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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

Can Israeli society survive the loss of universal military service? Will the deregulation of Israel's kosher supervision spell the end of its Jewish character? And, speaking of Israel, what is it that makes its television dramas so good? Tyler Cowen discusses these and other subjects with EconTalk host Russ Roberts, new immigrant to Israel and unabashed fan of the Prisoners of War miniseries and Homer's Odyssey.

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.