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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 ( 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, where you can also comment on the podcasts and ask questions.

Episodes with Smash Notes

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.

How do we prepare for a future that is unpredictable? That's the question at the heart of Margaret Heffernan's new book, Uncharted. In this wide-ranging conversation with host Russ Roberts, she discusses the central thesis of her book: The future may be unpredictable, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare for it. And smart organizations and people can learn how to do it.

What's the difference between invention and innovation? Is innovation--making the invention available--the hard part? Matt Ridley talks about his book How Innovation Works with host Russ Roberts. He argues that we give too much credit to inventors and not enough to innovators, who refine and improve an invention to make it valuable to users. Along the way, he emphasizes the power of trial and error and the importance of permissionless innovation.

Franklin Zimring talks about his book, When Police Kill, with host Russ Roberts. Roughly 1,000 Americans die each year at the hands of police. Zimring argues that better policing practices can reduce the number of citizens killed by the police. He also discusses the barriers that stand in the way of more effective and safer policing.

Michael Munger talks with host Russ Roberts about whether the pandemic might create an opportunity for colleges and universities to experiment and innovate. He believes top schools can emerge from the uncertainty to thrive. Second-tier institutions will still face the challenges that existed before the pandemic: competition from online classes and a shrinking pool of new applicants ready to pay high tuition bills.

Ben Cohen talks about his book, The Hot Hand, with host Russ Roberts. At times in sports and elsewhere in life, a person seems to be "on fire," playing at an unusually high level. Is this real or an illusion? Cohen takes the listener through the scientific literature on this question and spreads a wide net to look at the phenomenon of being in the zone outside of sports. Topics include Shakespeare, investing, Stephen Curry, and asylum judges.

John Kay and Mervyn King talk about their book, Radical Uncertainty, with host Russ Roberts. This is a wide-ranging discussion based on the book looking at rationality, decision-making under uncertainty, and the economists' view of the world.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about the pandemic with host Russ Roberts. Topics discussed include how to handle the rest of this pandemic and the next one, the power of the mask, geronticide, and soul in the game.

Economist and author Glenn Loury of Brown University talks with host Russ Roberts about race in America.

Josh Williams, co-founder and CEO of the blockchain gaming company Forte, talks with host Russ Roberts about the state of online gaming and the potential of a blockchain-based gaming platform to create market economies with property rights within online games.

Robert Lerman talks about apprenticeships with host Russ Roberts. He argues that apprenticeships--a combination of work experience and classroom learning--have the potential to expand opportunities for young people who don't want to attend college.