Stop me if you’ve heard this one: You come across an important piece of news about the world, and while you know what it’s saying matters, the terms and figures mean very little to you.
Inflation, consumer price index, unemployment, trade and budget deficits and the like, all sound critical to our everyday lives. And they are critical. Yet that doesn’t make them easy to understand for most people.
Still one can get the impression that every informed person around them knows these concepts inside and out, while we’re left wondering what they all really mean.
Listening about Economics
Full disclosure: I love podcasts and I have since I was in college in the 2000s. I often found them more current, interesting and easy to understand than my university lectures ever were. A podcast is also more digestible than a book or a series of academic papers. Still, none of these podcasts or companies are affiliated with BudgetBakers in any way. They’re simply a few of my favorite podcasts.
Some people need to get information visually, and that’s why many of the podcasts I’ll be mentioning today also provide transcripts of their shows on their websites, so you can read at your own pace.
Now, here are 8 podcasts that might actually make economics fun:
The granddaddy of all economics podcasts is probably PRI’s Planet Money. At over 1400 episodes as of 2021, Planet Money was an early trailblazer among shows native to the world of podcasts. The show began way back in 2008 as a spin-off of PRI’s highly popular radio show This American Life, and their landmark episode The Giant Pool of Money, which helped explain the 2008 financial crisis to millions of people around the world.
13 years later and Planet Money is still doing great work explaining economics through the lens of real life news stories, and investigative journalism.
Slate’s Money with Felix Salmon
Another popular podcast that offers a well-rounded selection of current stories, economic history and business news is Slate’s Money podcast. This is more of a current events podcasts where financial journalists discuss the situation of public markets, business, and economics in general. The show often features contributions from writers for The New Yorker, Vox, the Atlantic, and many other media outlets.
Another long-time favorite of economics listeners is Freakonomics Radio, presented by a co-author of the popular book series by the same name, which challenges traditional assumptions about how money and markets work.
By the way, if you haven’t read the books Freakonomics, or its sequel Super-Freakonomics, I highly recommend it as a fun introduction to some big economics concepts, put into a format and using examples that humanize and make these ideas accessible.
Ok, this isn’t exactly a podcast, but it’s too good to ignore. Audible, the subscription audiobooks and podcast platform, includes many of the “Great Courses” lecture series as part of their premium plus subscription program. This saves you quite a bit of money as the original course can cost up to $70 by itself, but it’s also possible to buy the course directly from Audible for a very fair price.
Unlike your typical podcast, The Great Courses is a fixed set of lectures like in a university, and even includes reading assignments, but the ability to listen at your own pace and repeat lectures whenever you desire makes this classic course from Stanford lecturer Timothy Taylor a must listen.
EconTalk with Russ Roberts
This show is more of an interview format similar to shows such as NPR’s Fresh Air. Each hour-long episode focuses on a single guest who has an interested perspective or message on the economy or related topics.
- Thrilling Tales of Modern Capitalism, with Seth Stevenson
Another offering from Slate media, this podcast focuses on specific companies, including popular brands everyone has heard of, and presents in-depth histories of how these companies came to be successful… or failed. Want to know the story of how Marvel became a company? This is your podcast. Want to know about the founders of Airbnb? This is your chance. With their 20-40 minut digestible episodes, you’ll be impressing your friends with your business history knowledge in no time.
Behind the Bastards by Robert Evans
While this irreverent and politically satirical show isn’t just about economics, it does tackle some of the biggest challenges of economic history by focusing on “The Bastards,” a series of characters from history, many of whom did terrible things for money, power, or both.
This show definitely has a left-of-center political opinion, but its hour-long multi-part episodes are also thoroughly researched, and often represent a fair and accurate picture of complex historical figures.
Listener Advisory: Harsh Language
History of Rome by Mike Duncan
Mike Duncan’s universally applauded history podcast, which ran for over 5 years, is a must listen. Why? Because learning from the past is the best way to prevent history from repeating itself. The lessons we can learn today from Roman history, including and especially the economic challenges that the West’s first great empire faced, are as vital as they have ever been.
Is the whole history of Rome the story of an economic rise and fall? No, but economic history is absolutely key to understanding how economics functions in today’s world. You may not be a history nerd, but this is a deep and spellbinding tale of the ancient world that will leave you wanting more, and thinking about how history doesn’t repeat, but it definitely rhymes.