Words & Numbers-logo

Words & Numbers

News & Politics Podcasts >

Words & Numbers touches on issues of Economics, Political Science, Current Events and Policy. Each Wednesday we'll be sharing a new Words & Numbers podcast featuring Antony Davies Ph.D and James Harrigan Ph.D talking about the economic and political aspects of current events.

Words & Numbers touches on issues of Economics, Political Science, Current Events and Policy. Each Wednesday we'll be sharing a new Words & Numbers podcast featuring Antony Davies Ph.D and James Harrigan Ph.D talking about the economic and political aspects of current events.
More Information


United States


Words & Numbers touches on issues of Economics, Political Science, Current Events and Policy. Each Wednesday we'll be sharing a new Words & Numbers podcast featuring Antony Davies Ph.D and James Harrigan Ph.D talking about the economic and political aspects of current events.






The Good Old Days Weren’t All That Good

People like to talk about the “good old days” where everything used to be so much better than it is today. Everybody feels nostalgic on occasion, and it’s perfectly normal to misremember the past, but were the good old days really all that great? Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they compare then and now on the 100th episode of Words and Numbers. Quick Hits: Cat parasite Elizabeth Warren Foolishness of the Week: NY Times crossword Topic of the week: Comparing Life Today to Life...


Buying Kidneys with an Ethics Professor

Happy 2019, everyone! On our first episode of Words & Numbers in the new year, professor James Stacey Taylor joins Antony and James this week to discuss the ethical implications of creating markets for human organs. According to Prof. Taylor, nearly 18 people a day die from a shortage of kidney donors. Economists have argued for decades that these kinds of markets could save lives by creating better incentives for people to donate their organs to people in dire need, but critics say that...


Trump, Adams, and Sedition

Within less than a decade of ratification of the Bill of Rights, President John Adams signed the Sedition Act, which blatantly violated the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Since that time, the Supreme Court has repeatedly taken a firm stand in defense of the First Amendment against government encroachment. Yet, within the past couple of years, we’ve heard Congressional Democrats and now a Republican President call for restrictions of both the...


Americans Are Remarkably Charitable

Americans have the distinct reputation of being incredibly selfish. All things considered, it’s not exactly unearned. That said, every year, Americans also quietly give a rather astonishingly large amount of money to charities, particularly during the holiday season. Over $400 billion, in fact, 75 percent of which was for those less fortunate. And that’s simply the cash and goods. Beyond that, 60 million Americans each donated an average of 120 hours of their time to charities. This is,...


What Is Money, Anyway?

Money is one of those things that is so ubiquitous, so completely taken for granted, that we rarely stop to think about what it actually is. The colored bits of paper that we call dollars don’t have any particular worth on their own, yet we use them as though they do. John Locke, in 1689 when he wrote his Second Treatise of Government, touched on it, hinting at the three qualities money possesses. But what are those three things? What happens when one or more of those three attributes is...


Why No One Can “Steal” a Job

We hear a lot about jobs, these days. We have monthly government jobs reports. Our politicians talk about job creation. Some people fear others will “take our jobs!” But what is a job? Is it the prize of some sort of economic vending machine where you have a few inputs, press a few buttons, and out comes a shiny new job? Is it an empty space at a company that needs to be filled? Or is it something else altogether? Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they talk about this and more on this...


Facebook Is Awful, but What’s the Alternative?

It’s no secret that social media is in a bit of a shambles. The big players like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are purging accounts, censoring content, and mining data. Many users are very unhappy with them. But what alternatives do we have? Maybe more than you think. Join James Harrigan and Antony Davies along with Minds.com founder Bill Ottman as they talk about social media alternatives and more on this week’s episode of Words and Numbers. Show Notes: Small business Saturday Dimming...


Focus on the Principles, Not the Outcomes

There was once a time when politicians were civil to each other. Neighbors and friends who disagreed politically remained neighborly and friendly to each other. Opponents were graceful in defeat and generous in victory. But somewhere along the line, we lost that. These days, it seems that all there is is vitriol and hate. That is what happens when an electorate focuses solely on the outcomes that they want instead of the principles they believe in. What are these principles and why do they...


America Is Not a Democracy

In the wake of the midterm elections, there’s been a lot of talk about democracy and how it works. Many—largely on the left—are confused and angry because, despite garnering the higher number of votes, Democrats failed to take a majority of seats in the Senate. This demonstrates a basic misunderstanding about American government, the electoral process, and how they work. Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they break it down for us on this week’s episode of Words and Numbers. Show...


It’s Not the Government’s Job to Provide Goods and Services

“It’s the most important election in history.” That’s the rhetoric you see plastered across the news and social media. Perhaps, people view this election as such because they believe it to be the government’s job to provide things for them. This is apparent on both sides of the aisle. Democrats want free health care and education. Republicans want a border wall and tariffs on imported goods. But, is it the government’s job to provide services that Democrats want? Is the government a tool of...


What’s So Creative about Destruction?

Economists use the term “creative destruction” a fair amount, but what does it actually mean? It generally refers to a company going out of business, or sometimes whole sectors of the economy vanishing as disruptive technologies and strategies come into play. It is very easy to see the “destruction” part of creative destruction. We see the empty storefronts and people out of work because the businesses they worked for couldn’t afford to pay them anymore. We point fingers and lament the loss...


A Raging Dumpster Fire of Injustice

Canada recently legalized the possession and use of marijuana and proposed legislation to pardon those previously convicted of such “crimes.” So, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at how such things are handled in the United States. While, yes, in the majority of states, there is some provision for certain kinds of legal use of marijuana—including full legalization in a few—the fact remains that the plant itself remains completely illegal at the federal level. In aggregate, across...


When Is This Year’s “Deficit Day”?

Imagine, if you will, that the United States federal government somehow received all of the money it normally would for the entire year on January 1st. The day it would have spent it all and started deficit spending (that is, spending money it simply doesn’t have) could be dubbed “Deficit Day.” This year, 2018, that day falls on October 19th. From this day until the end of the year, the US Federal Government is spending money it doesn’t have to the tune of about $11 billion per day. So what...


Why Do We Even Have Trade Agreements, Anyway?

When it comes to free trade agreements, ideally they should be very short. Four words would suffice: “Trade will be free.” But politicians being what they are, what we (that is to say, Mexico, Canada, and the United States) actually have to replace NAFTA is a 1,800-page tome called the USMCA. Hundreds of pages of caveats doesn’t sound very much like free trade. That said, this trade agreement, like all trade agreements, rests on the the myth that it is countries that trade with each other....


Words and Numbers Listener Special #2

In this episode, we’re answering listener questions. What’s going on with this scary, dystopian Chinese social credit system? What government agency would you get rid of? What happens when religious leaders (allowed to freely exercise their faith as enshrined in the First Amendment) don’t allow their followers the right of free speech (also enshrined in the First Amendment)? Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they answer these listener questions and more on this week’s second Listener...


Are We Living Madison’s Nightmare?

Worries about mob rule have been around longer than our Constitution. Indeed, James Madison wrote about the problems of “factions” in what we’ve come to call the Federalist Papers. We like to think that our three branches of government with their checks and balances are impervious to the evils of faction. But today we may be living Madison’s nightmare. Join Antony Davies and James Harrigan as they discuss this and more on this week’s episode of Words and Numbers. Show Notes Controlling...


Price-Gouging Bans Don’t Make Things Cheaper, They Make Them More Scarce

Imposing “price gouging” bans after a natural disaster doesn’t actually help anybody. On paper, it looks ideal. Shoppers who don’t have funds and didn’t prepare for the storm can still afford to buy everything, even if it’s completely last-minute and a bit of a race to the finish line. But the reality is that price-gouging laws don’t make things better, nor do they make things fairer. In the face of a category 1 hurricane like Florence, they just create more scarcity and destroy incentives...


How the Meanings of "Liberal" and "Conservative" Have Changed

Conservative and liberal: probably the two most commonly used words to describe a person’s political affiliations. And, of course, we all know that Republicans are all conservatives and Democrats are all liberals, and this is the way it’s always been. Right? Well, no, not really. The way that we’ve come to understand these terms currently has drifted pretty far afield of the way these words have been used previously. Join James Harrigan and Antony Davies as they get super-semantic about...


Capitalism Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

The word “capitalism” has become incredibly loaded over the years. And since the term was actually popularized by Karl Marx to be the foil for his own ideology, that’s fairly understandable. It brings to mind all of the very worst aspects embodied by the elite, greedy, rent-seeking Gordon Geckos of the world, hoarding their capital resources like dragons on a pile of gold and profiting from the hard work of laborers while doing nothing productive themselves. This characterization, while...


Despite Its Rebranding, Socialism Is Still Horrific

We’re experiencing the rise of a new kind of socialist. The original definition of socialism—state ownership of the means of production—is beginning to fall by the wayside. What self-proclaimed socialists are asking for now is for the state to control the means of production. While this might seem like a pedantic distinction, it’s an important one. But the rebranding of socialism by democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez still fails to take into account the...