Econtalk Archives, 2011



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 George Mason U., 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.


  • Tabarrok on Innovation

    26/12/2011 Duración: 01h08min

    Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his new book, Launching the Innovation Renaissance. Tabarrok argues that innovation in the United States is being held back by patent law, the legal system, and immigration policies. He then suggests how these might be improved to create a better climate for innovation that would lead to higher productivity and a higher standard of living.

  • Klein on Knowledge and Coordination

    19/12/2011 Duración: 01h05min

    Dan Klein of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in Klein's new book, Knowledge and Coordination. Klein argues that allegory is a powerful way to think about outcomes of emergent order. He goes deeply into the concept of the invisible hand and creates a novel way to evaluate processes that not under any one's control. Klein then suggests novel ways of evaluating economic outcomes outside of the traditional metrics and techniques. Along the way, Klein emphasizes the role of uncertainty and imperfection in the entrepreneurial process.

  • Munger on Profits, Entrepreneurship, and Storytelling

    12/12/2011 Duración: 01h04min

    Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about profit. What is profit's role in allocating resources? How should we feel about the people who earn profits or who take them in ways that may not be earned? How easy is it to discover profitable opportunities? Munger examines these questions through a series of stories, real and fictional, to illuminate the sometimes puzzling nature of profit.

  • Cowen on the European Crisis

    05/12/2011 Duración: 58min

    Tyler Cowen of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the European crisis. Cowen argues that Greece is likely to default either in fact or in spirit but that the key question is which nations might follow--whether Italy and Spain can find a road to economic health and honoring past debts. Cowen gives his best guess as to what is likely to happen to the euro and the European Union and the implications for the rest of the world. He explores some less likely scenarios as well. He is pessimistic about Greece and the short-run prospects for preserving the status quo, but he is optimistic in the long-run about the European Union though it may have a different structure down the road.

  • Simon Johnson on the Financial Crisis

    28/11/2011 Duración: 01h04min

    Simon Johnson of MIT and the author (with James Kwak) of 13 Bankers talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the origins of the financial crisis and how the next one might be prevented. Invoking the work of George Stigler, Johnson argues that the financial sector has captured the regulatory process and the result is that regulation and government intervention have been steered more by the interests of the financial sector than to the benefit of the general public. Johnson argues for capping the size of banks in order to reduce the danger of systemic risk and the too-big-to-fail excuse for bailing out banks. Johnson also discusses the role of the Fed in subsidizing risk-taking and leverage in the financial sector.

  • Taubes on Fat, Sugar and Scientific Discovery

    21/11/2011 Duración: 01h22min

    Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what we know about the relationship between diet and disease. Taubes argues that for decades, doctors, the medical establishment, and government agencies encouraged Americans to reduce fat in their diet and increase carbohydrates in order to reduce heart disease. Taubes argues that the evidence for the connection between fat in the diet and heart disease was weak yet the consensus in favor of low-fat diets remained strong. Casual evidence (such as low heart disease rates among populations with little fat in their diet) ignores the possibilities that other factors such as low sugar consumption may explain the relationship. Underlying the conversation is a theme that causation can be difficult to establish in complex systems such as the human body and the economy.

  • Baumeister on Gender Differences and Culture

    14/11/2011 Duración: 01h16min

    Roy Baumeister of Florida State University and the author of Is There Anything Good About Men talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the differences between men and women in cultural and economic areas. Baumeister argues that men aren't superior to women nor are women superior to men. Rather there are some things men are better at while women excel at a different set of tasks and that these tradeoffs are a product of evolution and cultural pressure. He argues that evolutionary pressure has created different distributions of talent for men and women in a wide variety of areas. He argues that other differences in outcomes are not due to innate ability differences but rather come from different tastes or preferences.

  • Kaplan on the Inequality and the Top 1%

    07/11/2011 Duración: 01h06min

    Steven Kaplan of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the richest Americans and income inequality. Drawing on work with Joshua Rauh, Kaplan talks about the composition of the richest 1% and 1/10 of 1%--what proportions come from the financial sector, CEOs from non-financial corporations, athletes, lawyers and so on. Then he discusses how the incomes of these different groups have changed over time. Kaplan argues that these groups have increased their incomes by similar proportions, suggesting that a failure of corporate governance is not the explanation of rising CEO pay. The discussion closes with a discussion of the financial crisis and the compensation in the financial sector.

  • Avent on Cities, Urban Regulations, and Growth

    31/10/2011 Duración: 01h05min

    Ryan Avent of the Economist and author of The Gated City talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about The Gated City and how cities have restricted access to land and housing. Avent argues that restricted access has raised housing prices artificially on both the east and west coast of the United States, reducing urban populations and restricting access to labor markets. He argues that this in turn has artificially depressed growth in the United States by keeping workers from their most productive opportunities. The conversation closes with a discussion of possible policy changes that might make cities more accessible to development and growth.

  • Ramey on Stimulus and Multipliers

    24/10/2011 Duración: 01h02min

    Valerie Ramey of the University of California, San Diego talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the effect of government spending on output and employment. Ramey's own work exploits the exogenous nature of wartime spending. She finds a multiplier between .8 and 1.2. (A multiplier of 1 means that GDP goes up by the amount of spending--there is neither stimulus nor crowding out.) She also discusses a survey looking at a wide range of estimates by others and finds that the estimates range from .5 to 2.0. Along the way, she discusses the effects of taxes as well. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the imprecision of multiplier estimates and the contributions of recent Nobel Laureates Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims.

  • Wapshott on Keynes and Hayek

    17/10/2011 Duración: 01h08min

    Nicholas Wapshott, author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich A. Hayek--their ideas, their disagreements, their friendship and how the two men influenced economists and public policy during their lifetimes and beyond.

  • Frank Rose on Storytelling and the Art of Immersion

    10/10/2011 Duración: 01h02min

    Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion and correspondent for Wired Magazine, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how the web has changed the art of storytelling and the interactions between the web, advertising, games, movies, and television. Rose argues that when a new medium is introduced, whether it is the book, movies, or the web, there is always a period of exploration as to how storytelling, the author, and the audience will interact. While there have always been readers, viewers, and listeners who immerse themselves in good stories, the web allows this immersion to expand dramatically, partly because the audience can share reactions and insights with each other as well as becoming part of the creation of the story in ways that past media have not allowed. Rose chronicles these developments with specific examples and speculates on where storytelling on the web might be headed. The conversation closes with a brief discussion of the passing of Steve Jobs.

  • Bruce Meyer on the Middle Class, Poverty, and Inequality

    03/10/2011 Duración: 59min

    Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the middle class, poverty, and inequality. Many economists and pundits argue that the middle class has made little or no economic progress over the last 30 years, that poverty rates are stagnant or rising, and that inequality has increased dramatically. Meyer, drawing on his research over the last ten years, argues that these conclusions are either false or misleading. He argues that standard measures of economic progress and inequality are based on faulty inflation data or a misplaced focus on pre-tax income instead of post-tax income or consumption.

  • Rosenberg on the Nature of Economics

    26/09/2011 Duración: 57min

    Alex Rosenberg of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the scientific nature of economics. Rosenberg, a philosopher of science talks about whether economics is a science. He surveys the changes in economics over the last 25 years--the rise of experimental economics and behavioral economics--and argues that economics has become more scientific and that economists have become more aware of flaws in economic theory. But he also argues that economics is unable to make precise predictions about the effects of various changes in policy and behavior. The conversation closes with a discussion of the role the philosophy of science can play in the evolution of economics.

  • Garett Jones on Stimulus

    19/09/2011 Duración: 01h02min

    Garett Jones of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the workers who were hired with money from the 2009 American Recovery and Re-investment Act--the stimulus package. Jones (with co-author Daniel Rothschild) recently completed two studies based on surveys and interviews with firms who received stimulus funds and workers who work at those firms. They found that 42% of workers hired had been unemployed. The remainder came from other jobs or from outside the labor force such as retirement or school. Is 42% a big number or a small number? Jones argues it is small and defends his conclusion. The conversation also includes a discussion of the labor market generally and why the stimulus spending may not have been effective.

  • Frank on Competition, Government, and Darwin

    12/09/2011 Duración: 01h03min

    Robert Frank of Cornell University and author of The Darwin Economy talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about competition, government and the relevance of Darwin for economics. In a lively and spirited discussion, Frank argues that because people care about their relative standing with their neighbors, standard conclusions about the virtues of competition are misleading. He argues that competition is often wasteful and he suggests directions for tax policy and other forms of government intervention to take these effects into accounts.

  • Winston on Lawyers

    05/09/2011 Duración: 01h01min

    Clifford Winston of the Brookings Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the market for lawyers and the role of lawyers in the political process. Drawing on a new co-authored book, First Thing We Do, Let's Deregulate All the Lawyers, Winston argues that restrictions on the supply of lawyers and increases in demand via government regulation artificially boost lawyers' salaries. Deregulation of the supply (by eliminating licensing) would lower price and encourage innovation.

  • Hanushek on Teachers

    29/08/2011 Duración: 59min

    Eric Hanushek of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the importance of teacher quality in education. Hanushek argues that the standard measures of quality--experience and advanced degrees--are uncorrelated with student performance. But some teachers consistently cover dramatically more material and teach more than others, even within a school. Hanushek presents evidence that the impact of these differences on lifetime earnings for students can be quite large. The conversation closes with a discussion of school finance and the growth of administrators within school systems.

  • O'Donohoe on Potato Chips and Salty Snacks

    22/08/2011 Duración: 01h29min

    Brendan O'Donohoe of Frito-Lay talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how potato chips and other salty snacks get made, distributed, and marketed. The interview follows an hour-long tour of a local supermarket where O'Donohoe showed Roberts some of the ways that chips and snacks get displayed and marketed in a modern supermarket. The conversation is a window into a world that few of us experience or are even aware of--how modern producers and retailers make sure the shelves are stocked and their products get noticed.

  • Brady on the Electorate and the Elections of 2010 and 2012

    15/08/2011 Duración: 01h07min

    David Brady of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons of the election of 2010 and what we might expect from the elections of 2012. Brady draws on political history as well as survey results from work with colleagues Doug Rivers and Morris Fiorina to speculate about the elections of 2012. Along the way he discusses the power of the independent vote, how ObamaCare affected the election of 2010, and the prospects for the Republican nominee in 2012. Taped a few days before the deal on the debt was reached, Brady gives his thoughts on the politics of the negotiations. The conversation concludes with a discussion of whether Obama will have a primary challenger.

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