Letters: Carrots and sticks, Google searches

Kai Ryssdal Feb 6, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: I know what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but that’s a little tricky when you put it on the radio. We took the show to Nevada Friday, ahead of the caucuses there, looking at the economy and politics.

Listener Lois Barliant from Chicago had this to say about our coverage on a day when the unemployment report was actually pretty good. “Leave it to Marketplace to rain on the economy when the numbers get better,” she wrote. “Let’s turn to Nevada and go to depressed real estate areas to see just how bad we can make people feel on a Friday night, so they don’t do anything to contribute to the economy over the weekend except, perhaps, gamble and drink.”

In a commentary Wednesday, Amity Shlaes criticized the way President Obama’s treating American businesses.

Amity Shlaes: President Obama plans to build much of his election-year policy agenda around carrots and sticks. In Obama’s world, businesses and business people are the rabbits in need of behavioral change.

Josh Bolick from Tallahassee, Fla., was just one of many who wrote to point out she got the reference wrong.

Josh Bolick: The carrot and stick idiom doesn’t refer to rabbits at all, but to donkeys or mules, who are well known for their intransigence. Perhaps the mule might bear more resemblance to our economy anyway.

Finally, what Google can teach us. I talked to behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan last Monday, in part about how Google’s autocomplete function can tell you a little about what people think.

That had Julia Brodsky and her sons Laurel and Andrew in Boulder, Colo., trying out a few searches of their own.

Julia Brodsky: For example, ‘Why is my house — haunted?’ ‘Why is my sister — such a jerk?’ ‘Why are Californians — linked to autism?’ ‘Why are Americans — so fat?’ My kids guessed this one before we even started typing.

As always, let us know what you think.

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