tv Book TV After Words CSPAN November 27, 2009 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
law change or if you want to talk about abortion and crimes, i have a theory about how abortion legalization of abortion in the 1970s reduced crime in the 1990s. so it is not a random experiment, but after abortion became legal in some states in the '70s, so you can compare 20 years later what happened in the states where it was easy to get an abortion to those days where it was hard to get an abortion. that's what we we would call and ask an experiment that it's a new wave of microeconomic research and not just look for. correlations but to go deeper and try to find evidence of these experiments were you trying to think what can i do that is close to replicating scientific experience as possible. . .
noel, depending on how you run the experiment, you can get the college student to do just about anything. for the question of the psychologist are interested in is about motivation. they are almost more interested in how you ma lip mate people than exentraplating outside of the lab. economist tend to be will this tack do what we think it will. psychologist are interested how will people feel about the tack? and so in general, a lot of the topics i study do overlap with sociology. sometimes i team up with psychologist when i work on gang and prostitution. then we try to bring both pieces. if you ask my work, i very much stick to using the economic tools. the same tools that economist have used to try to study market
and prices and quantities, i've taken out to study questioning like, does education work? you know, the returns to education are huge. it's amazing. i'm not say education system is perfect. look at the people who get more education. the effect is getting the extra year. the economist say the extra year is worth about 8% to your lifetime earning. so it's a really good return. if you get too much, it starts to hurt you. by you are not just buying, when you get a phd, you are buying a comfortable like. like the one i live that you get to do whatever you want. i think it's a lot to get an education. by and large, we do have not such a bad -- people come from all over the world. we are in borders of people coming to buy our -- people want to buy our educational systems
at the higher levels. i think we have a lot to be proud of. >> host: so the other blend of discipline in the book comes on your side as a reporter. the bookends up being interested. one will be about a deep data. one will ask for the more recognize of more traditional reporting. a long interview with the source. going out into the field. going to events and watching people react. and trying to take the pulse of cultural moment. how do those work together? i mean they are very different disciplines. they are imperically. though i love my job. we are at the different level than other steven. >> host: if you notice the divide that's well, that's a bad sign on our behalf. because they are meant to really -- i shouldn't. i don't mean to treasure this entirely. but we do try to married them. maybe your more perspective than the average reader. because that's the kind of work that you do. a lot of people when they are
reading about even some the empirical stuff, they don't think about it as research versus reporting. when they think about the character, they may not think about it. we try to basically create a hybrid a few different things. empirical research that may have, and you have five or ten different degrees of gravity and degrees of difficulty and so on. they maybe broad, they may be narrow. then we also write about -- one thing that we decide from the outset is in order to bring these pumper call -- in order to bring the academic papers alive, you want to read about the people who are involved in them. and time sometimes the people who are involved are the people that gather the data. levitt works with a lot of data. that doesn't mean he gathered it by himself. for instance, this fellow, steve levitt mentioned a white ago.
to me, the writers, there's a great value in meeting the character. and it's not just for color. it's for understanding the shape of the project, the motivation, and so on. then there are some pieces in superfreak no,nomics that are different. the first book was 80% or 90% cone. this one maybe 50, 60, some people think less. we usually tell levitt out. we tell the coalready authors. all of these other people. his hand was very heavily involved. we were making different kinds of arguments in super freakonomics. we tried to engage or whether it came out of the interest. when you look at global warming or terrorism or education and health care. while there's a lot of empirical stuff in there, we felt it was
really valuable to build that within a story where there's a narrative as well. >> yeah, i think it was less trying to engage in these more political topicses, or more hot topics or current topics. i think after the first book, if i wanted to study terrorism, and i knocked on the door of the british bank i said i'm an academic. i want to work with you to find terrorist. they would have laughed. after the book, people were more much willing to open up with data and stories. i think that really, it was one of the benefits of the first book. when i first started, i thought this is going to be really a substitute for doing academic research. i'm going to end up taking a lot of time to write a popular book. but i weighed the tradeoff and said maybe i'll do it anyway.
i was really wrong. one of the unintended consequences of writing a book was complimented my research. it allowed me to do things that i never could have done otherwise. >> there's a lot of research since four or five years that's really good that is good or will yield really good academic research. it was totally uninteresting for a book like this. a lot of it had to do with firms, prices, -- if we wanted to write a business book. we would. we could write about mistakes that firms have made, and the good things that come out. there's a lot of research that didn't work for the book. and there's a lot of kind of story telling that we felt worked for the book that would augment ther per call research. >> host: there's a danger to this. you are very well known for being able to reply with great skill with the tool kit and sort
of another elements of the profession. there's a reporter. there's a tool kid there. but what a lot of people would say. one the criticisms of the book is you have not experts. neither of you are terrorism expert. or are economies who focus in one. but that you sort of do take on a lot of these large. and not only that, but come to conclusions often time quite composed to the expert community. how do you weigh that? how are you -- how do you develop a confidence to say these people have been studying for so long, we are wrong. how do you make sure you are not being instanced by goods sales man or by a paper that as you say would work for the book where others don't. >> i think a lot of it comes down to the approach that i take. and it strips away a lot of the -- i don't know issues of ethics and morality. a lot of studying the question, a lot of questions come down to
right versus wrong. rarely are we in the business of right versus wrong. let's take -- i don't know let's take one of the controversial subjects which you could say i'm not an expert in, in the sense that i haven't spent my life studying. car seats for the seat belt. what did i do? i got all of the data i can get my hands on. i analyzed them in the way that i know how to analyze data set. whether you look at the data in simple or complex ways, you just don't see a very big difference in the effectiveness of child car seat relative to seat belts in saving the lives of young children. children two and up. now you do see some benefits, some relatively minor, in terms of injuries. relative to seat belts. now both car seats and seat belts are a world better than not being restrained at all. i'm not an expert in that area. but i have data. and i look at it. and i do what i know how to do. and i find it. on top that, we did crash
tests. we paid out of our pocket because we couldn't find any evidence in the literature, how crushes did the dummies get when you put them in adult seat belts. and so, i mean i think a lot of times when we talk about education -- experts. to get up to speed in an area, for somebody like me, it doesn't take that long. i can read the literature. that literature isn't that large. there are a lot of sources. it's much easier to learn now than it used to be. you know, it's more -- what's harder than doing the academic work is maybe coming up with some -- a brilliant public policy plan that will take into the interest of what you can and can't do. that's not our thing. our thing is to take ideas to get people thinking, to challenge conventional wisdom. and in many ways it's better to be outside.
it's almost impossible to show wisdom from the inside out. in the end, i think you lose the perspective that comes with distance and newness to a subject when you are part of it. for me now, i've studied crime for a decade. it's really hard for me to have original thoughts that aren't heavily influenced but what i've studied. it'll be someone new who comes along on crime. >> i think that's an interesting point. you feel that having been very deeply involved in crime, you've dopped having new ways to look at it. as you way you sort of continue to study. do you believe you stopped having looked at it because you learned more, and the new ways are wrong. the conventional wisdom is because it's right. and the new will be done by a fresh pair of eyes that will be accurate? doesn't have a sort of weird set of implications for the other pieces of your answer there? >> no, it's -- people always
have different opinions. so do i think that the research i've done on crime is right. yeah, i think it's been good. i think it's been helpful. do i bring new perspective to crime. definitely. i've poured over the evidence into ways that have set my thinking. i believe things now. and, you know, in partly it's just i had the ideas that i have; right? new people will come and they might have better or different ideas. i'm trying to think about how to stop violence in chicago public school. and i know a lot about stopping violence. i think through the entire checklist of all of the things that i think could work that are viable that we can actually do that will stop violence or lessen it in a year, i think we don't have anything. i can't think of one thing on the table. i and asked the blog readers. maybe the blog readers have some ideas about it. i mean it's hard.
but i could imagine, you know, it just went up today a couple of hours before we talked. there were 70 or 80 comments. >> yeah, i know it's hard. if it were easy -- you know. so that's where. you never know where the next great idea is going to come from. and i don't want to make it sound like great ideas never come from people in an area. it helps to know the details that do it. i do think that often times some of the great ideas come from the outside. one the early places in the book where the sketch. i wonder if there was accurate that came in the very first thing yet. it's about drunk driving and drunk walking. you make the point, if you compare miles driven drunk and miles walked, people died a much higher rate than when they are walking. this used to illustrate the perspective of the book, that a lot of these things to be a question are in fact not subtle at all. i was instruct by a move that you guys made.
i'm sure folks in the audience are static to hear. i want to hear it because i want to get it right. so you staid that the survey shows that one out of every 140 miles driven, it is drunk. every time people drive 140 miles -- >> that doesn't sound right. survey showed? >> i don't think so. that was empirical. >> host: it's a survey. it's a hard one. >> who knows where those numbers come from. i'm not questioning that. >> host: one out of every 140 miles is driven drunk. that's surprising. then you said that, there's some 237 americans all told that's 43 billion miles walked of people are driving age. if we assume that 140 of those walked drunk, same percentage, then that's 370 million walked
drunk. that's danger. friends don't let friends walk drunk. what's striking about this, with the assumption packed in. among the things, in fact, it is the same. if i go out to bar and i decide i'm going to not take my car, that would imply i'm substituted miles walked for miles driven president the miles walked are going to be higher. not one out 140 one out of is 120 or 100. then are the same type? rural or urban? are they as drunk. maybe people drive when they have 3 or they are over when your frat buddy that you can't see, you take his keys away. i guess the question that i want to ask you, this seems like a lot of leaps of logic. it wouldn't have particularly caught my eye expect for the topic. in this topic, people are going to look at this. people who maybe don't know stats that well, and say celebrated economist and the
respected reporter are saying i should drive home drunk tonight. that that's safer for me. >> first of all, if you think that, then you are not reading the book. we explicitly state that the solutions to the problem is to drive instead. the solution to be problem is to call a taxi or whatever. the last thing in the world -- i mean i'm not even comfortable with you phrasing the question. if anybody catches that part of the question, they are going to say what and make an assumptions. >> host: but you do have friends don't let friends walk drunk. let's started by my own research that we site says that drunk drives is 13 times more dangerous that's driving sober. that's the paper. we're no way condoning driving drunk. but i think what is implicit in your question, what other people seem to feel as well, that somehow by saying that there's
something worse than driving drunk that we are condoning it. if i toll you, if you had a political interest group, a group in education that went around telling people not to poke their eyes out with scissors. then i say it's also bad to poke your eye out with a butcher knife. now you are just condoning people. i don't think that's right. if somebody is leaveing a bar or party, there aren't a ton of options. most people don't poke their eyes out. when you say you shouldn't do either they say okay i'll play a video game. the reason there's so much controversy, people have the make the decision. calling a cab. where i come from, i don't know if there are cabs. i'm sure there are. no one i knew had their number handy. which is not. i'm not saying that you are wrong. it just seems to me that it was
a little bit lose given the serious of the side effects. >> one thing i love about your question is it shows that you are thinking about what we are doing. that's the whole point of the book. we don't want to -- we don't have to be right every time. let's just think about the kinds of assumptions. obviously we wouldn't have put it in there if we thought we were wrong. when we first started thinking about, we went to the data. there must be good data on how many people walk. period. it's hard to figure out how many people walk. a half a mile, that's probably, you know, a long road. that's probably a gross exaggeration. i think people probably walk even less than that. in the question of how much do they walk when they are drunk. again, who knows? it's hard to find the data. we look at time use. try to look at everything. it's not just exactly clear. that's where we say let's take the assumption.
at least people can think about it. when i always think is coronet when you are coming up with an idea, is to put the assumptions in front of people. but also to exblame them in ways to get some intuition. we think the same proportion of miles that are driven are walked. in my own live, i'm a big drunk walker. i'm still out there. >> so i think that -- let's take the particular points that you raised. which are good ones. is it true that maybe the people who are walking drunk are on average much drunker than the people who are driving drunk. and that would skew our numbers of saying the exact same person with the same amount of drunkenness switches from walking to driving, then the benefits would be -- the difference would be a lot less than we think. that's possible. so again you go to the data. and you might think of course there must be really good data on this. the u.s. government keeps every fatal crash.
turns out they don't very often do the blood alcohol on the pedestrian because there's nothing illegal about walking drunk. i think you are right. to the limited amount of data that we have, the people who are walking drunk do have higher blood alcohol than the people who are driving drunk. that works in one direction towards making the overstatement. on the other hand, if you look at say where people are driving. you probably think there is a lot of drunk walking going around in rural areas. you can't walk 20 or 15 miles home. turns out driving drunk is much more dangerous. over twice as dangerous as driving drunk in urban areas. you fall asleep at wheel. you go faster. that works in the opposite direction. a lot of the walkers are going to be urban settings where driving drunk isn't as dangerous. i think -- we don't know the exact answer. but no one does. i mean -- we're talking about being expert and not expert. you look at liltture. there is no research on drunk
walking. i actually truly believe, i think the data support it, that drunk walking is far more dangerous than drunk driving. i would expect that groups lick madd or sadd would say we're trying to save people's lives. we've been doing it through drunk driving. maybe there's more. maybe we have to expand our agenda. i'm guessing that you're intuition is better than my hope. which is that the reaction of madd and sadd isn't going to be this is great. we have a whole new agenda. a whole new way to save up to 1,000 pedestrians walking drunk. i hope they will. >> i think that's the point. there are a thousand people every year out of the 13,000 people that are killed in the alcohol related. 1,000 of those are pedestrians. >> who are drunk. >> right. i find it hard to believe that the parents or siblings, those people don't want to know this. they wouldn't -- i find it hart
hard to believe they wouldn't have wanted to know the fact beforehand. if you want to think in the limited way, are they saying you're drunk at the friends party, you should just get in and drive home instead, because it's safer to you. we don't say that. i would hope that no one in their right mind out recommend that. what's ironic about this, i don't know if it's caused much controversy. actually thought of it in that way before. i think that's great. i think that if the notion is that there is something that can be done beyond what people are thinking about as a safety measure, great. the irony is for us, we are usually the last people to be fear amongers. we spent a lot of time talking about things that people are scared out out of proportion to the risk. this is one case that we say we don't think about very often, but it's worth thinking about. so i would hate that think that one person would -- >> -- also i don't know
california, i never lived in california. i think there are a lot more options. you can stay somewhere, you can find somebody else to drive you. it's not in any way of endorsement of doing anything than walking drunk. >> if you had a gun to your head and you had two choices, should you drive or walking? i think the answer is you should drive drunk. people don't like that, there are very few cases where you are a gun to your head and someone is forces you to do one or the other. i think that is the right interpretation. >> right. and so that was my interpretation as well. i guess i used it in a way that you used it. a lot of the conclusions in the book are surprising. i think that one maybe more than the others. there's a lot of uncertainty. as you said, something is pointed one direction, something is pointed in another.
your main point that we don't have great data. if we don't, that make it is hard. what wasn't present was these are tricky questions. and coming to them with a new set of eyes that maybe people didn't expect. maybe those answers are wrong too. what was interesting about "super freakonomocs" was the controversies. it has been significant for that reason. because i'm just curious on the drunk driving piece of it. so you are comfortable with that conclusion? >> yeah, i look at that the same way with a lot of things. there is uncertainty. it's not like we are saying that drunk walking is 3% more dangerous or 15% or 20% or 100% or 500%. for you, it's 800%. right. so there's so much room for
slippage. the kinds of assumptions that you would have to make to get back to, you know, it's a better personal choice is to walk than to drive. really i think it's quite extreme. i think it's almost no way that you can cook up data or assumptions. but you say that we didn't get this in the first book. but we did. we had the question of swimming pool versus the gun. that got a lot of people upset when we made the claim that if you are a swimming pool and the gun, the swimming pool is much more likely to kill your child than the gun. that's very similar in the way that arguments are scrubtured. i think the abortion and crime stuff had the same kind of feel. there was some uncertainty about it. the effects were big. and we do -- i mean it's a popular book. so we can't -- we're not -- there aren't endless footnotes where we describe the exact ways. but we try to lay out the assumptions and mix a way of telling the story.
we talk about what some of the concerns are. i mean we're very sensitive to the idea that you can't just -- what we don't like is people who go out and say they are right, and never give any intention at all to what some of the short comings might be. we always try to. >>i agree. a lot of people are very upset about the way that we treat global warming. the point there is we are introducing the great degree of uncertainly in climate scenarios. whiff to me is one of the key parts that have. i think we do try to acknowledge uncertainty. as much as we can. what's interesting is you're right. you can interpret our drunk walking finding in one of any number of ways. but the point of that and the point of almost anything else in the boom book is to give a reader some thoughts or
information to try to think about the world and different decisions. one big reasons why making decisions is really hard, this is what fueled the economics is the very breakthrough research on uncertainty and what it does to people. right? if you have uncertainty in an equation it changes everything about it. climate science is such a fast topic. again, it's not climate scientist. one argument would be, you know -- >> we'll wait on common sense. because we have to take a great. we'll be back in a moment with steven levitt and steven deboner authors of "super freakonomics." >> for with steven dubner and steven levitt in just a moment. >> did you know you can view
book tv programs online? go to booktv.org. type the name of the author, book, or subject into the search rare ya in the upper left-hand corner of the page. select the watch. now you can view the entire program. you might also explore the recently on book tv book or the features programs box to find and view research and featured programs. >> "afterwords" continues. >> host: i'm mr. klein, we are back with steven dubner and steven levitt. before we went to break we got into controversial which is the piece of global warming. our listeners have heard about cap-and-trade, and we'll hear about carbon taxes. the book says use new
technologies to manipulate the climate of the earth within which back when i was a kid would get you a quick visit from the justice league. here you are saying this is the answer. >> answer to what? you are to be really clear about what we think. the question we try to answer is if we decided the earth was too hot and we wanted to cool it down quickly, how should we do that? that's the question that we really answer quite effectively in the book. there are all sorts of other questions like what kind of legacy do we want to leave, is it wrong for humankind to leave it's imprint on society. those are questions that we are not good at. morality -- ethics are not what we know about. we try to take an economic view and meld it into the question. you have to be really careful. i think on the fact we have very few disagreements with our
critics. it's really just a question of what we're trying to answer a different question than they have. because i do not think that actually first and foremost the idea of cap-and-trade are first -- i don't think any many them would agree that that is the right answer to the question if you wanted to cool down the earth in a hurry. >> host: why don't you tell me about the geoengineering solutions. how would they work? >> geoengineering say that using engineering to change the way the planet is working. if you think about it in an organic way, we've been geoengineering the living day lights unintentionally -- >> intentionally. >> well, intentionally without purpose.
without the idea of making things better expect for our economy. in 200 years we will burn from $200 million worth of fossil fuels. that's contributed a lot of things to the environment that weren't there before. sot idea is well, if the problem is really bad, bad enough to worry about, in other words, if the corral problem is warming. there are other problems to discuss. and we discuss some of those. if the central problem is warming, is stopping burning the fossil fuels even after a very accelerates rate, one that may be a dream to achieve with my kind of political friction at all, is this sufficient? and the answer, as best as we can tell is probably not. the reason why is carbon mitigation even if it could be achieved far more successfully than any indication than it could be would probably be too little and too late, and too optimistic to achieve that goal.
there are a lot of other reasons why you might want to burn fewer. you might want to find clearer and cleaner and better forms. almost everybody is in favor of that. expect a few interested parties. the geowe'ring would not address the ocean itself. if the idea is to cool the earth if it becomes hot, what can dough? atmosphere has a life of 100 years what's there is there. we will probably keep contributing to it. the ideas range from the environmental friendly sounding ones like creating higher albedo, more reflective clouds. clouds do a good job of cooling the perth! how do they do that? >> how do they cool the earth? >> no, how do they create them? >> well, you can have turbines under water.
it would kick up salt spray. one of the reasons why clouds over the ocean are not as reflective is there aren't as many cloud condensation nuclei are sparser over the water than other land where you have a lot of dust and so on. the idea -- >> host: get clouds to big themselves around. >> and to make themselves denser. the more dense were generally the more reflective. the more reflective, the more sunlight, the less heat. >> the darker color to absorb lots of heat and sunlight. the more you absurd, the more you go out. >> and clouds are puffy and nice and reflective. then there's a radically different sounding solution
that's easily the most kind of frightening sounding. it will be one of the most controversial ones. which is using sulfur dioxide, the targeted application sprayed in which kinds of form of the shield. here's -- this is based on nature as well. in 1991, there was a volcanic explosion in the philippines. and it was biggest explosion, about 100 years in terms of sulfur into the strait fear. and what happens when sulfur gets into the stat fear at that height? they are exploding all the time and putting it lower. when it gets to that height, it behaviors differently. and it mixes with the aerosol there, it forms the layer around the planet is that the stat -- stratospheric shield. it was a huge change as a result
of this volcano. there are some scientist that want to mimic nature or recreate. you could run around dynamite volcanos. that puts junk in the air that you don't want. they like to do the targeted guard hose to the sky when you spritz sulfur that would be enough to mimic what it does. and essentially form a shield to cool the earth. it sounds absurd, it sounds like science fiction. is sounds like there's all kinds of dangers. one the reason why this propoa sal is being considered, because the nature proof does exist. > host: sulfur is natural? >> yes. what we are advocating is this kind of solution be put on the
table in addition to carbon mitigation ideas. because if the problem is bad enough to worry about a lot, which we think it is. then you should look for a solution to cool the earth, rather than just graduately cut down on carbon. >> i think the key thing about this, either of the two schemes that dubner just described, putting the clouds over the ocean, or the sulfur dioxide stratosphere shield is reversible. you could build them today. up and running. we will get immediate feedback on if they cooled the earth. even if we were to stabilize or cut, it'd be 30 or 50 years before we started to field the effects. it seems to me -- like if you thought about this differently and said there are two ways to solve the problem. spent $1 trillion. the thing that people don't talk about is how expensive to our
economy these -- this carbon mitigation to be. 2% of our gdp will be spent cutting carbon. maybe that you just want to cut carbon. there are moral reasons why you think that putting a lot of carbon into the air is wad. it's just the wrong thing to do. if you really, the primary reason is you want to keep the earth cool, i think we have better solutions of keeping the earth cool. you can ask different questions. right? it's a band-aid. making more clouds. they are band-aids. if you keep on putting carbon in the air, it will make it hotter. on the other hand, i think it's wrong to think about carbon dioxide as a pois. it is not necessarily a pollutant in the same sense. there's evidence from environmentalist that shows when you have more in the air, plants grow better. in greenhouses, they inject a lot into the air.
we kind of got into carbon is bad. i mean it does make the planet hotter. if it didn't do that, even ken caldera was someone who wants to get a total ban on carbon, says that all else equal, we'd rather have more carbon in the air, than less. >> i think the other important thing is two possible reactions. let's say there was a stratospheric shield put up. there will be congressional hearings in a few days on geoengineering. it's fascinating to see this part of climate science having get a little spotlight. because we think it's very much worth considering at least. but if you think about two of the possible reactions to let's say a stratospheric shield. the real downside would be that
it creates what you call an excuse to pollute. they are cooling the earth, so boom barrel ahead. and do exactly what you've been doing without acknowledging what the other consequences of that might be. that's the downside. there's the very big downside. the upside is it buys you time. if warming is the problem. if all of the other energy issues, how do we make clean energy. if we need to do that, we could use some more time? it seems the case. because we are not there yet. if that's the case, if you have a solution that could keep the earth at a manageable temperature. again, as ken the climate scientist that we write about at some length. we makes the point that there is no magic temperature for the earth. there is no magic carbon dioxide level. it's changed many times in a couple of directions over the course of our planet. what you do want to avoid is
rapid change, because rapid change is generally catastrophic change. then it would be great to have, you know, one way to think of it is when you build a house, you try to do everything you can. and that's one of the great marks of progress of the 21st century. we have gotten much better at stopping fires and so on. we try to do everything you can. but you also to want have a sprinkler system. we hope that the house is not burning down. if there is a chance, you want a sprinkler system in the house. >> one thing that brings out. we talked about that. this is very controversial solution amount scientists. for one of the reasons that you just brought up. you can imagine a se their owe that we know that carbon dioxide is warming the earth. we just know that. you create the shield made of the particles. and china sort of says, oh, that was a close one.
fire up some more coal plants. over time what you end up having the situation in which humans have to do more and more of the planetary climate in order to handle what we know of the element with very, very long until death. and if you have the scenario happen, you do end up in the situation. i want to read something from the beginning of the book. you talk about the vision of freakonomics, one of the biggest law is the law of unintended consequences. what the scientist would say, is isn't that it doesn't work in theory. but it's dangerous to do this. we have a natural experiment to the carbon dioxide. we know where there's more, the earth gets hotter. less, it would cool down. with the ash, that went away. we don't know what would happen if we had to keep belching into
the atmosphere for a fairly undetermined or potentially forever. i think the matrix had one vision. it is not the right vision. but it was bad to scorch the skies. you end up with the situation. early in the book, we should be very modest in how we look at this. we should be careful. a lot of things we think to be true, don't work in practice. but on this, we've only got one earth. and it seems a big -- it seems a fairly big risk. >> right. >> but it's a risk that's bigger to ignore these things and watch the earth heat up, and, you know, things like ice to melt. i really wish we had listened who had this idea that could have kept the earth cold while we figure out other ways to pull carbon out of the air. here's my belief. my belief is that -- and we haven't talked about this. that these solutions are unbelievably cheap. so for less than the cost of al
gore's last bigoted campaign, they could build the two solution that is we described and likely stabilize the tv. it might be just a band-aid. i'm not saying it's permanent. but at least it could give us the time that dubner talked about. okay? but what i think is not been discussed much is that it's gotten out of many, many jams in the past. one that we never thought we could solve. then suddenly we solve them. the amount of effort that has gone into issues of geoengineering, as time goes by, we will think of cheaper and better ways to get carbon out of the air, once we put it there. maybe we never will. maybe we'll be left in the situation. but to say that there is a license to pollute. it's not that clear that it's pollution if the earth isn't warm. >> it's just the carbon
dioxide. >> exactly. but the coast goes down radically. which is why people think they are going to do more. we should never allow to have people to have seat belt in the car. one you put it in the car, now i'm less likely to die, i'm going to drive more recklessly. we still think we allow the steps to reduce the damage. we should not allow doctors to work on, you know, solutions to diabetes. that gives people a license to get overweight. and as long as we reduce the consequence of being overweight, people are going to be overweight. >> host: do you believe it should be done with things like cap-and-trade. >> my view at the current time the cost is really, really expensive of. i think if you took a year or two, we're learning a lot. we're learning a lot by years and decades.
if we greatly reduced our carbon today, we will feel the benefits in 50 years. if we greatly do it in three years we will see the benefits in 53 years. i think the amount that we will learn, i'd rather wait on carbon to have other ways to control the temperature. it really is, the thing that we are worried about is temperature. there are other thing that is are important. things that are on a much longer timetable. but i will be clear. this is an opinion of mine. that most of what we try to do here is based on a mix of science and economics. this is a kind of -- this is a little further of field. this is really an opinion that informed by the economics. and i think the economics has not gotten nearly enough part of this debate. that you can't just think about benefits. you got to think about the cost of the mitigation. and it is incredibly expensive. you used to think of a trillion dollars is a lot. maybe with the bailout, we're not a ton of money. so let me pretend to be ezra for
one second. is this another case of economic imperrism? is this another case that the economist are saying, climate science, we can be helpful there. we can apply models and a celt of theory. a way of thinking about the problem in a way that can improve upon the current thinking. if so, how and why. >> i think the take is given the knowledge that climate scientist have are generated. what i try to do is to put that together with what we know in economics about what you do when things are very uncertain. there are thing that is economist know about the decision making and uncertainty. and you think about the cost side and the benefit side. it's the value of waiting. the option. one of the important contribution is thinking about option value. and how the value of waiting and the ability to wait is incredibly valuable. so i think there is a role in this debate for economist that hasn't been prominent enough.
do i i think that economist should determine the debate? absolutely not. they are completely dependent on the scientist to do the science part. at the same time, i think they have not been respecting the economic of it. the climate scientist are really often operating under the idea that there's a combination of science what's right and what is moral. they've been using those two pieces. but there's the economic piece that's left out. >> host: among other things -- this is the last question before we hew on. there are two implications, economist are in agreement on this. which as far as discipline, i understand this is more towards like taxes which a lot of them aren't as comfortable and haven't done a lot of work. number two, this is what the climate scientist would say. we gain a lot from having a couple of extra years. it doesn't have it. it builds up and remains. it's a big point.
it's incredibly long. if we let it get to that concentration, then we get to the situation forever. if we let go of the politics now, they don't move forward. what is the risk of waiting? >> not very much. the risk of waiting for one year is small. we've already waited 50 years. the difference between 50 and 51. it's the exact kind of situation. you already have a huge stock in the air. the flow relative is small. and then the benefits come way far away. i should say the cost come way far away. and the cost of having put too much. the difference -- when you think about the difference in what you'd pay to, you know, have the earth have a little bit less carbon dioxide 51 versus 52 years. you wouldn't pay that much. i really think that the economics of it, which are
surprising. which catch people offguard so they that what you want to do is take the steps that will give you you -- the that are cheap, and that will allow you to get information about the likelihood of global catastrophe as quickly as possible. and if you learn that we are heading, then of course you pull out all of the stops. then you say, if we wait three years, we realize that it things are much worse than we thought. leave the shield on. that's great. that's keeping us cool. we have to basically cut carbon completely out of production. completely. then we -- it really cost us anything. if we are going to cut it out completely, well a few more years of flow aren't going to matter that much. i think it's -- i think these are tricky questions to think about. but if you actually start writing down the models, i think that you are -- until you really think that there's a very high chance of global catastrophe very soon, you don't -- you got
to feel nervous. when you have two options. if you had no other options, then you have to think hard. but when you have other options that buy you time, it does. and i mean in some sense, it gives you a license to pollute in the short run so that you can figure out how costly it is. because the hard thing about it is what's the task? how big should it be? what does it cost? we have no idea of the cost. with we know there's going to be the end of humanity, then it should be big. if it's just going to be the one in a million chance of being humanity. there's the tax will be smaller. nobody shows what the tax should be. the politics are going to be where we sort it out. there's no guarantee that we get the right. i think the longer we wait, the better chance we have. >> for the final questions, i'm going to create the freakonomics advice. one small and one large. you are a fascinating chapter on
the economist on prostitution. much of it focused on ali who is a blog reader who got in touch. i guess she's a high-class prostitute. she's made a fair amount of money. now she turned out well. now she's in an economic course in an university. my question is 18-year-old daughter called you and said i'm considering follow her example. what advice would you have for her? >> i don't want my daughter to be a prostitute. but i think that it's -- i think that's a weakness of societal dialogue when we with can't appreciate that our preferences aren't other people's preferences. even if the number of women who would want to lead the live is one in 100,000. and even though it's illegal, it doesn't mean that people like us can't write about it and try to learn. i think that's one thing that's
interesting especially about being in this town. where policy is almost a zero sum game. but preciouses become to be scene as a zerosome game. if yours are yours, they cannot be mine. with that, we lose sight that people do believe and prefer to act differencely. it's what makes politics. you cannot see how a guy like him could think that way. because it's so is far. so my preferenceset and my preferenceset for my daughter would be very, very different from allies. doesn't mean that there isn't something in that that's enlightening. it's also in line, it's not a judgment that we are making. this is not about good, bad, right, wrong. this is what it is. whether you want to observe, or like a lot of people in d.c. want to fix or change. i think the essential foundation for it to know what's going on. if you know that's a women like ali can make $500 an hour. that's a strong insight into
understanding why someone will do that. >> i would legalize prostitution. i agree with you. i'm not suggesting that people shouldn't go into it. what i'm saying is what does the chapter teach you? what does it teach you about the economists of prostitution? because as you say, you went in and less thanked a lot about it. it's an area where there's not a lot of data. if you are high-end, the last thing that you want is legalized. she's figure out how to get through the barriers to entry. she know her wage would go down. she says she wouldn't want it to be legalized. i think the other thing -- what you learn, i think -- what i learn from doing the study. i think the study of the street prostituted of all that's ever done, it might have been the one that i learn the most from. it's such a window in how the intercity works. and things you would never
imagine like the fact that in chicago, prostitute, a street prostitute is much likely to have sex than to be arrested by a police officers. it's just over and over on all of these different dimensions. i was shocked by the things that we discovered. i think in some sense, it starts to give you into the policy more generally. and what you might try to do with their cities. and so -- >> and then to move from the individual over to the macro. you have a couple of chapters about health care. you have a lot of data. here's what we are trying to fix. you didn't have to get the votes, and everything else. what did your data lead to you believe about how to fix the health care system? >> i'll start. i mean i think not that much. i think that the data that i have that we've looked at on health care are very specific
parts of the problem. and i don't think that are quite right to inform a big debate. i'll tell you what economist would say, it's that health care is a market where there's a huge effect between the people who are paying and the choices that are made. so when i go to the store, and i want to buy oranges or apples. i, you know, they cost me 50 cent, i decide how many to buy. if i want to buy a car, i pay for it. i think if we have to rationalize, the stronger that we can make the connections between what people are buying and what they are paying is going to be the answer. that's number one not a political very viable answer. number two what it really competes with the insurance component of health care. right? if you pay on the margin, then you don't have insurance. i think what ultimately, i'm not saying you should let the economist run the world.
i think it would be an disaster. we had catastrophic, but more or less, it would be the less popular set up you could have. but i think we could have more rational decisions. >> i'll add one thing to that. one story that we write about in the book is about one commodity that's always in short spy. we tell the story of the fellow at washington hospital center who realized that it was really damaging. it was damaging not to just people's health but to cost hugely. so they decided that the best way to improve care and cut cost was harnessing information, analyzing and using it better in a treatment and financial sense. the good news their system has caught on. what we see is cost saving that come from simple fixes like manipulating and handling
information can go a long way medically and financially. >> well, thank you both so much. i think for us, steven levitt and steven deboner, -- dubner, author of the new book "super freakonomics." >> did you know you can view book tv online. type the subject into the search area. select the watch link. now you can view the entire program. you might also explore the recently on book tv box or the featured programs box to find and view research and featured programs. q. next on book tv,