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EconTalk

EconTalk

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. Host Russ Roberts, of the Library of Economics and Liberty and the Hoover Institution, draws you in with lively guests and creative repartee. Topics include health care, business cycles, economic growth, free trade, education, finance, politics, sports, book reviews, and the curiosities of everyday decision-making. Look for related readings and the complete archive of previous shows at EconTalk.org, where you can also comment on the podcasts and ask questions.

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Bjorn Lomborg on the Costs and Benefits of Attacking Climate Change

Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, talks about the costs and benefits of attacking climate change with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Lomborg argues that we should always be aware of tradeoffs and effectiveness when assessing policies to reduce global warming. He advocates for realistic solutions that consider the potential to improve human life in other ways. He is skeptical of the potential to move away from fossil fuels and argues that geo-engineering and adaptation may be the most effective ways to cope with climate change.
2019-06-10
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Alain Bertaud on Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design

Urbanist and author Alain Bertaud of NYU talks about his book Order Without Design with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bertaud explores the role of zoning and planning alongside the emergent factors that affect the growth of cities. He emphasizes the importance of cities as places for people to work and looks at how preferences and choices shape cities. Bertaud also reflects upon the differing perspectives of urban planners and economists.
2019-06-03
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David Epstein on Mastery, Specialization, and Range

Journalist and author David Epstein talks about his book Range with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Epstein explores the costs of specialization and the value of breadth in helping to create mastery in our careers and in life. What are the best backgrounds for solving problems? Can mastery be achieved without specialization at a young age? What experiences and knowledge best prepare people to cope with unexpected situations? This is a wide-ranging conversation that includes discussion of chess, the Challenger tragedy, sports, farming in obscure Soviet provinces after the revolution, the Flynn effect and why firefighters sometimes fail to outrun forest fires.
2019-05-27
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Mary Hirschfeld on Economics, Culture, and Aquinas and the Market

Author, economist, and theologian Mary Hirschfeld of Villanova University talks about her book, Aquinas and the Market, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hirschfeld looks at the nature of our economic activity as buyers and sellers and whether our pursuit of economic growth and material well-being comes at a cost. She encourages a skeptical stance about the ability of more stuff to produce true happiness and/or satisfaction. The conversation includes a critique of economic theory and the aspect of human satisfaction outside the domain of economists.
2019-05-20
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Robert Burton on Being Certain

Neurologist and author Robert Burton talks about his book, On Being Certain, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Burton explores our need for certainty and the challenge of being skeptical about what our brain tells us must be true. Where does what Burton calls "the feeling of knowing" come from? Why can memory lead us astray? Burton claims that our reaction to events emerges from competition among different parts of the brain operating below our level of awareness. The conversation includes a discussion of the experience of transcendence and the different ways humans come to that experience.
2019-05-13
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Mauricio Miller on Poverty, Social Work, and the Alternative

Poverty activist, social entrepreneur and author, Mauricio Miller, talks about his book The Alternative with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Miller, a MacArthur genius grant recipient, argues that we have made poverty tolerable when we should be trying to make it more escapable. This is possible, he argues, if we invest in the poor and encourage them to leverage their skills and social networks. Miller emphasizes the importance of self-determination and self-respect as keys to helping the poor improve their own lives.
2019-05-06
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Emily Oster on Cribsheet

Economist and author Emily Oster of Brown University talks about her book Cribsheet with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Oster explores what the data and evidence can tell us about parenting in areas such as breastfeeding, sleep habits, discipline, vaccination, and food allergies. Oster often finds that commonly held views on some of these topics are not well supported by the evidence while on others, the evidence appears decisive. Oster thoughtfully explores the challenges of using empirical work and balances our sometimes ignorance with common sense.
2019-04-29
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Paul Romer on Growth, Cities, and the State of Economics

Nobel Laureate Paul Romer of New York University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of growth, the role of cities in the economy, and the state of economics. Romer also reflects on his time at the World Bank and why he left his position there as Chief Economist.
2019-04-22
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Jill Lepore on Nationalism, Populism, and the State of America

Historian and author Jill Lepore talks about nationalism, populism, and the state of America with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Lepore argues that we need a new Americanism, a common story we share and tell ourselves. Along the way, topics in the conversation include populism, the rise of globalization, and the challenge of knowing what is true and what is false in the internet era.
2019-04-15
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Robin Feldman on Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes

Law professor and author Robin Feldman of UC Hastings College of the Law talks about her book Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Feldman argues that the legal and regulatory environment for drug companies encourages those companies to seek drugs that extend their monopoly through the patent system often with insufficient benefit for consumers. The prices for those drugs are then protected from new competition. She also argues that the pharmacy benefit management system allows drug companies to exploit consumers. The conversation concludes with a discussion of what can be done to improve the situation.
2019-04-08
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Jacob Stegenga on Medical Nihilism

Philosopher and author Jacob Stegenga of the University of Cambridge talks about his book Medical Nihilism with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Stegenga argues that many medical treatments either fail to achieve their intended goals or achieve those goals with many negative side effects. Stegenga argues that the approval process for pharmaceuticals, for example, exaggerates benefits and underestimates costs. He criticizes the FDA approval process for approving too many drugs that are not sufficiently helpful relative to their side effects. Stegenga argues for a more realistic understanding of what medical practice can and cannot achieve.
2019-04-01
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Daniel Hamermesh on Spending Time

Economist and author Daniel Hamermesh of Barnard College and the Institute for the Study of Labor talks about his latest book, Spending Time, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hamermesh explores how we treat time relative to money, how much we work and how that has changed over time, and the ways economists look at time, work, and leisure.
2019-03-25
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Amy Tuteur on Birth, Natural Parenting, and Push Back

Obstetrician gynecologist Amy Tuteur and author of Push Back, talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Tuteur argues that natural parenting--the encouragement to women to give birth without epidurals or caesarians and to breastfeed--is bad for women's health and has little or no benefit for their children.
2019-03-18
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Amy Webb on Artificial Intelligence, Humanity, and the Big Nine

Futurist and author Amy Webb talks about her book, The Big Nine, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Webb observes that artificial intelligence is currently evolving in a handful of companies in the United States and China. She worries that innovation in the United States may lead to social changes that we may not ultimately like; in China, innovation may end up serving the geopolitical goals of the Chinese government with some uncomfortable foreign policy implications. Webb's book is a reminder that artificial intelligence does not evolve in a vacuum--research and progress takes place in an institutional context. This is a wide-ranging conversation about the implications and possible futures of a world where artificial intelligence is increasingly part of our lives.
2019-03-11
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Jacob Vigdor on the Seattle Minimum Wage

Jacob Vigdor of the University of Washington talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the impact of Seattle's minimum wage increases in recent years. Vigdor along with others from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance have tried to measure the change in employment, hours worked, and wages for low-skilled workers in Seattle. He summarizes those results here arguing that while some workers earned higher wages, some or all of the gains were offset by reductions in hours worked and a reduction in the rate of job creation especially for low-skilled workers.
2019-03-04
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Michael Munger on Crony Capitalism

Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about whether real capitalism is unstable and leads inevitably to crony capitalism. They also discuss ways to prevent the descent into cronyism and speculate on their own blind spots.
2019-02-25
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Catherine Semcer on Poaching, Preserves, and African Wildlife

Catherine Semcer of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the role of incentives in preserving wildlife in Africa. The conversation discusses how allowing limited hunting of big game such as elephants and using revenue from hunting licenses to reward local communities for habitat stewardship has improved both habitat and wildlife populations while reducing poaching. Semcer draws on her experience as former Chief Operating Officer of Humanitarian Operations Protecting Elephants and also discusses recent efforts to re-locate lions in Mozambique.
2019-02-18
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Jessica Riskin on Life, Machinery, and the Restless Clock

Historian Jessica Riskin of Stanford University talks about her book The Restless Clock with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. What is the difference between human beings and machines? How has science thought about this distinction? When do we have agency and when are we constrained? Riskin discusses these issues and the implications for how we think about ourselves and the growth of artificial intelligence.
2019-02-11
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Gary Greenberg on the Placebo Effect

Author and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the placebo effect. Is it real? How does the placebo effect influence drug testing? If it's real, what is the underlying mechanism of why it works and how might it be harnessed to improve health care? The conversation concludes with a discussion of how knowledge of the placebo effect has influenced Greenberg's psychotherapy practice.
2019-02-04
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Patrick Collison on Innovation and Scientific Progress

Patrick Collison, co-founder and CEO of Stripe, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the pace of innovation. Collison argues that despite enormous increases in the numbers of scientists and researchers, the pace of progress in scientific and technological understanding does not seem to be increasing accordingly. The conversation looks at the challenge of measuring innovation and whether the pace of innovation should be a matter of concern and if so, what might be done about it.
2019-01-28
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Jennifer Doleac on Crime

Economist Jennifer Doleac of Texas A&M University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her research on crime, police, and the unexpected consequences of the criminal justice system. Topics discussed include legislation banning asking job applicants if they've been in prison, body cameras for police, the use of DNA databases, the use of Naloxone to prevent death from opioid overdose, and the challenges of being an economist who thinks about crime using the economist's toolkit.
2019-01-21
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Stephen Kotkin on Solzhenitsyn

Historian and author Stephen Kotkin of Princeton University and Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the historical significance of the life and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn's birth.
2019-01-14
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Ed Dolan on Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

Economist Ed Dolan of the Niskanen Center talks about employer-based health insurance with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Dolan discusses how unusual it is relative to other countries that so many Americans get their health insurance through their employer and the implications of that phenomenon for the structure of the health insurance market. Dolan explores the drawbacks of this structure and makes the case for what he calls Universal Catastrophic Coverage.
2019-01-07
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Sebastian Junger on Tribe

Journalist and author Sebastian Junger talks about his book Tribe with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Junger explores the human need to be needed and the challenges facing many individuals in modern society who struggle to connect with others. His studies of communal connection include soldiers in a small combat unit and American Indian society in the nineteenth century.
2018-12-31
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Mariana Mazzucato on the Value of Everything

Economist and author Mariana Mazzucato talks about her book The Value of Everything with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Mazzucato argues that economists have mismeasured value and have failed to appreciate the role of government as innovator. She argues for a more active role for government in the innovation process and for government to share in revenue proportional to its role in the creation of new technology.
2018-12-24
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John Horgan on Mind-Body Problems

Science journalist and author John Horgan talks about his book, Mind-Body Problems, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Horgan interviewed an array of scientists, philosophers, and others who have worked on consciousness, free-will, and what it means to be human. Horgan argues that no single solution to the problems in these areas is likely to be established by science and that our perspective on these questions is inevitably colored by our personal experiences rather than by scientific evidence. Horgan concludes by making the case for personal and intellectual freedom and the need to embrace subjective interpretations of mind-body issues in ways that bring meaning to our lives.
2018-12-17
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Peter Berkowitz on Locke, Liberty, and Liberalism

Peter Berkowitz of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the origins of liberalism and the importance of John Locke. Berkowitz defends the liberal project of individual rights and liberty and argues that critics of Locke mischaracterize his thought. The conversation closes with an evaluation of the Enlightenment.
2018-12-10
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Maeve Cohen on Rethinking Economics

Maeve Cohen, Co-director of Rethinking Economics, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her organization and its efforts to change economics education. Cohen, who co-founded the Post-Crash Economics Society, argues for a more human-centered approach to economics that would be less confident in its policy prescriptions and more honest about the significance of its underlying assumptions.
2018-12-03
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Anat Admati on the Financial Crisis of 2008

Anat Admati of Stanford's Graduate School of Business talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the financial crisis of 2008, the lessons she has learned, and how it has changed her view of economics, finance, and her career.
2018-11-26
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A.J. Jacobs on Thanks a Thousand

Journalist and author A. J. Jacobs talks about his book, Thanks a Thousand, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Jacobs thanked a thousand different people who contributed to his morning cup of coffee. In this conversation, Jacobs talks about the power of gratitude and different ways we can express gratitude in everyday life. He and Roberts also explore the unintended web of cooperation that underlies almost every product we encounter in a modern economy.
2018-11-19
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Julia Belluz on Epidemiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism

Science writer Julia Belluz of Vox.com talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the state of epidemiology, nutrition, and the relationship between obesity and metabolism.
2018-11-12
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Alan Lightman on Science, Spirituality, and Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

Author and Physicist Alan Lightman talks about his book Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. This is a wide-ranging conversation on religion, science, transcendence, consciousness, impermanence, and whether matter is all that matters.
2018-11-05
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Michael Munger on Sharing, Transaction Costs, and Tomorrow 3.0

Economist and author Michael Munger of Duke University talks about his book, Tomorrow 3.0, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Munger analyzes the rise of companies like Uber and AirBnB as an example of how technology lowers transactions costs. Users and providers can find each other more easily through their smartphones, increasing opportunity. Munger expects these costs to fall elsewhere and predicts an expansion of the sharing economy to a wide array of items in our daily lives.
2018-10-29
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Ran Abramitzky on the Mystery of the Kibbutz

Economist and author Ran Abramitzky of Stanford University talks about his book, The Mystery of the Kibbutz, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Abramitzky traces the evolution of the kibbutz movement in Israel and how the kibbutz structure changed to cope with the modernization and development of the Israeli economy. The conversation includes a discussion of how the history of the kibbutz might help us to understand the appeal and challenges of the socialism and freedom.
2018-10-22
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Kevin McKenna on Characters, Plot, and Themes of In the First Circle

Russian Literature Professor Kevin McKenna of the University of Vermont talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the characters, plot, and themes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece, In the First Circle. This is the second episode of the EconTalk book club discussing the book. The first episode--a discussion of Solzhenitsyn's life and times--is available on EconTalk.
2018-10-18
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John Gray on the Seven Kinds of Atheism

Philosopher and author John Gray talks about his latest book, Seven Types of Atheism, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Gray argues that progress is an illusion and that most atheisms inherit, unknowingly, a religious belief in progress that is not justified. While Gray concedes that technological know-how and scientific knowledge improve over time, he argues that morality and political systems are cyclical and that there is no reason to be optimistic about the future.
2018-10-15
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Neil Monnery on Hong Kong and the Architect of Prosperity

Neil Monnery, author of Architect of Prosperity, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book--a biography of John Cowperthwaite, the man often credited with the economic success of Hong Kong. Monnery describes the policies that Cowperthwaite championed and the role they played in the evolution of Hong Kong's economy. How much those policies mattered is the focus of the conversation. Other topics include the relationship between Hong Kong and China and the irony of the challenges Hong Kong faced from U.S. and British protectionism.
2018-10-08
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Noah Smith on Worker Compensation, Co-determination, and Market Power

Bloomberg Opinion columnist and economist Noah Smith talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about corporate control, wages, and monopoly power. Smith discusses the costs and benefits of co-determination--the idea of putting workers on corporate boards. The conversation then moves to a lively discussion of wages and monopoly power and how the American worker has been doing in recent years.
2018-10-01
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Rodney Brooks on Artificial Intelligence

Rodney Brooks, emeritus professor of robotics at MIT, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the future of robots and artificial intelligence. Brooks argues that we both under-appreciate and over-appreciate the impact of innovation. He applies this insight to the current state of driverless cars and other changes people are expecting to change our daily lives in radical ways. He also suggests that the challenges of developing truly intelligent robots and technologies will take much longer than people expect, giving human beings time to adapt to the effects. Plus a cameo from Isaac Newton.
2018-09-24
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Paul Bloom on Cruelty

Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about cruelty--what motivates cruelty, the cruelty of small acts that accumulate into something monstrous, and the question of whether the abuse of a robot is a form of cruelty.
2018-09-17
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Kevin McKenna on Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet Union, and In the First Circle

Russian Literature Professor Kevin McKenna of the University of Vermont talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the life and times of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This is the opening episode of the EconTalk Book Club for Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece In the First Circle: The First Uncensored Edition. A subsequent episode to air in the next few weeks discusses the book itself.
2018-09-10
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Yoram Hazony on the Virtue of Nationalism

Yoram Hazony discusses his book, The Virtue of Nationalism, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hazony argues that nationalism, for all its flaws, is a better system than a global system of governance. He argues that while the competition between nationalist states can lead to violence, the opportunity for each nation to pursue its own policies creates the benefits that trial-and-error innovation create in the marketplace. He also points out the dangers of global government systems and argues that U.S. military dominance and various international institutions such as European Union and the International Criminal Court have been growing in power.
2018-09-03
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Charlan Nemeth on In Defense of Troublemakers

Psychologist Charlan Nemeth of the University of California, Berkeley and author of In Defense of Troublemakers talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in the book--the power of groupthink, the power of conviction, and the opportunity for an authentic, persistent dissenter to have an impact on a group's decision. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the challenges of doing careful research in modern times.
2018-08-27
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Lilliana Mason on Uncivil Agreement

Political scientist Lilliana Mason of the University Maryland and author of Uncivil Agreement talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Mason argues that political partisanship has become stronger in America in recent years because it aligns with other forms of community and identity. People are associating primarily with people who share their political views in their other social activities outside of politics. As a result, they encounter fewer people from the other side. The intensity of partisanship can even overcome ideology as partisans change their policy positions in their eagerness to be on the winning side. The conversation closes with a discussion of what might be done to improve political discourse in America.
2018-08-20
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David Meltzer on the Doctor-Patient Relationship

Physician David Meltzer of the University of Chicago talks about the power of the doctor-patient relationship with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Meltzer, who also has a Ph.D. in economics, discusses a controlled experiment he has been running to measure the importance of maintaining the continuity of doctor-patient relationships. Meltzer argues that the increasing use of hospitalists--specialists who take over a patient from the patient's regular doctor once the patient is hospitalized--has raised costs and hurt patients. The initial results from his study show that patients who stay with their doctors have fewer subsequent hospitalizations and have better mental health. The conversation closes with a discussion of the challenges facing the current medical system to adopt cost-saving or life-improving technology or techniques.
2018-08-13
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Frank Dikotter on Mao's Great Famine

Historian Frank Dikotter of the University of Hong Kong and author of Mao's Great Famine talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Dikotter chronicles the strategies Mao and Chinese leadership implemented to increase grain and steel production in the late 1950s leading to a collapse in agricultural output and the deaths of millions by starvation.
2018-08-06
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Alberto Alesina on Immigration and Redistribution

Alberto Alesina of Harvard University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how people in the US and five European countries perceive the population and characteristics of legal immigrants. Reporting on research with Armando Miano and Stefanie Stantcheva, Alesina finds that individuals systematically overestimate the number of immigrants while underestimating their standard of living. His research also finds that support for welfare payments to the poor is related to the perception people have of the size of the immigrant population and their economic status. The conversation concludes with a discussion of why people's perceptions are so inaccurate and the implications of perception for public policy.
2018-07-30
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Teppo Felin on Blindness, Rationality, and Perception

Teppo Felin of the University of Oxford talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about perception, cognition, and rationality. Felin argues that some of the standard experimental critiques of human rationality assume an omniscience that misleads us in thinking about social science and human capability. The conversation includes a discussion of the implications of different understandings of rationality for economics, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
2018-07-23
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Russ Roberts on the Information Revolution, Politics, Yeats, and Yelling

EconTalk host Russ Roberts does a monologue on how political discourse seems to have deteriorated in recent years and the growth in outrage, tribalism, and intolerance for those with different views from one's own. Roberts suggests that part of the problem is the revolution of the market for information caused by the internet that allows people to customize what they see to fit their own political narratives and worldview. In short, the market for news works to make us feel good rather than to help us to discover the truth. The monologue closes with some suggestions for how we might improve the way we consume information and interact with those we disagree with.
2018-07-16
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Patrick Deneen on Why Liberalism Failed

Political Scientist and author Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame talks about his book Why Liberalism Failed with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. By liberalism, Deneen means the modern enterprise--the push for self-actualization free of the constraints of tradition, family, and religion that typifies modern culture. He argues that both the left and the right have empowered the state and reduced liberty. He argues for a smaller, more local, more artisanal economy and a return to the virtues of self-control and self-mastery.
2018-07-09
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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