flush into a septic tank that needs to be emptied every so often.

And there are two ways to do it: the "cheap guy" — or the cartel that deals exclusively with raw sewage.

An example of the "cheap guy" is a man who calls himself Djiby. He says he is a baay pelle, which means "the father of the shovel." Father Shovel scoops out the septic tank with his shovel and bucket, and then he empties the bucket into a hole in the street.

Poop is big business in Dakar, Senegal. That's because a lot of the homes have septic tanks, which need to be cleaned out regularly. The best way to clean your tank is by hiring a proper truck, which arrives with a vacuum.

The problem is that for years, the guys who drove the poop trucks operated as a cartel, and they squashed competition and kept prices high. So a lot of people turned to a cheaper alternative: Men who clear out septic tanks by hand, with shovels and buckets, and basically bury the poop in the street. It's terrible work and bad for the environment.

Everyone's caught up in World Cup fever, and Team Indicator is not immune. Today on the show: Cardiff, Stacey, and the gang sneak out of the office and set up shop in an Irish pub to explore the many ways in which the world's largest sporting event neatly explains the modern economy.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

The popularity of fondue wasn't an accident. It was planned by a cartel of Swiss cheese makers, which ruled the Swiss economy for 80 years.

On today's show: we cut into the Swiss cheese. It's a story about what happens when well-meaning folks decide the rules of economics don't apply to them. And got the world to eat gobs of melted fat. Also, we meet a man known as the 'Cheese Rebel.'

Episode 835: Tariffied

Apr 13, 2018

Trade war! It all started when President Donald Trump announced a new set of tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. China responded with a list of tariffs of its own. Then, President Trump made a bigger, $50 billion list of tariffs. So China matched Trump's list with its own $50 billion list.

If you look at the lists closely, you can learn a lot about what each side knows about the other. Today on the show, we examine China's hit list, and find some surprising stories inside.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Listeners have questions. Google has answers. Sometimes, though, listeners have questions that Google can't answer. Like: Why is the lighting in hotel rooms so weird? How can a cooked and spiced rotisserie chicken be cheaper than an uncooked chicken? What is a Giffen Good, and why does demand for it go up when its price goes up? And why does it say on a coupon that it's worth 1/100th of a cent?

If you have a question you want us to answer, email us at planetmoney@npr.org. Or better yet, tell us a great story about economics that answered a question you had.

Journalists are a jealous bunch. We steal each other's stories, and sources. And when someone writes a story that we're envious of, we usually curse them under our breath, and move on. But once a year at Planet Money, we give a shout out to our favorite work.

This year, our Valentines go out to:

-Eric Konigsberg, for finding out what people do all day at WeWork 'coworking' spaces in his awesomely-titled article, "Sriracha Is for Closers."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Phosphorus is in pretty much everything: bombs, toothpaste, cheese. It's irreplaceable. Nothing can live without it and it's only economically recoverable in a few places. Like Morocco, and China.

Most of our phosphorus—or phosphate, which is its usable form—goes into fertilizer. The farmers pile it on, and then the bulk of it just washes right off into the rivers and then ocean. It's really hard to get phosphorus out of the ocean, which means, as far as we're concerned, that phosphorus is pretty much gone once it's in the water.

In 1992, Douglas Bruce proposed a measure called the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, TABOR for short. TABOR was effectively a tax-limitation measure that said, whenever a government wanted more money — whenever it wanted to increase taxes — it had to put the question on the ballot. Increased taxes for roads? The voters would get to decide. Better schools? Put it on the ballot. But put the price there first.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Most people go to the fair to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl or eat funnel cakes, but not our Planet Money team. Robert Smith and Kenny Malone traveled to the Ohio State Fair to learn the secret art of selling people things they might not need.

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Spring is just a few weeks away.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hallelujah.

CORNISH: Sunny days, flowers, bees...

SHAPIRO: Buzzsaws, nail guns, plywood...

Gary Snyder has holes in his garden fence.

That's not normally the kind of oversight you'd find in a well-kept British garden in a market town like Chipping Norton, 75 miles northwest of London. But the holes are there for a reason: hedgehogs.

Snyder's backyard is now one small rest stop on what conservationists hope will be a network of hedgehog superhighways crisscrossing Britain.

Snyder says at first he didn't even know he had hedgehogs coming through — they're nocturnal, hibernating during the winter months. But one night he was in bed with his wife.

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