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EconTalk on Smash Notes

EconTalk podcast.

March 03, 2020

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, free trade, education, finance, politics, sports, book reviews, parenting, and the curiosities of everyday decision-making. Russ Roberts, of the Library of Economics and Liberty (econlib.org) and the Hoover Institution, draws you in with lively guests and creative repartee. 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.

Episodes with Smash Notes

Emily Oster talks with host Russ Roberts about the challenge of reopening schools in a pandemic. She has been collecting data from K-12 schools around the country. Her preliminary analysis finds little evidence that schools are super-spreaders of COVID. The conversation ends with a discussion of parenting.

Daniel Haybron talks about his book, Happiness, with host Russ Roberts. Happiness turns out to be a little more complicated than it sounds. Haybron discusses the good life and different philosophical perspectives on how to achieve happiness.

Virginia Postrel talks about her book, The Fabric of Civilization and How Textiles Made the World, with host Russ Roberts. She tells the story behind the clothes we wear and what goes into producing them. The history of textiles, she argues, is a good way of understanding the history of the world.

Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and co-author of Freakonomics talks with host Russ Roberts about the book's surprising success, the controversy it generated, and how he thinks about economics.

Rob Wiblin, host of the 80,000 Hours podcast, interviews EconTalk host Russ Roberts about charity, the reliability of data to inform decision-making, and utilitarianism.

Fredrik deBoer discusses his book The Cult of Smart with host Russ Roberts. He argues that there is little that can be done to change the distribution of success in K-12 education, and that educational reforms like charter schools and No Child Left Behind are doomed to fail. DeBoer, self-described Marxist, makes the case for a radical re-imagining of the U.S. economy.

Dwayne Betts talks about his time in prison and the power of reading with host Russ Roberts. Betts is the founder of the Million Book Project, which aims to put a small library of great books in U.S. prisons. He discusses his plans for the project and how reading helped him transform himself.

Anne Applebaum talks about her book, Twilight of Democracy, with host Russ Roberts. She discusses the rise of populist and nationalist movements in Eastern Europe and in the West, and the appeal of these movements even when they begin to erode or destroy democracy.

Zena Hitz talks about her book Lost in Thought with host Russ Roberts. She defends learning for its own sake--learning that has nothing to do with passing an exam or preparing for a career. For Hitz, learning is a refuge and an essential part of what makes us human.

Agnes Callard talks about her book, Aspiration, with host Russ Roberts. She explores the challenge of aspiration--who we are versus who we would like to become. How does aspiration work? How can we transform ourselves when we cannot know how it will feel to be transformed? Callard discusses these questions and more in this provocative episode.

Lisa Cook talks with host Russ Roberts about her research into the impact of racism, lynching, and segregation on Black inventors and entrepreneurs. How much has racism held back the U.S. economy? What would the country look like today if Black entrepreneurs and inventors had been welcomed and encouraged over the past century and a half?

Robert Chitester talks with host Russ Roberts about how the documentary Free to Choose came about and Chitester's long-time friendship and work with Milton and Rose Friedman.