« Freakonomics Radio

68. The Power of the President -- and the Thumb

2012-03-28 | 🔗
How much does the President of the United States really matter? And: where did all the hitchhikers go? A pair of "attribution errors."
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This podcast dynamically inserts audio advertisements of varying lengths for each download. As a result, the transcription time indexes may be inaccurate.
Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine, and we new games every month, big top rises and said enchants drawings, excitements, always in order. So Try, Pennsylvania lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours today, keep on scratching must be eighteen or older. Please play responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, if you're ready to push the boundaries of tomorrow. Let the innovation experts at every riddle, aeronautical university, help you explore the possibilities once again this year. You s news and will report has ranked our online fatuous degree programmes number one in the nation and our distance learning technology with success at your fingertips. Flexible schedules personalized attention at expert faculty combined for a learning experience that open stores around the world find out more e array. You got EU slash, explore all of president matters, a great deal you may record
as that voice, I'm down Rumsfeld and I've just written a book only an unknown a memoir he's also a former Navy pilot congressmen. U s him, Esther to NATO, White House Chief of staff and two times secretary of defence. Needless to say, our constitution divides the powers, between the legislative and judicial and the executive branches. So so no, as in the United States, has d overwhelming power that dictators do, for example. However, A president of the United States has the bully Pope. He can talk and be heard, and, and people listen and of course, in our society with a free political system, you lead not by command, but by persuasion and andor.
Persuasion. My uncle used to tell me is a two edged sword, reason and emotion. Plunja deep today we are going to punch deep into a couple of questions. The first one, the one I asked Rumsfeld. I have a feeling you're not going to like it most people. If you asked him this question. Their heads explode. They sputter, they swear. They tell you you're a moron, even thinking this question. Let s go anyway. How much does the president of the United States really matter? I mean we know the rhetoric. The president is the leader free world, the most powerful human being on the face of the earth. But how true is that? How much does the president? Really?
right. That's why you're bill most, I brought with single bomber solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and we will do the best of my ability, the best of my ability and again the constitution of the United States. Oh god from ATM american public media. W and my see this is for economics radio today how much power does the president really have and later we hit the road to see if hitchhiking is as dangerous as it seems? Did we did a good thing? Here's your house,
in Denmark Donald Rumsfeld is seventy nine years old during his nearly four two years in and out of Washington, you got a good look at the powers of the president, vs seven different men from Eisenhower to George W Bush in between he spent a lot of time in the private sector, you ve been a ceo. A couple of times you ve worked in the White House. Now there's been academic research. Looking at the actual Pact of a ceo on a firm and perhaps not surprising, We too you economists have found that seals are far less influential. Then let's say their pay packages might connote
but there's a kind of leadership perception much as there is with the presidency to talk to me for a moment about the parallel between the ceo and the president. Whether really very very different and being good at worm doesn't suggests that one would thus barely be good at the other. The political world is a thing of a different order, because the powers are divided. A president has to spend a great deal of time dealing with the Congress and dealing with the media, because you you communicate to the Congress and the public through the media and an almost anything that's proposed is gonna, be debated and and discussed suddenly immediately in business. Conversely, I mean I could go into a corporation and decide that. I want to freeze the dividend and I could do it I could decide I'm going to open of research facility in country x instead of country. Why
could decide. I'm gonna downsize air or sell off a division, and I did it and you can be wrong as well as right to be sure, but but at least you you are able to do it. You know in government at we. If we put something in place and in one of the departments are agencies that Congress wants to have hearings on it, they want to pull a plan up by the roots, every five minutes to see if it still grow and an traumatize it and the press wants to critique it before it. Even fifteen minutes old it enormously different. Now that that's, very very compelling argument, but I have to say it. It sounds a little bit at odds with how we began this conversation. When I just ass, you kind of the baseline question. How much does the President matter you answer that will, of course it matters a great great great deal, but you're telling me now that that, in terms of influence in terms of ability to get things done to move things from step, one step ten, the President man he's just gotta
he's just got a whole heap of trouble, he's just going to keep plowing through that right. Well, I mean think of what presidents have accomplished in in my adult life time I mean Franklin. Roosevelt got things through the car. An end to change the way America function during the great depression. Maybe carefully move the country towards world war. An end began its assisting with lend lease the British in recognising the threat that Adolf Hitler posed. Ah, he d some bad things like like impounding all the japanese Americans in in the Pacific coast and putting them in detention centres but what he could do those things right and ask why you have encouraged us when the widespread approval and look at what George W Bush do mean: nine eleven. There was no road map.
Our guide book for him, what he should do and yet he did and he got a lot. Down. In the end, this country's been protected for decades, so you're, implying that the circumstance of the presidency is what confers the shape of the power. I guess you mention after and President Bush and in each case, we're talking dramatic circumstances, depression in war on one hand and a massive terrorist attack on the other? No, it's both its both its both the circumstance arm. They personality the individual, we're nation in America and our allies, this war with relentless determination across the world. Give me an example: if you could, of where you were surprised by a given president's inability to get something done. It might have been a legislative something it might have been a leadership, something it might have been a foreign policy, something
well, a jail for intercourse was a man of the House have represented seed serve, therefore long time and was highly respected. In fact, his is hope in life had been to some day, maybe be speaker of the United States House of Representatives here
He got the presidency and the war in Vietnam was coming to an end and he decided that if they could get the Congress to provide some additional funds, they could very likely effect how the outcome ended, that is to say, conceivably save lives. There were hundreds of thousands of people killed after the end of the Vietnam WAR in India, China and end up conceivably strengthen these self, the enemies governments sufficiently that they could survive and not be totally overrun by the north. He worked with the Congress and tried to get the funds from the Congress and couldn't, and if there is anybody now admitted lay he didn t
control of either house hearing in the hands of the Democrats, but but as a president, he was loved up on capital. Healy was respected. In my view, he had the benefit of being on the right side of the issue, trying to do the right thing and he was not successful. Were you at the time? Surprise frustrated chagrined Oh, I don't know, I suppose I was surprised. I dont get frustrated How do you do that? I don't know every morning in look ahead unless every able american pictures in congress- and I cannot do the job,
Give me an example. If you would wear a president took the blame for something that was really entirely out of his control, while I think one would have to say not entirely out of his control, but certainly Lyndon Johnson on the Vietnam war. Even it was, it was in our started in the Kennedy administration. He inherited it after the assassination of the John F Kennedy. In November, nineteen sixty three and he ended up having to announced that he wouldn't run for reelection. I shall not see and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term. As your friend did you ever Did you come down more on the right side of President Johnson are on the wrong side near encounters with him? Well, I was a big supporter of civil rights, so so mean that was no problem. I I did. I had troubles with some of his approaches on Vietnam, but
We would not have had a civil rights legislation in the nineteen sixties headline then Johnson not resolved to have it and Anna was that masterful combination of the cooperation between they Republicans. An Lyndon Johnson and in his determination now there is an example of a president using the powers of the presidency brilliantly for the good of our country. What really it's all of us must overcome. The crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome what makes a meter powerful if it's all about persuasion like Rumsfeld's. Lyndon. Johnson was one of the best master of the train This was a man who could get his dog to sing come on
but let's get back to the present for now many. We all want that. While we agree that we hope and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't we will respond with that time was pre. That sums up the spirit of a
Yes waging I've probably never been more wrong about anything in that then I was about my projections for what the Obama administration would look like that Steve Levitt he's my freak anomalies friend and co author he's an economist at the University of Chicago. He admits he usually doesn't pay much attention to politics, but in the last election he did. I think the problem for a bummer is that he's a greatest speaker who ever lived- and I've said this from the home before it came for the very first time I heard Obama speak, I thought he was like the Pied piper, because, even though I disagree with most of what he said, I merely wanted to do them. I would have done whatever he would have told me to do and in any event, that's why I voted for about. I never vote, but I vote for Burma because I thought there's a good chance of Obama will be the greatest president.
In the history of mankind- and I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I voted for Barack Obama limit doesn't usually vote for two reasons. One Is that, like a lot of economists, he thinks that casting one oh in a sea of millions, is basically just a waste of time. Now it should be said that most people don't think about voting like economists do. But the other reason he doesn't vote is that he doesn't think them matters are them. It was a red leather Governments declare the best nomination. Yes, we can, but I think the president candidate is, I think, a president can set the tone for a nation until weather. Someone like a Ronald Reagan. Tear down this love, Franklin, Roosevelt!
is that really what greatly Stuart I set it down, and I really thought that Obama would be able, through his unbelievable into liking, eloquent, be able to see incredible tone for our country, and what strange and surprising to me is that exactly the opposite? App got into office? The tone of the debate was just rancorous and in off to an off pits. Levin imagined Obama strolling the White House and blasting whale All the negativity blazing a path towards a shining future Obama and his staff, but we have the same idea here- is one of them who happens to be a colleague of limits. I am lost and goals be I'm a professor at the university Chicago booth, school, a business and I'm
Former chair of the accounts of economic advisers, which means that you worked as an economist in the White House, bending the presidency, or something like that. Somethin like that, so you might think from the way that everybody talks during an election, including the candidates, it there's some kind of magic button in the oval office that the president can just kind of press whenever he needs to jack up the economy. Create more jobs. What not, but you guys you got in there. You found There are no such buttons at all. Are there you know I spent a lot of the first but their water and all around in the basement, trying to figure out the tunnels. Whether I could find if there was a bunker under their whatever was I never found that button? I never found the bug
or the tunnels either. But I think the bigger mistake that people make is assuming that they go turned a crank in the White House or in Congress or somewhere in Washington, and just get the economy go Uncas. Such a big share of the economy has nothing to do with Washington that doesn't does they work like that. Well, before Obama was president ghouls be, was one of his economics go two guys in adviser on both his presidential, an two thousand for Senate campaigns, so you personally Austin have been with present Obama for a long time longer than any political ally that I know of at least so tell me, here's a question, I've always wanted to ask you when it comes to act. We having the power and the influence to get things done. How much does the president of the United States actually matter. For the macro economy not and not at all,
I mean I I say about ninety. Eight percent of the economy has nothing to do with Washington at all much less the president in in a normal time. I think he certainly can set the tone and then there are a bunch of particulars where I don't like flying, airplane or sub, nor they said it's. Ninety eight percent boredom and two percent terrors of other. If in the White House, it's gotta element like that, like the economies do and what its doing, but then Every once in a while there are catastrophic events in the world is about to blow up, and then the press but in the United States makes a really big difference, as does the head of the FED, because you know the decisions that they make in a crisis. Can either make things worse and worse and and start to spiral anyway, or they can get some win back under the sails and start to fix it
say, if I had to summarize, I think the world vest too much power, certainly in the present, probably in Washington in general, for its influence on the economy, as most all of the economy has nothing to do with a gun So that's a sobering thought isn't here's, President Obama's former top economists saying that the whole idea of the president affecting the economy is a bit of a charade, cannot possibly be true and had even try to answer that question. Empirically how'd, you isolate the president from all the other forces at work on the economy. Just in wilfers is an economist whose taught at pan. In Princeton he tried to answer that question in a study of the two thousand
or Bush carry presidential election. Two thousand full was a social slightest trade. So the thing is one is trying to study the effects of the presidency on anything in my case on the economy. Then, if your doctor, what you do, is you run a big randomize trial? Half the time you randomly make it a republican president, half the time, you'd rain. We make a democrat president need see how those two treatments did in terms of effects on the economy. The problem is were not allowed to do that in social sciences. Icon randomly make someone president yet yet unit allowed yet. But if you remember, the two thousand for rice ran about three o clock on election day. The exit polls got leaked next pulse said that John Kerry had one.
Landslide now run about seven o clock at night? They cannot enough loads. It had become quite clear that in fact, Bush was going to win, but what you have as its four hours. I'm a Democrats also for beautiful hours in which we basically had a carry presidency, and it was random, because the only reason people thought John Kerry was present was because of a misinterpretation of the early exit pulse, and so what we can do is we can look at how the financial markets I'm doing this for hours of the carry presidency in compared to either the four hours prior when it was clearly a Bush presidency or the four hours After when we learned was actually gonna, be the second George W Bush presidency. So when we do that, you see in fact that stocks fellow little bit during a four hours of the cap
presidency, and then they rose a bit when it became the push presidency. So that tells us that the stock market preferred George Bush. John Kerry sends a good news for pelicans Naomi gifted the Democrats response, which is in fact it didn't, move very much. It looks like the difference between having a bush presently to carry presidency for the value of U S, stocks, which may be one and a half or two percent, which is really pretty small effect. You might think the stock market effect that warfare is measured, isn't very meaningful in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, it does seem to show that the people who pay the most attention to the economy who stand most to profit or lose money, agree that the president is in such a big una.
I'll bet you a hundred dollars. You can't name this piano player, from the state of Missouri ten of independence. He loved the piano some I thought about a career in music. Instead, he opened a haberdashery and later became president of the United States. That's right, Harry It's true Truman. Had an eventful presidency deciding to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a tough postwar economy at Home- hounding of the United Nations, We get his way, the Taft Heart
Labour law was passed despite the most powerful objection, a president possesses the veto coming up and for economic radio. What? If we just woke up to morrow- and there wasn't a president, I think we would continue functioning in much the same way. Economics. Radio sponsored by wonder is business movers podcast when Coca COLA changed their recipe to what they called new Coke in nineteen eighty five, the backlash was swift and severe, and yet the man who drove the chain German Robert boys wetter pulled new coke from the shore in a matter of months, wondering Business movers explores boys what is controversial decision and the public response, but the real story- New Coke is far
more human and complex list To wonder? Is business movers podcast on Apple, podcast, Amazon, music or ad free in the wondering Athens economics. Radio sponsored by total wine in more fling into spring at total wine and more were fresh flavors are in full bloom. We are talking reasonings and rain boots bubbly and brunch tee. No one, porch, anyone and no matter, which way you rose. They they have the shade to match, with more than eight thousand wines? Four thousand, Spirits and twenty five hundred years to choose from you can always expect the unexpected what'll it be today explore or more in store or at total line dot com thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine, and we New games every month, big top rises and said,
enchants, drawings, excitements, always in order so, try Pennsylvania Lottery Scratch offer your ticket to fund and get yours today. Keep on scratching. Must be eighteen or older, please play responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, my fellow citizens, my countrymen. I follow Americans w and Y see and eight p M american public media. This is for economics, radio. Here's your host, Stephen Governor, Bernadette Mila is a core no law, professor, whose specializes in the constitution and executive power. I asked her what would happen if, whether by
miracle or tragedy. Depending on your point of view, we woke up tomorrow with no president. I dont think that actually, their day to day experience with chains are that much how we wound up without a president would probably tat, certain kinds of responses or change, public opinion or change the ways in which people were responding, but I think that just not having a president, I'm not sure which really change the way things happen every day. All that much. So what can the president to Minor thinks the president has real power in only five areas when
as commander in chief of the army and Navy, a second area is not of unilateral power, but is a very significant power and that's the power to decide whom to appoint, especially with judicial nominations. Then, a third power that I think is often under I reflected upon is the power not to enforce laws. So the present has the executive power, which means he can execute the laws, but it also means he can decide not to execute the laws and then a few. Power, I think, is the power to persuade Congress to take certain kinds of action and then a final area is really a power in really. And negotiating with foreign countries of power over foreign affairs alright! Alright, let's not kid ourselves. Those are real powers, powerful powers, but Fourthly, the unilateral authority that goes with all that leader of the free world rhetoric, but
that's how we want to remember this is a country that got rid of a king in favour of a Democratic republic arse people in that republic, much much more powerful than others, Corsica and the President is a very powerful individual, but he's an individual. It's easy to overestimate his insolence so, when you think of the role of the president in relation to Congress in relation to the states in relation to the public concern. What's the best metaphor for the president he or she a puppet master, every string, or is he or she more like the wizard of OZ, this very mortal man behind the curtain? How do you see it I say? Actually, the wizard of OZ is a better analogy, partly because I think so much of what is important about the past.
And is an image. So if the president is for the most part just another guy with a really big microphone. Why even have a president? I think people think the president is almost like a benevolent desperate determining fortunes and when reality, I think the president is really just someone who sitting the co pilot seed in applying the authority on autopilot, and certainly there are some things I can do and we always have pilots in planes just like meaning to president that's J C Brad bury he's a professor at can a saw state university enjoy he's known as the baseball economist. He studied things like how much them manager of a baseball team, really matters. What we found when we look at managers is that, while some money
is slightly better than the others. It's not a big difference between one manager. The next, in terms of the decisions that they make one I've tried to do is look at players who played for many different managers and coaches and see how they perform differently under different managers. I have not found much differentiation at all between how well players perform different managers that is as they move from time to time they tender perform about as well as they always have now. Leaving a baseball team is, of course, not like leading an entire country, so it had be ludicrous to compare the two jobs, but let's do it anyway. I think the reason you finally have to have a guy in the dugout is because, if you ve ever played eater, Ro Sports in college? You know that when there's no coach, no people are on the same page. People disagrees with just nice to have one person to say: okay. This is where what we're going to do this is and to move forward, and so the manager there's has to be there.
Even though he may not be doing anything that much different than any other manager might do so. It's like you kind of need dad in the house. Actually you need that final, arbitrary to say, okay, this is the decision we ve made and we're going with. It sounds a little bit like what the pressing I'd states does absolutely in the president. If you think about the control that a president might have over the economy for such a firm represent just one area, the president just a third of our government and we had a legislative and executive branches and if the two houses of Congress agree in the present agree, we can get policy but is very complicated for them all to agree, and so it's very hard for the present even have an impact on the economy directly and especially when much of what goes on in the economies determined outside by market forces president sort of serves as a focal point to say. How are we doing only doing good? Are we doing bad and voter sometimes look to blame the president when things are going well, even there's not much. He or she could have done about it or
they may try and rewarding when things are going well, just happened to be right in good times. My friends we did it. We were just marking time. We made a difference on an all, not that it's an attribution problem. Bill James, another baseball scholar he held to revolutionize the field of baseball statistics, James says. The attribution problem is a common one, like with pitchers in baseball for many years, people believe that baseball with seventy five percent pitching and the essential reason they believe. This is, if they credit the picture with wins and losses, and if you credit, the picture with winning and losing the game becomes its technology that that the picture is always responsible for winning and losing the game the and it creates the illusion that picture is responsible for much more than he actually is.
Interesting now, let's listen back to what James just said, but swap out the word pitcher and if you credit the president with winning and losing the game, becomes it tells you that that the president is always responsible for winning losing the game. The any creates the illusion that the President possible for much more than it actually is no matter how illusory his powers may be. The President Amy matters just not in the black and wait binary way. Most people think and that's the genius of our system was this divided power? That's Don Rumsfeld again, and it is worked amazingly well. I mean the american political experiment is probably the most amazing and probably the most brilliant, a creation debts that that mankind has fashioned, and it's been an example for countries all across the globe.
Didn't you yeah So, let's leave the quest of presidential power behind, but linger for one more minute on what James was saying about attribution errors as he sees it. Such errors are hardly confined to politics and baseball. The same syndrome were
in almost every area of life. This also includes, for example, safety from violent crime. In the nineteen fiftys, the nineteen sixties, people routinely hitchhiked routine. They picked up hitchhikers. We stop doing that because of stories that he tigers were violent criminals. Well, it's Agnes had no more tendency to be violent criminals than any one else. There was always a chance that they were, but stopping the practice. Each hiking really did nothing whatsoever to reduce the incidence of violent crime and had no social value whatsoever attributed to hitchhiking the violence of a few hitchhikers and they had closed down the wrong thing coming up and for economic radio. We ask our second question:
when's the last time anybody saw hitchhiker on the roads in future and ruin twenty years, but but it makes you wonder why did hitchhiking severe, Fr Economics, radio explores the hidden side of everything, sponsoring the friggin onyx podcast could help nearly a million less there's a week discover your business email us at sponsorship at W. Unwise Dot Org
disappeared. I am guilty and Jacobs and I'm Deanna reasonable. We ve got a new pod task called if that worry politically talked to scientists, engineers NASA folks, just a punch of really smart curious people about cool stuff Julian? I think most people know you from your work on love and community and must be Oh, no! You, as forensic scientists, Casey Heinz on Anti, I ass, so we were both actors for what most If we don't know, is that we're both really cured? in passionate about stem. If we have a more diverse outlook in how we look at science and engineering and technology and map, then what else as possible. I giddy. When I get to speak to these people get a chance to tap back into my curiosity excitement. You know that I have kid about all these different tax so come on this journey.
Thus, as we learn from some of the poorest smartest people in their fields, if then is out now just search, if slash than to find the show that, if slash then no makes it listen in stature, apple, the serious exam app or wherever you get your PA casts. More treating the falcon in the winter soldier arrive on Disney plus world subside down, but we can't lose this. If we do this into our own way experienced the six episode event for foreigners coworkers serve tee. We looked down good model studios, the falcon in the winter soldier, straining March nineteen exclusively on Disney Plus. From W and Y see and eight p M american public media. This is free,
Now mix radio, here's your host, Stevens, Abner, killer, Jason. What we watch in here this is the beginning of Texas change. Don't ask over these. Kids are going to a graveyard and they pick up pretty scraggly. Looking hitchhiking daily 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 was talking about blood, cows to death spray. Pretty clear by now you were wishing that he hadn't been picked up pretty well have had still. Definitely
There is not really any good scenario we can imagine coming out now it through and only gets worse really gets worse now, you're very cards. Why that's it that's redress! The final straw you can you cut the guy and he gets to doubt Franklin's arm is leading like frank lights, little caught. So if you're asking the question, why did hitchhiking
much disappear movies like this one give a compelling answer because it so dangerous. If you hitchhike, you will die, that's the lesson we learned at least you're, Steve Levin again, if even anybody thought there were homicidal maniacs who are killing hitchhikers or or hijackers 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 as 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, and this person who is willing to give a ride is actually usually tipping. You know when or money change and so for somehow there people getting benefit on both sides of the transaction. The fifty is 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 up.
But who are willing to pick them up and somehow that equilibrium guy 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 least no worthwhile data, so how common was hitchhiking violence did we may be overreact? Do you remember a few years back when the media talked about these summer of the shark? Although scary 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
you're, probably more people killed 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. I am, I am anxious a gorgeous day, I'll flowers were the trees in our own brought it. Their leave their group, MRS Green has its spring and hasn't dried up or anything so gorgeous. That's cool, Stan. It was mainly eighteenth, nineteen, seventy seven I had turned twenty Andy Hamburg and her very care free spirit about quite impulsive.
Stand was living in Eugene, Oregon and use planning to visit. Friend in Westwood California, about three hundred sixty miles to the south, but her car windstorm, so she decided to hitchhike got a ride with some truckers were hauling grape juice they their often read bluff? California, about an hour and a half from her friends house, the truckers, even or a gallon of juice when they dropped her off. He put out her thumb again, a car stopped and there's like five I said thanks, but no thanks. So they went away. Her next ride was a blue dodge coal, whose young couple inside with a baby, let's safe enough to stand out in the car, it was a very warm day. Could it with me and reports in the valley and very warm there? I can get in the summer time they can get like a hundred and fifteen there
such a very warm place, and so it would warm day and I was thirsty from traveling and I taken the juice and I had kept it up to take a drink and about the same time, I tipped it up the driver pressures on the accelerator and in an jets out back onto the highway? To take up? Will this caused the two to poor all down me So I was a little irritated with him at this and I remember I looked up to the front to the river mirror and he's
king in 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 a 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 should attack when you get into a car with someone
You're literally handing 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 this 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- and it's just not worth it life too to thy above it has given 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 free. We'll shark attacks each year keep everyone out of the ocean, apparently not. But what number would forty four hundred four thousand, what happens when you start putting 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 again, the baseball statistician. He was born in nineteen, forty, nine in Kansas, one time with two small kids in the car late at night. Coming back from a movie, we saw two black eyes to black at old bail standing beside the road, and my father was not Spencer. Tracy mainly was not a violent racists, but he was, he was.
Matt his generation and he had the racist attitudes of where in his generation on the last we stopped. We asked them if they needed a ride and we took them. We took them where they needed to go and the reasons why you just did it was in in the Platt time and place where I go. If you saw somebody in need of a ride, you gave him a rhyme as James got older, that change remembers hearing p essays on the radio drivers not to pick up hatred goodbyes where the grass country motorists, although it may in the time that it is not a wise act to pick up hitchhikers indiscriminately. In retrospect he says, hitchhiking took the blame for crime in general. That's another topic! He likes
Sitting about his latest book is called popular crime. If you have a certain number of violent people running round hitchhiking the fewer other people, you have a running around hitchhiking, more dangerous because big of a hitchhiker it drove itself out of existence. Basically, nobody hitchhiked anymore ended the practices of the disappeared. My point about it was: what's really the social value in this in the hay. Checking is economically efficient because it puts more people in a car. The real danger was not hitchhiking. 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 about don't pick up here. I would pick up a check is either name it
that's the way I do that protect myself, but protecting myself has no value to society, so the demand for hitchhiking fell because of fear. A breakdown entrust selfishness whatever, but maybe those aren't the only reasons that demand, fell Did you ever hitchhike level? I did not hear Jake. I was just a little bit too young by the time I was fifteen. I think he'd checkers had pretty much disappeared. Well, not quite I was it men, runs about fourteen or fifteen ice thumbing ride most mornings before school in the dark to get to my job in town stocking shelves, I hit all during college, all over the south a couple times from North Carolina to upstate, New York and back was a pretty simple calculation. I wanted to get somewhere and I couldn't afford a car. I mean why
Sweden, when his brethren rather go have where'd you unaware that were decided, he'll have or other getting spots. Thirty, no Here are a few hitchhikers we found out in Oregon. There were three of them: Teriyaki, a guy named stove in their friend George tomorrow. So I'm George Drama, and I have an engineering degree that I only sometimes use, but my real passion and addiction as travel. One fixing things Georgia's hitchhiked a good bit about ten foreign countries and all over the? U S, so you do hitchhiking, because you want to not, because you have to really right almost always yeah, almost always so you year, twenty five year old American with an engineering degree in
rentals, Edward and all that kind of stuff who helped you buy a car, I gave you hand me down car offered by you, train paths to get home, and you say now I just want to go down the road, but my thumb now. What does it say? 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, I think you just happened and they had theirs- is desire for experience about me, particularly its that I'm addicted to travel and novelty, and I definitely could not normally. You know and sustainably extend my vacation. Then travels as much as I have without hitchhiking deal
big motivation for a lot of US hitchhikers than the ones that I've talked to it, just learning other people's perspectives on life and its much easier. I think to get sort of feeling for how someone else lives quickly, if you're writing in a car with them, four hours, so a guy like George Gemma hitchhiked, not really because he needs to do but to get the sort of feeling for how someone else lives. But what about people who might need to hitchhike out of necessity, 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! Levin again, did you hear what he said? Clearly, people getting richer and car is getting better made, has to be a big part of it, because it's an extremely effective way to travel, hitch
slow, its 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, bizarre ski he's. What you might call a scholar of transportation behaviour used to work for the? U S, 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 in agreement that there is much less now correct, this
So we want to know where did all those hitchhiking go. Why did so? Many people stop hitchhiking August my my reflex. Statistical reflex is the greater availability automobile. The first part of it is simply drivers licences, the seventies when women began to gain greater access to drivers licences? If you look at the distribution since today,. Men and women in terms of drivers. Licensing is almost numb almost. Ethical 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. There are a lot more cars in nineteen sixty nine, only three in ten thoughts had more than one car like two thousand nine six and
the really significant change occurred in the two and three car households? That's where we saw an x. Ocean and all of the grove. Okay, so you're telling me more drivers licences, more cars, talk to me about the key, ers themselves and longevity? I think that an important component, one of the things that people, I think, don't recognize the Greek nor the great technological changes that we an American. The last thirty years is simply the longevity of the vehicle fleet back in the sixties. Cars did not last all long are 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 more. More 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 helped drive down demand for hitchhiking, along with big changes in how we get around generally? The one is the the advent of the inner state which took people off of main street and two roads were. Workers are not permitted. Then of course, deregulation of aviation and roughly nineteen eighty. That had an extraordinary effect on on the price of air, Poland, so that made the whole cheaper than standing on a street corner with your family, but here's something else worth thinking about. If you care even a little bit about transportation, about the key asked the growing congestion and the risk of accident about the carbon
missions from all those cars on the road then consider this very sobering statistics. 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 bus or train fleet, it be considered a massive failure what one remark is greatest transportation resources are all those empty seats Automobile travelling around Amerika it it's it's a curse lawful resource that we that we do waste, given that There is massive inefficiency with all this empty capacity in cars. Do you wish it I 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. Each other and may be having some kind of a vetting system that says this guy's. Okay, there.
But people little but more at ease and then that will, I hope, help people to be more comfortable with that kind of arrangement. Such technologies in vetting systems already exist in various forms. The right sharing board on Craigslist or a vague go a technology company that provides. Real time ride, sharing information be absent the web and then there's the practice known, is sluggish blogging. For those who don't know is basically a kind of organised hitchhiking world people just line up on the streets sometimes is assigned. Sometimes there's not. We sent Alan pesky out on the streets of Arlington Virginia where there's a healthy, sluggish, see everybody go
to a certain area clusters together cars will come along looking for people going their way, so they can crawl to be on the HIV three lines, which gives them a much faster right down to the southern suburbs. We're looking. What about seven or eight cars lined up, people. When we asked folks question, we have to be pretty quick little bit. Nimble almost like chart People have a check outline the simple market, because their moral getting in the current hadn't plot every day says Threefold: Rosalind, Threefold, Pentagon, three, four crystal city, nine debate seven minutes writer. Then I get other saved me about twenty dollars a day. Giving cause does what further action is arrogant. Don't talk to driver unless you talk to you, don't touch me in the higher unless you asked the driver,
the rents, pretty nice car, sir, don't eat or drink, and the farmers who ass it's pretty nice long range with seventy people. Talk to you the whole way down be more will just keep their mouths shut. I usually get home at the same time: sluggish is, a lot more organised in hitchhiking. In a lot of these people are government employees of their wearing suits and Idee tags. You, 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, a rider and the driver was going to sleep with, you know you have to try to make out, but you know today either you know your boss Let me out pined away home or you know, try keep your eyes open What are you scared of? Why
are your fears? Rational or do you live the small likelihood of a terrible outcomes. Stop you from doing things. If you really want to do you know it, I think we fear most in this country strangers. We ve done again job through our media are movies, even our politics of convincing or so, strangers are dangerous. But if you look at the data might be surprised three of every for murder victims in this country. Their killer and, of course, each of us knows a lot fewer people than there are strangers more than sixty percent of rape victims knew their attack. If you look at the data on missing children, you'll see that happening. Credibly. Small percentage of those incidents way way, 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. Bore with 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 just droid in large part because of fear and the equilibrium 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 a devaluation of systems based on trust, I think there's a lost a society that I also think the 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 are more trustworthy. I think we're we're all better off in a million different ways. If and when we can do that, so, let's see our economy is still sputtering, which means money is tight for transportation and everything else. When we drive to work, eight per cent of our passenger capacity is wasted and as building
This puts it. A loss of trust means a loss to society and oh yeah, about that sputtering economy. The president of the United States, despite the conventional wisdom, is nearly powerless to do anything about it. So if you're feeling a little bit patriotic today, a little bit optimistic a little bit, it venturesome go ahead? Stick your son! I want you for economics. Radio is pretty spite w and my c a pm american public media and governor productions. This episode is produced by car when wells, Diana Win and Andrew Guard Trout, our staff,
Susie, Luxembourg Puree Lamb increase? Banning our engineer is David Herman calling Campbell is our executive producer. If you want, Fr Economics, radio. You can subscribe to our podcast on Itunes or go to free economic, sat com, real fine lots of radio of law and more.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-16.