EconTalk for many weeks

By Paul Walker 08/07/2014


Steven Teles of Johns Hopkins University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about kludgeocracy, a term Teles coined in a National Affairs article to describe what Teles sees as the complex and unproductive state of political governance in the United States, particularly at the federal level. Teles argues that various rules and procedures in the Senate and the House allow politicians to slow down legislation in return for favors. Teles argues that both liberals and conservatives have an incentive to favor more transparency and a more streamlined governing process that would get things done.

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View and author of The Up Side of Down talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her book. McArdle argues that failure is a crucial part of success in personal life and in the large economy. Topics covered include the psychology of failure, unemployment, and bankruptcy and parole.

Diane Coyle, author of GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of GDP, its uses, and its abuses. Topics discussed include the origins of GDP in the developed countries, the challenges of measuring the service sector, the challenges of dealing with innovation and product diversity, whether GDP should be supplemented with other measures of human well-being, and the challenges of dealing with internet-based goods that produce a great deal of satisfaction but make a much smaller impact on measured economic activity.

Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about where Bitcoin has been and where it might be headed in the future. Topics discussed include competing cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin, the role of the Bitcoin Foundation, the challenges Bitcoin faces going forward, and the mystery of Satoshi Nakamoto.

Charles Marohn, President of Strong Towns, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts urban development and what makes a strong town. The two discuss how the post-World War II approach to town and city planning has led to debt problems and wasteful infrastructure investments, and how changes as small as the width of roads make cities more vibrant. Other topics discussed include central Detroit today as a model of city growth, the incentive problems associated with how state and federal infrastructure funds are distributed, and Marohn’s efforts to change civil engineers’ perspective on growth.

Marc Andreessen, venture capitalist and co-creator of the early web browser Mosaic, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how success in venture capital is more about winners that you missed and not losers that you backed. Other topics discussed include the rise of the developing world and the smartphone revolution, why Bitcoin is paving the way for innovative uses of the internet, an optimistic view of the future of journalism, changes in the healthcare system, and the future of education around the world.

Yuval Levin, author of The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas of Burke and Paine and their influence on the evolution of political philosophy. Levin outlines the differing approaches of the two thinkers to liberty, authority, and how reform and change should take place. Other topics discussed include Hayek’s view of tradition, Cartesian rationalism, the moral high ground in politics, and how the “right and left” division of American politics finds its roots in the debates of these thinkers from the 1700s.

Andrew McAfee, Megan McArdle, and Lee Ohanian talk with EconTalk host Russ Roberts on the future of work. Recorded before a live audience at the 33rd Santa Barbara Economic Summit, the conversation begins with each participant making a brief set of remarks on the topic. Topics discussed include the traits that might be rewards in a world of smart machines, reforming the educational system to prepare people for the changing economy, reforming immigration, and policies that might help the labor market work more effectively.

Edward Lazear of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Gary Becker’s innovative contributions to economics. The conversation opens with personal reminiscences by Lazear and Roberts. They then discuss Becker’s application of economic principles to social phenomena such as discrimination, crime, education and the family along with Becker’s overall approach to economic theory and measurement.

William Easterly of New York University and author of The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book. Easterly argues that poverty endures in many poor countries because of a lack of economic and political freedom for its poorest members. He argues that the aid process and the role experts play in that process reinforces the oppression of the poor. Other topics discussed include data-oriented solutions, autocracy vs. democracy, and Easterly’s perspective on development from Bill Gates and recent EconTalk guest Jeffery Sachs.

Gregory Zuckerman of the Wall Street Journal and author of The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his new book, the rise of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), how this technology developed, and the vibrant personalities that pioneered the energy revolution. Topics discussed along the way include the history and future of fracking, environmental concerns about the process, and how the story of fracking is the classic tale of the successes and failures of determined risk-takers. The role of market forces in driving that success and failure runs through the entire conversation.

Lars Peter Hansen of the University of Chicago and Nobel Laureate in economics, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the power and limits of economic models and quantitative methods. Hanson defends the value of models while recognizing their limitations. The two also discuss quantifying systemic financial risk, how our understanding of financial markets has changed, the nature of risk, and areas of economics that Hanson believes are ripe for further research.