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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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.
Claudia Hauer of St. John's College and the Air Force Academy talks about her book Strategic Humanism with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Topics discussed include war, rage, terrorism, and what a modern warrior might learn from Homer.
Journalist and author Sebastian Junger talks about his book, Freedom, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The book and conversation are based on a 400-mile walk Junger took with buddies along railroad rights-of-way, evading police, railroad security, and other wanderers. Junger discusses the ever-present tension between the human desire to be free and the desire to be interconnected and part of something. Along the way, Junger talks about the joy of walking, the limits of human endurance, war, and why the more powerful, better-equipped military isn't always the winner.
Economist and author Anja Shortland of King's College London talks about her new book, Lost Art, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. When a famous painting disappears into the underworld of stolen art, how does it make its way back into the legitimate world of auction houses and museums? Drawing on the archives of a private database of stolen objects--the Art Loss Register--Shortland discusses the economics of the art world when objects up for sale may be the result of theft.
Author and economist Donald Shoup of UCLA talks about destructive parking policies with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Shoup argues that most parking policies inflict unseen damage on the economy. He urges cities to charge for curbside parking and use the proceeds to improve the neighborhood beyond the curb. Stroup also explains the surprising harm done by requiring new buildings to provide a minimum level of off-street parking.
Author Ian Leslie talks about his book Conflicted with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Leslie argues that, far from being a negative thing, conflict is often the essential ingredient that helps us get to the right answer or best solution. Because some of our best thinking comes in collaboration with others, learning how to disagree civilly when our views conflict is the key to productive conversation in business and in marriage. The conversation includes a surprising defense of confirmation bias.
Economist Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago talks about poverty with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. In recent years, a number of scholars have claimed that millions of Americans live in extreme poverty, akin to the standard of living in the poorest countries around the world. Meyer argues that these studies are based on flawed surveys or particular assumptions that may not be justified. The conversation also addresses broader challenges around measuring mobility and the American Dream.
Journalist and author Jason Riley talks about race with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Riley argues that the challenges facing Black America go beyond racial discrimination and the threat of police violence. He argues that both the history of Black Americans and the current situation has been distorted by activists who benefit from that distorted picture.
Podcaster and author Julia Galef talks about her book The Scout Mindset with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Galef urges us to be more rational--to be open-minded about what we might discover about the world--rather than simply defend what we already believe, which she calls the soldier mindset. The conversation is a wide-ranging discussion of our biases and the challenges of viewing the world objectively.
Philosopher Agnes Callard of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about anger. Is anger something we should vilify and strive to eradicate in ourselves? Or should we accept it as a necessary and appropriate human emotion? Callard takes a fresh look at anger and has much to say about jealousy, desire, and forgiveness as well.
Behavioral scientist Katy Milkman of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania talks about her book How to Change with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. What can we learn from research in psychology and behavioral economics about breaking the habits we want to change? Is that research reliable? And should Russ Roberts accept being overweight or keep working at finding the thinner man trying to get out?
Author and poet Roya Hakakian talks about her latest book, A Beginner's Guide to America: For the Immigrant and the Curious with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hakakian was born in Iran and came to the United States as a 19 year-old, not speaking any English, and carrying only the things she could stuff in her backpack. She tells Russ about the love affair she's had with her adopted country as well as where there is room for improvement.
Sociologist and author Mark Rank talks about his book, Poorly Understood, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Rank looks at a wide variety of aspects of poverty. He argues that many widely-held views on poverty are inaccurate, and in particular he argues that most Americans will be poor at some point in their lives. This is a wide-ranging and lively conversation on the nature of poverty and the challenge of ending or reducing it.
Blogger, author, podcaster, economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University discusses the lessons learned from the pandemic with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Appearing roughly one year after his first conversation on the pandemic, Cowen revisits the predictions he made then and what he has learned for the next time.
Max Kenner, founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative--which offers college degrees to prisoners--talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the program, which replicates the coursework of students at Bard College. The Bard Prison Initiative was profiled in a four-part PBS documentary, College Behind Bars. Kenner talks about the origins of the program, what students experience, and the injustice he sees in both the criminal justice system and the educational system in the United States.
Whether it's a pandemic or a Texas-sized ice storm that leaves millions of people without power, we'd like to avoid a repetition. Megan McArdle of the Washington Post talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenge of learning the right lessons from the current crisis in order to prevent the next one. McArdle argues that we frequently learn the wrong lessons from the past in trying to prevent the harm from the catastrophes that might be waiting in our future.
Psychologist and author Sherry Turkle of MIT talks about her book, The Empathy Diaries, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The Empathy Diaries is a memoir about Turkle's secretive family and how that secrecy turned Turkle into an acute observer, skilled at revealing the story behind the story. She also chronicles the early days of artificial intelligence and the evolution of the computer. Topics in this conversation include the challenges of family, the role of technology in our lives, the limits of artificial intelligence, and the importance of Bambi.
Leon Kass, long-time teacher of classic works at the University of Chicago and now Dean of Faculty at Shalem College in Jerusalem, talks about human flourishing with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Drawing on an essay from his book, Leading a Worthy Life, Kass gives a broad overview of Aristotle's ideas on how to live. This episode also discusses the listeners' votes for their Top 10 EconTalk podcast episodes for 2020.
Economist and author Michael Munger of Duke University talks about human wants and desires with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Human beings have desires about our desires. Can we change what we want? And how should economists and normal human beings think about doing the right thing, what we often call morality? Is acting morally self-interested behavior or is it possible to act selflessly?
Would the impact of the pandemic have been different if government and policymakers had been more open to more market-based responses and less committed to a top-down approach? Economist John Cochrane of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the pandemic and the policy response. Cochrane believes outcomes would have been much better if governments, in the United States and elsewhere, had embraced approaches that relied more on market forces.
Poet and author Dana Gioia talks about his book Studying with Miss Bishop with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. They talk about the craft of being a poet, the business world, mentorship, loss, why poetry no longer seems to matter, and how it might begin to matter again.
Lamorna Ash talks about her book Dark, Salt, Clear with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Ash leaves London and moves to the small fishing village of Newlyn, near where her mother grew up on the Cornish coast. In Newlyn, everything revolves around fishing. Ash gets herself a bunk on a trawler and quickly learns how to gut fish with sharp knives on a rocking boat in the middle of the night. And so much more.
Author and psychologist Michael McCullough of the University of California, San Diego talks about his book The Kindness of Strangers with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. McCullough traces the history of human empathy and tries to explain why we care about the welfare of people we don't even know.
Author Scott Newstok of Rhodes College talks about his book, How to Think Like Shakespeare, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Newstok draws on Shakespeare and other great writers and thinkers to explore the nature of education and the life well-lived.