What It Is
NPR folk talk about the economy and issues related to it.
The show drops a new episode every three or four days; episodes run twenty to thirty minutes, I’d say. Well produced show; kind of This American Life in style and tone. The iTunes page has the 300 most recent episodes; for the rest of the archive, visit the website.
What About It
I like this show quite a bit. It isn’t like Freakonomics, which looks at surprising things. Planet Money looks at the issues that relate to economics in a more direct way, but they do so in a really entertaining fashion. There’s wit and charm to this show, as opposed to, oh, say, Marketplace. The great thing about the show is the way in which it’s able to take very complicated economic ideas and communicate them in ways that are accessible to the average listener. Listening to this show is everything you wish those college courses you took in economics were: entertaining, filled with humor, incredibly informative without being condescending and entirely comprehensible. There is, in today’s modern world, a responsibility of every individual to have a functional grasp of economics; it has always been a force that made the world go round, but never as much so as today, in my opinion. You need to understand why people and governments and corporations act the way they do and you need to know what you think about those actions – it needs to inform your daily life in all kinds of ways. Planet Money is a good way to get there.
You wish you knew more about economics.
Avoid Like the Plague If
Best Entry Point
I’m going to actually recommend an episode of another series, namely The Giant Pool of Money from This American Life. This episode of This American Life was dedicated to the subprime mortgage bubble and the results of it. It was first broadcast in May of 2008 and it’s become well known as one of This American Life’s best episodes, which is really saying something when you consider just how consistently superlative the show is. It marked a sort of economic coming of age for a lot of people, myself included; I still remember hearing it for the first time. It was the moment that I kind of started to realize that I could understand economics, both in theory and in practical reality; my economy classes in college had left me unsure of those things. Anyway, the episode generated something like ten times the response of the typical TAL episode and from that episode was born Planet Money. It’s fair to say, I think, that The Giant Pool of Money is Planet Money’s pilot. It’s a great place to start.
Just for fun I’ll throw in a recommendation actually from the Planet Money series. It’s about shorting and I feel like the release of The Big Short (which I still haven’t seen) make this episode rather topical. The hosts discuss the first time in history someone shorted stock and then they go all in on a big short themselves: they invest money to short the economy as a whole. It’s an entertaining series of episodes, so here they are: The Very First Short; We’re Short America; Shorters Gonna Short.