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The Boiling Frog
Seth Rosenblatt and Mark Olbert
Reflections on the intersection of economics, history, politics, psychology, and science
Apr 17, 2023
This podcast is all about labor unions – why they exist, their history in the U.S., a brief comparison with unions in other countries, the pros and cons of unions, and the larger political implications of their existence. This is a controversial topic in U.S. politics, with many voters (and most elected officials) falling squarely into the “pro-union” or “anti-union” camp. But as with most issues, the truth is much more nuanced and complicated. Labor unions in the U.S. formed – and largely still exist – because of failures in market capitalism. As discussed in our very first podcast, capitalism is based on a number of principles to ensure resources are most efficiently allocated, but in real life those principles are rarely met. This is particularly pronounced in the labor market, which is fraught with friction and often monopsony employers.
Feb 17, 2023
Jump for Joy
Building off the prior podcast on learning from the past, this discussion is all about success and failure. We all know the common wisdom that we all learn more from failure than from success, but of course we don’t strive to fail all of the time!
Dec 31, 2022
The Toad Not Taken
We all spend a lot of time thinking about the past, often when we're trying to make a decision in the present. Sometimes that reflection ends up complicating our decision-making. Why is that? And if we want to avoid repeating past mistakes while also not preventing ourselves from taking new paths, what's the proper way to use our knowledge of the past?
Dec 11, 2022
What makes someone an expert? And how is expertise different from intelligence? This podcast is all about expertise, how we acquire it, how do people view others’ expertise, and the notion of expertise transference from one domain to another. We touch on a number of psychological phenomena, including the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability at a task overestimate that ability.
Dec 1, 2022
It’s Not Easy Paying Green
This podcast is the sequel to Greenbacks, where we discussed why we have taxes, the different types of taxes, and the pros and cons of each type. In this podcast, we delve into the evolution of the tax system and look at the debates surrounding the level of tax rates, specifically some of the false choices presented in political discussions. And we delve deeply into one of the most famous “tax revolts” in U.S. history, California’s Proposition 13.
Nov 21, 2022
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin This podcast is the first in a two-part series on taxes. This episode is meant to be an overview of why we have taxes, the landscape of both taxing agencies and taxable agencies, as well as the different types of taxes. (It is recommended that listeners start with The Boiling Frog’s very first podcast on capitalism before listening to this one).
Oct 28, 2022
Hops and Dreams
For the tenth episode, your favorite pond dwellers decided to take a break from the normal, big-picture, topic-based discussions and instead shared their personal pet peeves, including both important as well as some silly issues. This twentieth episode is also a diversion from the normal format, but your amphibious friends decided to do the “opposite” of pet peeves – in this case talk about reasons to be hopeful about the future. This was certainly a challenging discussion as previous podcast discussions could lead all of us to be very pessimistic about the fate of American democracy and our planet.
Oct 15, 2022
Toad to the White House
This episode is a deep dive into the foundational requirement of a democracy – having elections and voting. Despite the founding (and often touted) principles of American democracy, it is shockingly inconsistent how we implement it. All U.S. citizens do not have an equal voice, the result of structural inequities in the system (e.g., the U.S. Senate), the leveraging of power to maintain power (e.g. Gerrymandering), the influence of money in primarily privately-funded elections, and a stubborn reliance on 18th and 19th century tools to solve 21st century problems.
Sep 29, 2022
Waste, Frog and Abuse
It’s a fairly common trope – and often an overused campaign line – that government is “wasteful.” But what does it mean to be “wasteful” (or “efficient” for that matter), and is it true that governments aren’t good stewards of our money? As you can imagine, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it may appear. And if there’s one thing we at the Boiling Frog love to do, it’s dive into things that aren’t straightforward! So have a listen to our latest podcast, Waste, Frog and Abuse!
Sep 11, 2022
Leap of Faith
The intersection of religion and politics, particularly in the U.S., has presented a series of issues and challenges. Starting with a very brief overview of the origin and history of religion, and how it has impacted human societies, we then dive into how religion and politics interact in the U.S. We explore that interaction in depth by focusing on Roe v. Wade and how Donald Trump was able to forge alliances with many fundamentalist Christian churches despite not living the kind of life those churches encourage their adherents to live. Given the importance and value of religion to so many people, what can we do to both accentuate the benefits and minimize or manage the risks it poses, particularly in the political sphere?
Aug 28, 2022
Frogs and Prayers
In our current political climate, it seems like both policymakers and ordinary citizens are prone to use a label for something that sounds intelligent or interesting on the surface, but often masks a lack of substance or critical thinking. This matters more than you might think! If you'd like to know why, check out the latest installment from your amphibious friends at The Boiling Frog.
Aug 5, 2022
A Frog by Any Other Name
It seems like every public facility – whether it be a building, bridge, airport, school, or park – is named after someone. Naming public things is so common, so accepted as a practice, that we don’t even think about why we do it, let alone debate whether we should or how we should do it. But is it as simple and straightforward a thing to do as we all seem to think? Or are there consequences which should be considered? In this podcast Seth and Mark debate the pros and cons of naming.
Jun 30, 2022
Croak and Dagger
This podcast focuses on paranoia, particularly its delusional form – why it exists, why it seems to be becoming a more common affliction, the dangers it poses, and what we can do about it. Paranoia is thinking and feeling like you are being threatened in some way, but delusional paranoia is when there is sufficient evidence that a reasonable third party would conclude there’s no threat. Delusional paranoia is akin to an addiction and unfortunately can have very dangerous, even deadly, consequences.
Jun 21, 2022
I Croak Therefore I Am
In 2011, then presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously remarked “corporations are people, my friend” when confronted by hecklers at the Iowa State Fair. He was mocked and derided in many circles for this comment, which seemed to represent a politician blinded by his own corporate experience and success. But Romney was at least partially correct. in order to understand why we have corporate personhood, as well as to analyze what limits it should or should not have, one must examine both the nature of the corporation itself as well as the history of rights granted to these “fictional” entities. This podcast gives a brief history of the corporation and an overview of its various forms, at least in the U.S., and discusses the challenges our recent expansion of corporate rights has created.
Jun 14, 2022
Warts and All
While serving as locally elected officials, we’d hear all the time from residents asking us why government didn’t act more like a business. After all, isn’t it capitalism that made this country great, so why doesn’t government operate in the same way? This podcast explores why most of us wouldn't want government to act like a business while highlighting areas where government can learn from business. It ends with some recommendations on what we can each do to ensure government doesn't get overwhelmed by the misapplication of business principles.
May 27, 2022
It feels like America has gotten dumber over the last few decades. Is that indeed true, and if so, why? As that is a bit vague and pejorative, the podcast looks at more specific issues, including ignorance, intellectual stubbornness, and lack of critical thinking.
May 6, 2022
Toad You So
For this tenth episode, Seth and Mark decided to have a little fun and stray from the modus operandi of the first nine episodes of The Boiling Frog. Just for fun, our hosts make this episode a series of diatribes, fulfilling the expectations of Seth’s wife who, when first told about our idea for a podcast, asked “what are you going to call it...the angry rantings of two old white men?” This special episode is a fun and mostly light discussion about our hosts’ personal pet peeves, some rooted in issues discussed in previous podcasts and some just random rantings of old white privileged men. Issues discussed range from the sublime (making capitalism more efficient) to the ridiculous (names on football uniforms). If you have your own pet peeve you’d like to share, please send us a note as we’d love to read about it!
Apr 15, 2022
Risk is a concept not well understood by many people, particularly in a financial context. In this podcast we explore what it means in depth, why it is often a balancing factor for rewards, and how a better understanding of risk and reward can lead to better community outcomes.
Apr 1, 2022
A follow up from The Changing Lily Pad, this podcast explores why corruption exists, where it comes from and why it appears that there is more corruption in people and organizations that are conservative.
Mar 23, 2022
“Wokeness” and “Cancel Culture” are popular terms in our modern political and social parlance, but what do they actually mean? How should we think about the concept of “canceling” – is it behavior gone too far, or is it just about accountability?
Feb 24, 2022
Jumping to Conclusions
How Hindsight Bias is not just an academic concept, but rather a critical flaw in human’s ability to think critically and avoid logical fallacies, particularly in issues of crime and gun rights.
Feb 19, 2022
The Amphibian's Dilemma
How a very simple concept in game theory – the Prisoner’s Dilemma – is omnipresent in our economic lives and in almost all social interactions, and the tension between individual incentives and societal good.
Feb 8, 2022
Lord of the Frogs
A discussion of the role of the local elected representative, the nature of political leadership particularly in a group setting, the traps that electeds fall into, and what we have learned from being local officials.
Jan 24, 2022
Makes Me Unhoppy
How understanding externalities is critical for both economics and public policy, but also how the claim of harm is often without merit but used as an argument against change, to protect one’s self-interest, or otherwise for political purposes.
Jan 14, 2022
The Changing Lily Pad
Understanding the conflict between progressivism vs. conservatism, particularly in the context of local communities…and the case that change is both inevitable and desirable. For more information, please visit our website at https://www.theboilingfrog.net.
Jan 3, 2022
How social psychology requires us to reframe how we view market capitalism, what makes it successful and the government's role in maximizing its potential.