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EconTalk podcast

EconTalk

EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious is an award-winning weekly podcast hosted by Russ Roberts of Shalem College in Jerusalem and Stanford's Hoover Institution. The eclectic guest list includes authors, doctors, psychologists, historians, philosophers, economists, and more. Learn how the health care system really works, the serenity that comes from humility, the challenge of interpreting data, how potato chips are made, what it's like to run an upscale Manhattan restaurant, what caused the 2008 financial crisis, the nature of consciousness, and more. EconTalk has been taking the Monday out of Mondays since 2006. All 800+ episodes are available in the archive. Go to EconTalk.org for transcripts, related resources, and comments.

EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious is an award-winning weekly podcast hosted by Russ Roberts of Shalem College in Jerusalem and Stanford's Hoover Institution. The eclectic guest list includes authors, doctors, psychologists, historians, philosophers, economists, and more. Learn how the health care system really works, the serenity that comes from humility, the challenge of interpreting data, how potato chips are made, what it's like to run an upscale Manhattan restaurant, what caused the 2008 financial crisis, the nature of consciousness, and more. EconTalk has been taking the Monday out of Mondays since 2006. All 800+ episodes are available in the archive. Go to EconTalk.org for transcripts, related resources, and comments.

 

#868

Johnathan Bi on Mimesis and René Girard

When the 20-year-old overachiever Johnathan Bi's first startup crashed and burned, he headed to a Zen retreat in the Catskills to "debug himself." He discovered René Girard and his mimetic theory--the idea that imitation is a key and often unconscious driver of human behavior. Listen as entrepreneur and philosopher Bi shares with EconTalk host Russ Roberts what he learned from Girard and Girard's insights into how we meet our primal need for money, fame, and power. The conversation includes the contrasts between economics and Girard's perspective. ... Read more

21 Nov 2022

1 HR 11 MINS

1:11:46

21 Nov 2022


#867

Agnes Callard on Meaning, the Human Quest, and the Aims of Education

Suppose all of humanity was infected by a virus that left us all infertile--no one will come along after us. How would you react to such a world? Agnes Callard of the University of Chicago says she would be filled with despair. But why does this seem worse than our own inevitable deaths? Callard speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the meaning of life, and what exactly about the end of humanity is so demoralizing. The conversation concludes with a discussion of whether humanity is making progress. ... Read more

14 Nov 2022

1 HR 21 MINS

1:21:12

14 Nov 2022


#866

Jessica Todd Harper on Beauty, Family, and Photography

When everyone is carrying a camera in their pocket, what raises the act of taking pictures to the level of fine art photography? Jessica Todd Harper, the award-winning portrait photographer, says that it's equal parts mindset and technique--and lots of setting the stage to seize that perfect light. Listen as Harper speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her desire to capture the complexity of life in a single image, why family relationships and home life are her chosen subjects, and the integral role beauty plays in her images, despite its diminished status in art today. ... Read more

07 Nov 2022

1 HR 22 MINS

1:22:16

07 Nov 2022


#865

Michael Munger on Industrial Policy

Economist and political scientist Michael Munger of Duke University talks about industrial policy with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Munger argues that in a democracy, the default outcome for industrial policy is crony capitalism--attempts to improve on that outcome either by appointing experts or eliminating cronyism are going to fail for political reasons. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the reliability of Munger's claim and what options are left for dissatisfied reformers. ... Read more

31 Oct 2022

1 HR 09 MINS

1:09:36

31 Oct 2022


#864

Ryan Holiday on Discipline Is Destiny

Author Ryan Holiday talks about his book, Discipline Is Destiny, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Holiday discusses the mentor who taught him discipline, the self-control of Queen Elizabeth, the world-champion boxer who counseled the man who defeated him in the ring, and the forgotten Roman emperor who helped make Marcus Aurelius the man he would become. ... Read more

24 Oct 2022

1 HR 11 MINS

1:11:00

24 Oct 2022


#863

Devon Zuegel on Inflation, Argentina, and Crypto

Devon Zuegel talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the crazy world of money and finance in Argentina. When inflation is often high and unpredictable, people look for unusual ways to hold their savings. And when banks are unreliable because of public policy, people look for unusual ways to keep their savings safe and to make financial transactions. Welcome to Argentina, where Zuegel finds surprising applications of cryptocurrency for solving problems. ... Read more

17 Oct 2022

1 HR 03 MINS

1:03:48

17 Oct 2022


#862

Roland Fryer on Educational Reform

The good news about educational reform, says Harvard economist Roland Fryer, is that we know what it takes to turn a school around. The bad news is that it's hard work--and implementing it won't win you any popularity contests. Listen as the MacArthur Genius Award Winner and John Bates Clark medalist speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how pizza parties revealed the potential of incentives to improve students' test scores, and why he's far more concerned about closing the racial achievement gap than keeping the love of learning pure. He also discusses the five best practices of successful schools, and why it's his failures far more than his successes that keep him in this fight. ... Read more

10 Oct 2022

1 HR 13 MINS

1:13:14

10 Oct 2022


#861

Sonat Birnecker Hart on Whiskey

Scholar and distiller Sonat Birnecker Hart of the Koval Distillery talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her career move from academia to whiskey-making. She explains that the heart is the key to great flavor--when making whiskey, and when making the right choices in life. ... Read more

03 Oct 2022

1 HR 29 MINS

1:29:03

03 Oct 2022


#860

Erik Hoel on Effective Altruism, Utilitarianism, and the Repugnant Conclusion

Neuroscientist Erik Hoel talks about why he is not an "effective altruist" with EconTalk host, Russ Roberts. Hoel argues that the utilitarianism that underlies effective altruism--a movement co-founded by Will MacAskill and Peter Singer--is a poison that inevitably leads to repugnant conclusions and thereby weakens the case for the strongest claims made by effective altruists. ... Read more

26 Sep 2022

1 HR 17 MINS

1:17:01

26 Sep 2022


#859

Kieran Setiya on Midlife

John Stuart Mill's midlife crisis came at 20 when he realized that if he got what he desired he still wouldn't be happy. Art and poetry (and maybe love) saved the day for him. In this week's episode, philosopher Kieran Setiya of MIT talks about his book Midlife with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Setiya argues we can learn from Mill to help deal with the ennui to which so many midlifers succumb--along with regrets for roads not taken and wistfulness for what could have been. Setiya argues that a well-lived life needs fewer projects and more pursuits that don't have goals or endpoints. He explains why past mistakes can turn out to be good things and how lost chances can help us appreciate the richness of life. ... Read more

19 Sep 2022

1 HR 39 MINS

1:39:49

19 Sep 2022


#858

David McRaney on How Minds Change

To the Founding Fathers it was free libraries. To the 19th century rationalist philosophers it was a system of public schools. Today it's access to the internet. Since its beginnings, Americans have believed that if facts and information were available to all, a democratic utopia would prevail. But missing from these well-intentioned efforts, says author and journalist David McRaney, is the awareness that people's opinions are unrelated to their knowledge and intelligence. In fact, he explains, the better educated we become, the better we are at rationalizing what we already believe. Listen as the author of How Minds Change speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about why it's so hard to change someone's mind, the best way to make it happen (if you absolutely must), and why teens are hard-wired not to take good advice from older people even if they are actually wiser. ... Read more

12 Sep 2022

1 HR 28 MINS

1:28:17

12 Sep 2022


#857

Will MacAskill on Longtermism and What We Owe the Future

Philosopher William MacAskill of the University of Oxford and a founder of the effective altruism movement talks about his book What We Owe the Future with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. MacAskill advocates "longtermism," giving great attention to the billions of people who will live on into the future long after we are gone. Topics discussed include the importance of moral entrepreneurs, why it's moral to have children, and the importance of trying to steer the future for better outcomes. ... Read more

05 Sep 2022

1 HR 16 MINS

1:16:22

05 Sep 2022


#856

Amor Towles on A Gentleman in Moscow and the Writer's Craft

Author Amor Towles talks about his book, A Gentleman in Moscow, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Along the way they discuss the craft of writing, the wellsprings of persistence, and Towles's reading habits. ... Read more

29 Aug 2022

1 HR 19 MINS

1:19:46

29 Aug 2022


#855

Raj Chetty on Economic Mobility

Economist Raj Chetty of Harvard University talks about his work on economic mobility with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The focus is on Chetty's recent co-authored study in Nature where he finds that poor people in America who are only connected to other poor people do dramatically worse financially than poor people who are connected to a wider array of economic classes. The discussion includes the policy implications of this result as well as a discussion of Chetty's earlier work on the American Dream and the challenge of Americans born in recent decades to do better financially than their parents. ... Read more

22 Aug 2022

1 HR 19 MINS

1:19:14

22 Aug 2022


#854

Tyler Cowen on Talent

How do you hone your craft on an everyday basis? It could be writing, meeting with experts, even listening to podcasts, just so long, argues economist and blogger Tyler Cowen, as it makes you better at what you already do. Perhaps more than anything else, he believes, it's practice that divides middle managers from founders, and mere good hires from the creative obsessives who end up transforming the world. Join Cowen and EconTalk host Russ Roberts for a conversation about Talent, Cowen's new book on how (and how not) to identify the talented. Hear Cowen explain why, for high-level positions, unstructured interviews are important, why stamina is usually preferable to grit, and why credentials are largely a relic of the past. ... Read more

15 Aug 2022

1 HR 01 MINS

1:01:40

15 Aug 2022


#853

Russ Roberts and Mike Munger on Wild Problems

Waze and Google Maps tell us the best way to get to where we're going. But no app or algorithm can tell us whether we should head there in the first place. To economist Russ Roberts, the reason is simple: Humans are dynamic and aspirational beings. When it comes to making life's big decisions, from what to study to whom to marry or whether to have a child, it's not always us doing the deciding, he argues, but rather the people we want to be. Join the host of EconTalk, the president of Shalem College, and the author of the new book Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions that Define Us, as he speaks with friend and EconTalk favorite Michael Munger about why the traditional economic models for decision making can lead us astray--and why life should be less about solving problems than embracing possibilities. ... Read more

08 Aug 2022

1 HR 17 MINS

1:17:19

08 Aug 2022


#852

Gerd Gigerenzer on How to Stay Smart in a Smart World

IBM's super-computer Watson was a runaway success on Jeopardy! But it wasn't nearly as good at diagnosing cancer. This came as no surprise to Max Planck Institute psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, who argues that when it comes to life-and-death decisions, we'll always need real, not artificial, brains. Listen as the author of How to Stay Smart in a Smart World tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts why computers aren't nearly as smart as we think. But, Gigerenzer says, human beings need to get smarter in order to avoid being manipulated by people who use AI for their own ends. ... Read more

01 Aug 2022

1 HR 08 MINS

1:08:32

01 Aug 2022


#851

John List on Scale, Uber, and the Voltage Effect

Economist John List of the University of Chicago talks about his book, The Voltage Effect, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. He discusses what determines scalability and argues that the only good ideas that count are those that scale. Along the way, he draws on his experiences as chief economist of Uber and Lyft to peer inside the black box of ride sharing. ... Read more

25 Jul 2022

1 HR 00 MINS

1:00:52

25 Jul 2022


#850

Vinay Prasad on the Pandemic

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination, is the risk of myocarditis greater than the benefit to a healthy male teen? Is natural immunity really better than vaccination--and were we right to mask the kids? Dr. Vinay Prasad of the University of California San Francisco talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what we learned and didn't learn from COVID so far and how we should handle a pandemic going forward. ... Read more

18 Jul 2022

1 HR 27 MINS

1:27:17

18 Jul 2022


#849

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Nations, States, and Scale

A language, a flag, a national anthem and shared history—like a heart that has to pump harder to support a heavier body, the bigger a nation gets, the harder to curate an identity. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about scale and governance with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Taleb sings the virtues of smaller relative to larger and decentralized as much as possible relative to centralized. Along the way, he provides a framework for Russia's war against Ukraine and explains why the United States has thrived despite its size and scope. ... Read more

11 Jul 2022

1 HR 05 MINS

1:05:15

11 Jul 2022


#848

Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan on Immigration Then and Now

Immigration to the United States, say Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan, is more novel than short story: It takes decades for new immigrants to catch up economically. But their kids on average thrive economically and have higher rates of upward mobility than American-born kids. Abramitzky and Boustan talk about their book Streets of Gold with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Using an extraordinary data set of millions of Americans, Boustan and Abramitzky find that today's immigrants and their children are surprisingly similar to yesterday's. ... Read more

04 Jul 2022

1 HR 13 MINS

1:13:54

04 Jul 2022


#847

A.J. Jacobs on Solving Life's Puzzles

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. ... Read more

27 Jun 2022

1 HR 08 MINS

1:08:39

27 Jun 2022


#846

Roosevelt Montás on Rescuing Socrates

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. ... Read more

20 Jun 2022

1 HR 20 MINS

1:20:23

20 Jun 2022


#845

Sridhar Ramaswamy on Google, Search, and Neeva

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. ... Read more

13 Jun 2022

1 HR 01 MINS

1:01:04

13 Jun 2022


#844

Matti Friedman on Leonard Cohen and the Yom Kippur War

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. ... Read more

06 Jun 2022

1 HR 09 MINS

1:09:02

06 Jun 2022


#843

Ian Leslie on Curiosity

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. ... Read more

30 May 2022

1 HR 07 MINS

1:07:04

30 May 2022


#842

Diane Coyle on Cogs, Monsters, and Better Economics

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. ... Read more

23 May 2022

1 HR 02 MINS

1:02:49

23 May 2022


#841

Marc Andreessen on Software, Immortality, and Bitcoin

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. ... Read more

16 May 2022

1 HR 13 MINS

1:13:48

16 May 2022