Nick Fountain

Nick Fountain is a producer on Planet Money. Previously, he produced and directed NPR's Morning Edition. The hours were terrible, but the work was fun: He produced interviews with world leaders, witnesses to history, musicians, authors and directors. He also chose the music that went between stories, and directed the live show. In 2014, he traveled to Cuba to report on the changing economy. He once worked at WBUR Boston, KQED San Francisco, KUSP Santa Cruz, a DC farmers market, a fancy cabinet shop, and a baseball stadium. He's the reigning world champion of Belt Sander Racing. He tweets @nickfountain.

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This morning, the winners of the Nobel Prize in economics were announced. The prize will be split by two economists, William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Nick Fountain from our Planet Money podcast is with me now. Good morning, Nick.

At Planet Money, we usually tackle the big questions. Not today.

This time, we relish small changes, proposed by smart people, that would make the world a bit fairer. (By the way, we've done this before.)

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Every August, thousands of people get together for the world's longest yard sale. It runs 690 miles from Alabama to Michigan. Nick Fountain and Karen Duffin from our Planet Money podcast drove the whole entire thing looking for economic stories.

Every August, thousands of people converge on The World's Longest Yard Sale. It spans from Alabama to Michigan. We decided to drive the whole thing, to see 690 miles of microeconomics at work.

We follow a yard sale fanatic on her quest to find the perfect bed frame, and learn her strategies for getting the best deals. We buy some records from a man who decides he wants to buy them back. And we pick up some 70s amber goblets, a baseball bat, an ugly cat cookie jar... you get the idea.

Walls, doors, privacy--if you work a desk job in America you probably do not have have these luxuries anymore.

This is the age of the open office, of half-cubicles and clustered desks, of huge rooms of long communal tables with white-collar workers shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes wearing $350 noise-cancelling headphones to block out the clatter. Then over to the side, maybe there's an airy lounge space with sofas and a comfy chair or two. Maybe there's even a ping pong table on the way to the bathroom.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2016.

Note: This episode originally aired in 2015.

The most valuable thing about a yellow taxicab in New York isn't the car. It's actually this little metal shield bolted to the hood. It's called a taxi medallion. There are only about 13,000 taxi medallions in existence. And Gene Freidman owns over a thousand of them.

Not too long ago, these medallions were selling for $1.2 million each. Gene Freidman liked to boast about how much he paid for them, often with borrowed money.

Class actions have been around for centuries. But the modern version was created in the 1960s — in part by a young lawyer working on a manual typewriter in the back seat of a car. At the time, class actions were seen as a way to advance the civil rights movement.

Today, thousands of class actions are filed every year. Some of them are still about civil rights. But they're also about things questions like: Is there enough pepper in this tin of pepper?

On today's show, we find out how we got here, and ask whether this is a good way to do things.

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People across the country are finding packages they haven't ordered inside their mailboxes. Nick Fountain from our Planet Money podcast investigates.

NICK FOUNTAIN, BYLINE: When did you first get a weird package?

A few years ago, a strange package arrived at the house of Celina Salas. Inside was a plastic watch, painted gold. It only kind of worked. Over many months, more and more oddball surprises arrived: a piggy bank, a friendship bracelet, a fuzzy keychain. And she never learned why. Celina, as they say, is not alone. Odd packages like this have been reported arriving all over the country.

So we tried to figure out what was going on, and the answer led us across the globe, and into some players gaming some of the largest companies in the world.

In 1872, Congress passed The Mining Act, a law designed to make mining on U.S. land easy and cheap. The government wanted to encourage westward expansion. They wanted people to head out, find minerals, get rich, and settle down.

The Mining Act of 1872 is still in place, and getting the rights to dig up gold in the US today isn't all that different than it was during the Gold Rush.

Today on the show: How has this system stayed the same for almost 150 years? And why is this country giving away its gold on public land. And its silver, and platinum, and copper....

The New York Produce Show and Conference looks like a grocery store the size of the Javits Center, one of the biggest convention centers in the country. But it's a grocery store that's nothing but produce aisle. Fruits are carefully displayed, often accompanied by slick videos or Christmas trees. Salespeople wait at booths to extol the virtues of their pumpkins and avocados. They're eager to give away t-shirts, pens, lip balm, even bags of sweet potatoes. Their goal isn't just to network, it's to woo the power players of produce, who make decisions about the fate of fruits.

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