EconTalk is an award-winning weekly talk show about economics in daily life. Featured guests include renowned economics professors, Nobel Prize winners, and exciting speakers on all kinds of topical matters related to economic thought. Topics include health care, business cycles, economic growth, f…
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How much of life can be solved by algorithms, and how much just can't be solved? Listen as A.J. Jacobs, author of The Puzzler, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons he learned from solving every kind of puzzle imaginable, including the biggest stumper of all: what it really means to be a human being.
How do books change our lives? Educator and author Roosevelt Montás of Columbia University talks about his book Rescuing Socrates with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Drawing on his own educational and life journey, Montás shows how great books don't just teach us stuff--they get inside us and make us who we are.
Former Google ads boss Sridhar Ramaswamy says that we live in a world that seems to give out free content when we use a search engine. But that world comes with a hidden cost--search results that distort what we find and serve advertisers rather than searchers. Ramaswamy talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how Google works and why he started a new search engine, Neeva, with a different business model.
In October 1973, an unhappy Leonard Cohen was listening to the radio on his Greek island home when he heard that Israel was at war. He headed to Tel Aviv, exchanging a personal and creative crisis for a national one. Absent a plan and even a guitar, Cohen wound up serenading Israeli soldiers at the front. Journalist Matti Friedman talks about his book Who by Fire with EconTalk host Russ Roberts and explains how a songwriter and a nation were transformed in the crucible of war.
Why are some people incurious? Is curiosity a teachable thing? And why, if all knowledge can be googled, is curiosity now the domain of a small elite? Listen as Ian Leslie, author of Curious, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts why curiosity is a critical virtue, why it's now in dangerous decline, and why, when it comes to what sustains long-term fascination, mysteries beat puzzles every time.
Mainstream economics, says author Diane Coyle, keeps treating people like cogs: self-interested, rational agents. But in the digital economy, we're less sophisticated consumer and more monster under the influece of social media. Listen as the economist and former UK Treasury advisor tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts how, for economics to remain relevant, it needs both more diverse methodologies and more engagement with the broader issues of the day.
What's the single best thing happening in technology right now? According to entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, it's the ability to live in rural Wisconsin but still earn a Silicon Valley salary. Andreessen also explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts why software is still eating the world, why he's an optimist, and why he's still bullish on Bitcoin and the blockchain.
It's tempting to explain Russia's invasion of Ukraine with Putin's megalomania. Economist Chris Blattman of the University of Chicago talks about his book Why We Fight with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Blattman explains why only a fraction of rivalries ever erupt into violence, the five main reasons adversaries can't arrive at compromise, and the problem with trying to get into Putin's head (and why it's not all about Putin. Really).
In his memoir of his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi describes Jewish prisoners bathing in freezing water without soap--not because they thought it would make them cleaner, but because it helped them hold on to their dignity. For poet and author Dwayne Betts, Levi's description of his fellow inmates' suffering, much like the novelist Ralph Ellison's portrayal of early twentieth-century black life in America, is much more than bearing witness to the darkest impulses of mankind. Rather, Betts tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts, both authors' writing turns experiences of inhumanity into lessons on what it means to be a human being.
Are tech giants such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook dangerous? Do they have too much power? Dive into the murky waters of antitrust as Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about monopoly, antitrust policy, and competition in the 21st century.
What do crossing rivers and investing in stocks have in common? Real education is seeing the connection between things that seem very different. EconTalk's host Russ Roberts talks about education with Alex Aragona of the podcast, The Curious Task. Roberts argues that the ability to apply insights from one area to another with which we're unfamiliar is one of the ways that real education differs from the mere accumulation of knowledge. And when we combine insights from two areas into something completely new, we can not only navigate rivers and stock markets, but also scale the heights of the human experience.
Physician and careful reader Richard Gunderman of Indiana University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how Adam Smith and Leo Tolstoy looked at greed. Drawing on Tolstoy's short story, "Master and Man," and adding some Thomas Hobbes along the way, Gunderman argues that a life well-lived requires us to rise above our lower desires. Join Gunderman and Roberts for a sleigh ride into a snowy blizzard, where you won't find your way by following rules, but rather by recognizing what needs to be seen.
What is real education? What can colleges provide their students? Pano Kanelos, president of the new college-to-be in Austin, UATX, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of education, what the Great Books can teach us, and how we should rethink college education in today's world.
Economist Robert Pindyck of MIT talks about his book, Climate Future, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Pindyck lays out what we know and do not know about climate change. He argues that because of the nature of greenhouse gases, adaptation must be part of the policy response to climate change.
Stuff it, fluff it, stitch it, dress it: Build-a-Bear Founder and former CEO Maxine Clark built a retail-entertainment empire by letting people make their own furry friends. Two hundred million of them. What's the secret to her success? Listen as she tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts how she developed a customer-focused culture, why she sought to join (and not beat) her competition, and about some of the (seriously) strange things people have stuffed into their bears.
Many people think schools are no place for teaching character. Psychologist Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Character Lab, disagrees. She talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the implicit curriculum for character, the critical role early education plays in shaping our adult values, and why the Marshmallow Test doesn't determine our destiny.
What did author and Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel learn from her quest to eat at least one thing she'd grown, caught, or killed every day? For starters, that just-caught fish always tastes better (unless you've caught a false albacore). That all it takes to build a coop is the will and the right power tools, and that when it comes to homegrown produce, you've got none until you've got way too much. But most of all, she tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts in talking about her book To Boldly Grow, she learned that figuring stuff out to solve problems is more delicious than the most decadent of desserts.
Why do people eat too much even when they don't want to? Why are there so many bad managers? And why might anti-vaxxers be useful? Luca Dellanna, author of The Control Heuristic, thinks the answers to all of these questions are in our heads, or rather in our basal ganglia. Dellanna talks to EconTalk's Russ Roberts about why both brains and employees need immediate feedback, why we're wired to believe our best guesses, and why addiction is just our brain's way of making sure we survive.
Michael Eisenberg, venture capitalist and the author of The Tree of Life and Prosperity talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the secret of the Start-Up Nation, the role of principles in investing, and why he's optimistic about technology's contribution to humanity.
What's so bad about rising inflation? Why should we aim for a rate of 2 percent? Why is it a problem if interest rates are too low--and what do we mean by inflation, anyway? Stanford University's John Taylor talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about these questions, the Taylor Rule, why inflation is rising, and what the Fed should do about it. At the end of the conversation, Taylor discusses whether stimulus stimulates and the dangers of the national debt.
Traditions and norms can seem at best out-of-touch and at worst offensive to many a modern mind. But Israeli computer scientist and Talmud scholar Moshe Koppel argues that traditions and norms--if they evolve slowly--create trust, develop our capacity for deferred gratification, and even, in the case of how we prepare cassava, protect us from poisoning. Listen as the author of Judaism Straight Up: Why Real Religion Endures talks with EconTalk Russ Roberts about tradition, religion, tribalism, resilience, and emergent order.
Love it or hate it, but you've definitely heard it: the so-called "smooth jazz" of saxophonist Kenny G. Filmmaker Penny Lane talks about her documentary, Listening to Kenny G with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. They discuss the pursuit of perfection, the power of vulnerability in art, and why Kenny G is loved by the people and reviled by the critics.
Can Israeli society survive the loss of universal military service? Will the deregulation of Israel's kosher supervision spell the end of its Jewish character? And, speaking of Israel, what is it that makes its television dramas so good? Tyler Cowen discusses these and other subjects with EconTalk host Russ Roberts, new immigrant to Israel and unabashed fan of the Prisoners of War miniseries and Homer's Odyssey.
In the race for a COVID vaccine, how did a couple of companies who had never produced a successful vaccine make it to the finish line so quickly? Gregory Zuckerman talks about his book, A Shot to Save the World, with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the daring, deranged, and damaged visionaries behind one of science and medicine's great success stories.
When we see Michaelangelo's David or the design of the Apple Store, we assume a genius with a predetermined vision was the key to the outcome. Yet as Lorne Buchman, author of Make to Know, tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts, great art is more about embracing the process of exploration and the results that emerge in the process of creating. Buchman makes the case for embracing uncertainty in both leadership and life.
After being stranded with a bunch of Brits for eight hours at a German airport in 2016, journalist Megan McArdle felt that Brexit was going to happen. The giveaway? Not the concerns over economics or politics. Rather, it was about something far more elemental: in whom they could place their trust. Join the journalist and Washington Post columnist for a discussion with EconTalk host Russ Roberts of the late British philosopher Roger Scruton's poetic exploration of home and nation, Where We Are: The State of Britain Now, and a discussion of why, when it comes to loyalties, it's our mates that matter.
More than we need rules, argues Michael Munger, we need rules about the rules. So does the United States need a new Constitution? Listen as the Duke University economist and political scientist talks to host Russ Roberts about public choice, consenting to coercion, and whether constitutions matter.
Once it was The Shadow radio show; now it's the podcast Serial. Is every old storytelling medium new again? Frank Rose, author of The Sea We Swim In, concedes that some things remain sacred--from the power of a great hook to the hope that great stories never end. But he also thinks the Internet has led to new kinds of stories, ones that are not just entertaining, but immersive, and whose worlds are more richly imaginative than ever--even as they leave increasingly little to our imagination.
Economic theory teaches that people make choices that provide them with the greatest benefit. So why not extend this idea to the realm of charity? Economists and social entrepreneurs Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus of GiveDirectly argue that giving people cash with no strings attached is the most cost-effective means of helping the poorest people in the world and their communities.
We undervalue our sense of hearing and we under-appreciate the impact sweet sounds and disturbing noises have on our well-being. Neuroscientist Nina Kraus of Northwestern University talks about her book, Of Sound Mind. Kraus argues that our listening affects our minds and brains in ways we ignore at our peril.
Stuntman and action designer Eric Jacobus joins EconTalk host Russ Roberts for a no-holds-barred discussion of the biological basis for violence and how to avoid the worst of it, the value of violence as spectator sport, and the vast superiority of duels to feuds--Alexander Hamilton notwithstanding.
Author and economist Emily Oster of Brown University talks about her book, The Family Firm, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Oster argues that running your family life the way you'd run your own business makes for a better family in today's crazy world. And where possible, the myriad of decisions you make should be based on hard data, at least when it's available.
Of all the scenarios that keep astrophysicist Sandra Faber up at night, it's not the Earth's increasing volcanism, the loss of photosynthesis, or even the impact of a massive asteroid. Rather, it's the collapse she's certain will result from the unbridled growth of the world's economies. Join Faber and EconTalk host Russ Roberts as they explore what the most inexorable law of physics has to do with economics and whether the world's growing economies pose a problem or provide the solution for the finiteness of planet Earth.
Philosopher Jennifer Frey of the University of South Carolina talks about the state of the university in American education. Frey urges a stronger focus on virtue and human flourishing and a reduced focus on career preparation. Roberts, despite his sympathy with the examined life, challenges the virtue of philosophical enquiry. At the end of the conversation, both guest and host defend philosophy.
Author and psychologist Paul Bloom of the University of Toronto talks about his book, The Sweet Spot, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bloom argues that suffering is underrated--suffering is part of happiness and meaning. This is a wide-ranging discussion of popular culture, religion, and what we hope to get out of life.
Journalist and author Rowan Jacobsen talks about his book Truffle Hound with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. This conversation has nothing to do with chocolate. It's about the strange world of underground fungi, found in the forest by specially trained dogs and used by chefs and home cooks around the world. You will learn about truffle oil, cooking with truffles, truffle hounds, and the economics of all of the above.
Author and journalist Sam Quinones talks about his book, The Least of Us, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Quinones focuses on the devastation caused by methamphetamine and fentanyl, the latest evolution of innovation in the supply of mind-altering drugs in the United States. The latest versions of meth, he argues, are more emotionally damaging than before and have played a central role in the expansion of the homeless in tent encampments in American cities. The conversation includes an exploration of the rising number of overdose deaths in the United States and what role community and other institutions might play in reducing the death toll.
Economist and author Arnold Kling talks about improving government regulation with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Kling suggests ways to improve the administrative state--the agencies and regulatory bodies that often write the regulations that they enforce. The conversation concludes with Kling's idea for holding public intellectuals accountable for their pronouncements.
Author and economist Noreena Hertz of University College London talks about her book, The Lonely Century, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hertz blames social media and the individualist, pro-capitalism worldviews of leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan for the rise in loneliness in the developed world. Russ suggests some alternative causes. The result is a lively conversation about understanding and explaining social trends.
Economist and author David Henderson talks about his book (co-authored with Steve Globerman) The Essential UCLA School of Economics with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Much of the conversation focuses on the work of Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz, who both saw economics as a powerful tool for understanding human behavior and how the world works.
Author and Microsoft executive Glen Weyl talks about radical reforms of capitalism with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Weyl is worried about the concentration of corporate power, especially in the tech sector. But rather than use the traditional tools of antitrust, he has a more radical strategy for reorganizing corporate governance entirely.
Author and journalist Johann Hari talks about his book, Lost Connections: Why You Are Depressed and How to Find Hope, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hari, who has suffered with depression as a teenager and an adult, offers a sweeping critique of the medical establishment's understanding of depression and the frequent reliance on pharmaceutical treatments. Hari argues that it is our lost connections with each other, with our work, and with ourselves that explains the rise in depression in recent times.
Historian Bret Devereaux of the University of North Carolina talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about our understanding of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Devereaux highlights the gap between the reality of Greece and Rome and how they're portrayed in popular culture. The conversation focuses on the diversity of ancient Rome and the military prowess of Sparta.
Law professors Michael Heller and James Salzman talk about their book, Mine! with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Heller and Salzman argue that ownership is trickier and more complicated than it looks. While we tend to think of something as either mine or not mine, there's often ambiguity and a continuum about who owns what. Salzman and Heller explore a wide and surprising range of property rights from everyday life. The conversation includes a discussion of the insights of Ronald Coase on the assignment of property rights when rights conflict.
Journalist and author Nicholas Wapshott talks about his book Samuelson Friedman with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson were two of the most influential economists of the last century. They competed for professional acclaim and had very different policy visions. The conversation includes their differences over the work of Keynes, their rivalry in their columns at Newsweek, and a discussion of their intellectual and policy legacies.
Author and economist Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the virtues--and the flaws--of free markets. Munger says the best argument for a free market approach is not that it's perfect but that it's better than anything else we've been able to come up with over the centuries. Better at bringing people out of poverty, better at promoting wealth creation, and better at pushing up the standard of living for most of the people, most of the time. Topics include what exactly is a free market, why specialization is so important, the case for case-by-case intervention, and the challenge of picking the prettiest pig.
Journalist and author Jonathan Rauch talks about his book The Constitution of Knowledge with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. People come up with ideas all the time. But the vast majority of these ideas aren't worthwhile. Rauch argues that the constitution of knowledge--the norms and institutions for testing the reliability of new ideas and accumulating knowledge--has been dramatically altered by the internet and social media. The conversation explores the norms and institutions that once helped create a shared body of knowledge, how the internet threatens those norms and institutions, and what might be done to repair the damage.
Economist and Nobel Laureate James Heckman of the University of Chicago talks about inequality and economic mobility with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Drawing on research on inequality in Denmark with Rasmus Landerso, Heckman argues that despite the efforts of the Danish welfare state to provide equal access to education, there is little difference in economic mobility between the United States and Denmark. The conversation includes a general discussion of economic mobility in the United States along with a critique of Chetty and others' work on the power of neighborhood to determine one's economic destiny.
Journalist and author Michael Easter talks about his book The Comfort Crisis with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Easter thinks modern life is too easy, too comfortable. To be healthy, he says, we need to move out of our comfort zones and every once in a while try to do something, especially something physically demanding, that we didn't think was possible. Easter discusses rising levels of anxiety and depression in the West and why taking on challenges can be part of the solution.
Economist Don Boudreaux of George Mason University talks about the pandemic with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Boudreaux argues that a perfect storm of factors created a huge overreaction, including unnecessary lockdowns that accomplished little at a very high cost in physical and emotional health. Instead, Boudreaux argues, we should have focused attention on the population most at risk of dying from COVID--the elderly and especially the elderly with co-morbidities. The conversation includes a discussion of externalities and the insights of Ronald Coase applied to the policies during the pandemic.