« Freakonomics Radio

44. Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?

2011-10-10 | 🔗
Did we needlessly scare ourselves into ditching a good thing? And, with millions of cars driving around with no passengers, should we be rooting for a renaissance?
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education to fine tune. Your skills value is becoming smarter with every commission free online equity trade discovered true value with Tv Amerika Trade were smart, investors get smarter. I was out in California not long ago, and I saw somebody doing so- The thing that I haven't seen done in a long time something I used to do during college a necessity. What do you think it was think about it? Now I posted this riddle on the frequent comics blog. You wanna hear some the answers. I got ok
Here we go eating Rahman Noodle, using phonebook hanging, wet laundry on a closed by inserting a floppy dis. I those are all perfectly fine answers, but not what I'm looking killer Jason when we watch in here this is the beginning of tax, a chance on Asker. Were these kids are going to a graveyard and they pick up a pretty scrapped looking hitchhiking Jason Cinnamon? Is a theatre critic for the New York Times and is the author of a book called shock value which is about the horror films of the nineteen seventies? So in this movie a van full of teenagers decide after some debate to pick up the hitchhiker he just got off his shift at the slaughterhouse, so is faces streaked with blood,
talking about bludgeoning cows, to scrape off pretty clear. By now we're wishing that he had been picked up, pretty much still definitely use There is not really any good scenario we can imagine coming now it through and only gets worse, really gets worse, down and let it boil down to not. Let me just say this: I eat scary movies. I'd never watch one for pleasure, but this this is research. It grew out of that trip to California, where, saw that thing I hadn't seen in a while. I called up Steve Levin, my free economics friend and co author turns out. He had just had the same. So just yesterday I was driving down the road in a resort. Mischance endeavours and revived It's who were waiting for the bus come pick them up as I drove by they stuck out their thumbs as if they were hitchhiking and the thing that I thought was
How do these goods even know what that means winter? as time, anybody saw hitchhiker and arrived in future and ruin twenty years, if somehow the idea of sticking your thumb up in the air. Even for these five year old kids were still part of of their psyche. but it makes you wonder why did hitchhiking discipline? I'm fine. from a young american public Media W and Y see. This is for economics radio today, aware of all the hitchhikers gone, here's your house Stephen up there all right. So if that's our question where did all hitchhikers go, doesn't seem very hard to answer. Does it let's go back to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre the hit
Baker. The guy who works at the slaughterhouse now he's pulled out a switch now here very cards. Why? That's enough? That's redress, the final straw you can they cut the guy and he gets to doubt Franklin's arm is just leading like Frank: let's little caught yeah, that's it hitchhiking died off because it's dangerous. If you hitchhike, you will die That's the lesson we ve learned at least from horror, movies and newspaper headlines: here's Levin again, if even anybody
There were homicidal maniacs who were killing hitchhikers her or hitchhikers killing people to pick them up, then, certainly that would have the kind of chilling effect on a market that very few things could have that's right. Let the economist thinks of hitchhiking is a market. Much like any other hitchhiking is a classic example. of what comes call matching market where there's there's a person who wants a ride in this person. Who is willing to give a ride is actually usually typically NOME when o money change and so for some their people getting benefit on both sides of the transaction? The fifties sixties, maybe even the seventies there. There were some sort of equilibrium in which there were a set of people who wanted to hitchhike and there are set of people. I want to pick them up and somehow that equilibrium got destroyed. So the question is what what happened of equilibrium
The assumption is that hitchhiking was so dangerous that people just wised up and stop doing it, but how dangerous was it? We went looking for data on hitchhiking itself and on the violence associated with it, and we found pretty much nothing. We know worthwhile data so how common was, shaking violence did we may be overreact? You remember a few years back when the media talked about the summer of the shark. Although scare stories about horrible disfiguring shark attacks. Now guess how many fatal shark a text there were that year the whole year around the world go ahead. Guess the actual number was for her, probably more people, by tv news, vans going to cover all the shark a tax rate, but when something is really frightening, we get a little bit number blind with something like hitchhiking. It might take just one story:
I woke up into my wishes a gorgeous day, their wild whereas the trees in our own sprouted all their leave their ground. Greece has its spring and hasn't dried up or anything, add ambitious, so gorgeous That's Colleen Stan It was made nineteenth nineteen. Seventy seven I had turned twenty and cumbering very young and had very carefree spirit about me. Quite impulsive Anne was living in Eugene, Oregon and use planning to visit And in Westwood California, about three hundred and sixty miles to the south, but her car windstorm, so she decides to hitchhike. She got her with some truckers were hauling grape juice. They lead. often read Bluff California about an hour and a half from her friends house. The truckers even gave
a gallon of juice when they dropped her off, he put out her thumb again a car stopped and there's like guys. I said thanks, but no thank you know, so they went away her next ride was a blue Dodge coal use young couple inside with a baby, let's safe enough to stand out in the car. It was a very warm day with me Red Bluff, Cinema Valley and it's very warm there. It can get in the summertime that can get like a hundred and fifteen there. You know. So it's just a very warm place. So would one day- and I was thirsty from travelling in- I had taken the juice and I kept it up to take a drink and about the same time I picked it up. the driver presses Accelerator and jets out back. to the highway to take up. Will this caused the two to poor? All down me
So I went a little irritated with him at this. and I remember I looked up to the front to the river mirror and he's Looking at the river mare- and it gave me like a chill down my spine, the man whose name was Cameron Hooker and his wife Janis wound up kidnapping. Colleen stand. They held her captive from within seven years. They did a variety of horrible things to her. Finally, in nineteen eighty four she escaped hooker was sentenced to a hundred and four years in prison. His wife got immunity for testifying against him. It became a big. Media story. The message was clear by people shitty hitchhike. When you get into a car with someone you literally
turn your life over to them. It's just it's not worth it's too dangerous, because you can look at someone. You can look at the situation and evaluate it. Just like. I did then say what it looks like a safe right, but you don't know what the intent is in someone's heart because they don't show that on the outside, and you don't know life to two viable just give it away like you can hardly blame Colleen stand for feeling this way, but how common are these really bad hitchhiking outcomes. Again, we really dont know, but life is all about tradeoffs. Every time you do anything you consider the trade off Should for fatal
shhh architects each year keep everyone out of the ocean, apparently not, but what number would forty four hundred four thousand, what happens when you Dart, letting relatively small numbers balloon into such a large fear. My father was the kind of person who would stop and help anybody. That's bill. James he's the guy who helped revolutionise the field of baseball statistics, and he likes writing about crime to his latest book is called popular crime. James was born in nineteen forty, nine in Kansas, one time with two small kids in the car later, night, coming back from a movie, we saw two black guys to black at old bail standing beside the road, but my father was not Spencer. Tracy mainly was not a violent racists, but he was. He was a man of his generation and he had. The racist attitudes are very common in his generation
Nonetheless, we stopped, we ask them if they needed a ride and we took them. We took them where they needed to go and the reasons why it is you just did it was in in the Platt time and place where I grew. If you saw somebody in need of a ride, you gave them a as James got older. That changed. You remember hearing p essays on the radio warnings. Ivories not to pick up hitchhike. What advice for the cross country motorists, although it makes the kind that it is not a wise act to pick up hitchhikers indiscriminately. In retrospect he says he taking took the blame for crime in general and attributions. Problem and streams calls it here. He uses a baseball analogy to explain in baseball for many years. People believe that baseball is seventy. Five percent pitching and the essential reason they believe this is it they credit the pitcher with winds and losses and, if you credit, the pitcher with
losing the game becomes its technology that that the picture is always responsible for winning losing the game. The M, and it creates the illusion that pitchers responsible for much more than he. actually is. If you have a certain number of violent people running around hitchhiking, the fewer other people you have it running around hitchhiking the more dangerous because pick up his finger. It drove itself out of existence, basically nobody hitchhikes anymore and it the practice is all but disappeared. My point about it was: what's really the social value. In this I mean the hitchhiking is economically efficient because he puts more people in a car. The real danger was not taking it- was the fact that you have a certain number of random crazy people who will hurt you as long as you have the same number: random, crazy people, you have the same number of violent crimes and hid eliminating hitchhiking doesn't, in my opinion, do anything to change their, so it was
It was a social change. It protects the individual. I mean I don't look at me. I wouldn't take up your check is either not the, but I do that protect myself, but protecting myself has no values side. So the demand for hitchhiking fell because I fear a breakdown. trust of selfishness whatever, but maybe those the only reason demand fell. Maybe it fell because supply broke the supply. That is transportation coming up, should there be hitchhiking,
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or in store or at total line dot. Com. from W and Y see and eight p M american public media. This is free economics, radio, here's, your host, Stephen governor. Did you ever hitchhike level? I did not hitchhike, always just a little bit. Two young by the time I was fifteen, I think hijackers had pretty much disappeared. Well, not quite I was hitchhike men Roosevelt Floor, ten or fifteen. I started thumbing arrived most mornings before school in the dark to get to my job in town stocking shelves. I hitched during college all over the south, a couple times from North Carolina, upstate, New York and back with a pretty simple calculation. I wanted to get somewhere and
afforded car. Why else would anyone Ronald Reagan go have where do we have? other good things about. You know you're, a few hitchhikers we found out an organ. There were three of them: Tear Jani, a guy named stove and their friend George. So I'm George, and I have an engine degree that I only sometimes use, but my real passion, addiction as travel. One fixing things Georgia's hitchhiked a good bit in about ten foreign countries and all over the. U S You do hitchhiking because you want to not, because you have to really right, almost always yet almost always so you here today
Five year old American with an engineering degree in until they were all that kind of stuff who helped you buy a car. I gave you hand me down car offered by your train paths to get home, and you say now. just want to go down the road, but my thumb. Now. What is it? about you in and folks like you, I'm in Hitchhiking community now who do it not out of necessity, but out of a desire for experience If I think you just hit the nail on the head, theirs is desire for experience about me, particularly its that I'm directed to travel and novelty, and I definitely could not Normally, you know, and and sustainably extend my vacations and travels as much as I have without hitchhiking and, of course my mom's gonna buy me that one train ticket that one time but I don't know she might get tired of it after the second time third time, fourth time and I would hate
People leaning on the parents to keep buying me things all throughout life and sort of like the I've. I've read that the hippies in the sixties, Whereabout just life exe, variants and learning and yeah the M dealer big motivation for a lot of us, hitchhikers, the ones that I've talked to it, just learning other peoples spectacles on life and its much easier, I think, to get sort of feeling for or how someone else lives quickly. If you're writing. in a car with them for hours so a guy like George Gemma hitchhiked, not really because needs, but to get sort of feeling. Or how someone else lives, but what about all people might need
I got it? Miss essity, but don't at a fear. On the other hand, maybe there's not as much need as we think. Clearly people getting richer, that's Steve, Levitt again! Did you hear what he said: people getting richer and cars getting better made has to be a big part of it, because it's an extremely ineffective way to travel, hitch, Slow, it's an unpleasant its uncertain, and so, if you can do something better weathers, take a bus or or take a plane or or drive your car. It's hard to believe there are many people who would prefer a different motor transportation. So maybe hitchhiking started to disappear.
Because your people needed a free lift. Most reporters asked me: how do I get to work and I tell them my walk about thirty feet from my bedroom to my office. This is Alan tsarskoye he's what you might call a scholar of transportation behaviour used to work for the? U S apartment of transportation and he wrote a series of books called commuting in America So we are in agreement that there used to be quite a bit of hitchhiking, although we don't know how much we are an agreement that there is much less now correct, this open So we want to know where did all those hitchhikers Why did so many people stop hitchhiking? I guess I have my reflex. Statistical reflex is the greater availability automobile weather, The first part of it is simply drivers licences in seventies, when women began to gain greater access to drivers licences, if you look at that
distributions today, men and women in terms of drivers. Licensing is almost numb almost nickel and almost ubiquitous it's in the ninety two. Ninety three percent I'll both men and for women? Ok, so a lot more people driving but also says bizarre ski rely, more cars. in nineteen, sixty nine, only three in ten households had more than one car like two thousand nine six and all other really significant change occurred in the two and three car households. That's why We saw an explosion and all of the grove, okay, so you're telling me more drivers licences more cars. I talk to me about the car hers themselves and longevity, I think that an important component, one of the things that people, I think don't recognize the Greek or the
technological changes that we ve seen an American the last thirty years simply the longevity of the vehicle fleet back in the sea. These cars did not last all that long today, the average age of a vehicle in America's is north of nine years. what that means is that it's entirely possible to buy a ten or twelve year old, small car, perfectly serviceable, still functioning quite adequately very reasonable cost, so the automobile in that sense has become much or accessible to too many parts of the population. I came down to the studio and a fourteen year old car. I make sense, cheap and easy car ownership. Drive down demand for hitchhike, along with big changes, We get around generally the war
is the the advent of the interstate which took people off of names. Two roads were workers are not permitted. Then of course, deregulation of aviation and roughly nineteen eighty that had extraordinary effect on on the price air travel, and so that made the whole lot cheaper than standing on a street corner with your family, but here's something else we're thinking about. If you care even a little bit about transportation, about the key asked the growing congestion and the risk of accident. the carbon emissions from all those cars on the road then consider this very sobering status, the average car commuting to and from work in the. U S today rides around with about eighty percent of its passenger capacity empty. If our auto fleet were a buster train,
fleet. It be considered a massive failure or one remark of greatest transportation. Resources are all those empty seats. In order we'll travelling around Amerika it it's it's a cop. Lawful resource that we that we do waste, given that there is a massive inefficiency with all this empty capacity in cars. Do you wish to have, can could come back here think I do and I think that maybe we will see some opportunity forward with the new technologies and people being more willing to spend time. with each other and and may be having some kind of a vetting system that says this guy's. Ok, that people little but more, at ease and then that will, I hope, help people to be more comfortable with that country.
Funding for those who don't know is basically a kind of organised hitchhiking world people just line up on the streets. Sometimes Besides, sometimes there's not, we sent Alan pesky out on the streets of Arlington Virginia, where there's a healthy, sluggish, see everybody going for certain areas: clusters together. Cars will come along looking for people going their way, so they can crawl why to be on the HIV three lines, which gives them a much faster right down to the southern suburbs, we're looking. About seven or eight cars lined up to people, when we asked folks question, we have to be pretty quick little bit nimble almost like talking to me. Check out line and the single market, because there more interested in getting in the current hadn't plot. Every day says three: four Rosalind threefold Pentagon. Three four Crystal City might have the baby
five hundred and ten minutes for a writer, and then I get on the right. about twenty dollars a day for giving us this website. It actually has arrogant, don't taxi driver. Unless you talk to you, don't touch me in the harmless. Do ass a driver, its run, pretty nice car sue don't eat or drink in the fire. Unless you ass, it's a pretty nice little arrangement. Thousands of people talk to you the whole way. Townspeople will just keep your mouth shut. I use like at home at the same time. Slogan is a lot more organised and hitchhiking in a lot of these people are government employees there wearing suits and idee tags. They don't exactly conjure the image of the Slaughter house, hitchhiker from Texas, Chainsaw massacre or the creepy couple who kidnapped Colleen Stan, of course, the normal risks of auto travel still apply. I was a rider and that driver was honestly we set up. You know you have to try to make out beginning
either. You know a bigger bosley. Let me out by the way home- or you know, try keep your eyes open. What are you scared of why Are your fears, rational or do let the small likelihood of a terrible outcomes. Stop you from doing things. If you really want to do you know what I think we fear most in this country strangers. We ve done real job through our media are movies, even our politics of convincing ourselves that strangers dangers. But if you look at the data might be surprised three of every for murder victims in this cause new their killer and, of course, each of us knows a lot fewer people than Our strangers more than sixty percent of rape victims knew their attack If you look at the data on missing children, you'll see that an incredibly small percentage
Those incidents way we listen even one tenth of one percent or what we think of as the stereotypical kidnapping by a stranger. Now how dangerous was hitchhiking? We may never really know, but almost certainly bar bar or less dangerous, and we came to think of it are we worse off for abandoning it? That's what I asked Bill James So there was an equilibrium that existed, and then it was this. Freud in large part because of fear and the equally room went away in it. It's probably impossible to recreate. Do you think would be a good thing if that fear could be suspended. The equilibrium could be re created in hitchhiking could be reinvigorated. Yes, I do and the reason I do is that it is. We have a better society when we can trust one another and
wherever and whenever there is it evaporation of systems based on trust. I think there's a lost a society that I also think that one evaporation trust in society tends to feed another and that we would have a better society if we could, rather than promoting fear and working to reduce the places, were terrible things happen if we could promote trust and work on building societies in which people a more trustworthy. I think we're we're all better off in a million different ways. If and when we can do then isolate see. Our economy is still sputtering, which means money is tight for transportation in everything else. When we drive to work. Eighty percent of our passenger capacity is wasted and as bill, James puts it. A loss of trust means a loss for society. So, if you're feeling a little bit patriotic today, we feel a little optimistic and a little bit adventurism
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