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Episode 279: The Failure Tour Of New York

Woolworth's is gone but the building still stands.

Woolworth's is gone but the building still stands. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

On today's show, we hit the streets of Manhattan with economist Tim Harford. In his book, Adapt, Harford argues that success always starts with failure.

Harford takes us on a failure tour of New York. Highlights include a Gutenberg Bible (turns out the Bible business wasn't so good to Gutenberg) and the Woolworth Building (Woolworth's had some great innovations in its day, but eventually got beat by big-box stores).

Failure, Harford argues, is essential to economic growth. Old companies fail and are replaced by newer companies with fresh ideas.

Perhaps inevitably, we wind up on Wall Street.

"Of course we have this classic phrase now, 'too big to fail,'" Harford says. "That really tells you what was wrong with Wall Street: We created institutions that couldn't fail safely."

Note: This podcast is a rerun.

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