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.


  • Satz on Markets

    08/08/2011 Duración: 01h02min

    Debra Satz, Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her book, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of the Market. Satz argues that some markets are noxious and should not be allowed to operate freely. Topics discussed include organ sales, price spikes after natural disasters, the economic concept of efficiency and utilitarianism. The conversation includes a discussion of the possible limits of political intervention and whether it would be good to allow voters to sell their votes.

  • Admati on Financial Regulation

    01/08/2011 Duración: 01h01min

    Anat Admati of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about ways to make the financial system more stable. In particular, Admati explores the implications of higher capital requirements. She argues that current policies subsidize leverage--high levels of debt relative to equity--and that current levels of leverage increase the vulnerability of the system to swings in asset prices. She then gives her response to criticisms of higher equity levels. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the role of academic economists and finance professors as advocates for various policies.

  • Hennessey on the Debt Ceiling and the Budget Process

    25/07/2011 Duración: 01h11min

    Keith Hennessey of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the debt ceiling and the budget process. Hennessey, who worked for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on budget issues in the late 1990s, explains the politics of the debt ceiling and the budget process. Using his past experience as a staffer, Hennessey gives those of us on the outside a window into what is actually going on in the hallways, who has power, and how information flows up and down in the chain of constituents, members, party leaders. The conversation closes with Hennessey's best guess of which outcomes of the current negotiations are most likely and why.

  • Taylor on Fiscal and Monetary Policy

    18/07/2011 Duración: 59min

    John Taylor of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the state of the economy and the prospects for recovery. Taylor argues that the design of the fiscal stimulus was ineffective and monetary policy, so-called quantitative easing, has also failed to improve matters. He argues for a return to fiscal, monetary, and regulatory normalcy as the best hope for economic improvement. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the impact of the current crisis on economics education.

  • Banerjee on Poverty and Poor Economics

    11/07/2011 Duración: 50min

    Abhijit Banerjee of MIT talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Banerjee's book (co-authored with Esther Duflo), Poor Economics. The conversation begins with how randomized control trials (a particular kind of social experiment) have been used to measure the effectiveness of various types of aid to the poor. Banerjee goes on to discuss hunger, health, and education--the challenges in each area and what we have learned about what works and what does not. The conversation closes with a discussion of the role of the labor market in the private sector.

  • Skeel on Bankruptcy and the Auto Industry Bailout

    04/07/2011 Duración: 01h56s

    David Skeel of the University of Pennsylvania Law School talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about bankruptcy and the government bailout of the auto industry. Skeel argues that the bailout damaged the rule of law by not allowing a bankruptcy procedure to take its course. Skeel speculates on how bankruptcy for GM and Chrysler might have proceeded. He also argues that the costs to the taxpayer of the bailout have been underestimated. The conversation concludes with a general discussion of the effects of bankruptcy.

  • Otteson on Adam Smith

    27/06/2011 Duración: 01h11min

    James Otteson of Yeshiva University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Adam Smith. The conversation begins with a brief sketch of David Hume and his influence on Smith and then turns to the so-called Adam Smith problem--the author of The Wealth of Nations appears to have a different take on human nature than the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith worked on both books throughout his life, yet their perspectives seem so different. Otteson argues that the books focus on social behavior and the institutions that sustain that behavior--market transactions in The Wealth of Nations and moral behavior in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Both books use the idea of emergent order to explain the evolution of both kinds of social behavior and social institutions. The conversation concludes with a discussion of what Smith got right and wrong.

  • Munger on Exchange, Exploitation and Euvoluntary Transactions

    20/06/2011 Duración: 01h02min

    Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the psychology, sociology, and economics of buying and selling. Why are different transactions that seemingly make both parties better off frowned on and often made illegal? In theory, all voluntary transactions should make both parties better off. But Munger argues that some transactions are more voluntary than others. Munger lists the attributes of a truly voluntary transaction, what he calls a euvoluntary transaction and argues that when transactions are not euvoluntary, they may be outlawed or seen as immoral. Related issues that are discussed include price gouging after a natural disaster, blackmail, sales of human organs, and the employment of low-wage workers.

  • Buchholz on Competition, Stress, and the Rat Race

    13/06/2011 Duración: 59min

    Todd Buchholz, author of Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in the book. Buchholz argues that competition and striving for excellence is part of our evolutionary inheritance. He criticizes attempts to remake human beings into gentle creatures who long to return to an Eden-like serenity. He argues that it is action, creativity, and planning for the future that makes us happy. The discussion includes the implications of our interest in the future for theater and story-telling.

  • Eichengreen on the Dollar and International Finance

    06/06/2011 Duración: 01h05min

    Barry Eichengreen of University of California, Berkeley and author of Exorbitant Privilege talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history and importance of the dollar as the dominant international currency. Eichengreen explains the advantages to the United States of the dollar's dominance, the historical circumstances that led to its dominance, and the likelihood that the dollar might be supplanted by a competitor. Along the way they discuss China's currency policy, the state of U.S. monetary policy, the causes of the crisis, the risk of inflation in the United States, and the future of the Federal Reserve.

  • Easterly on Benevolent Autocrats and Growth

    30/05/2011 Duración: 01h05min

    William Easterly of New York University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the oft-heard claim that poor countries led by autocrats grow faster than poor countries that are democratic. Drawing on a recent paper, "Benevolent Autocrats," Easterly argues that while some autocracies do indeed grow very quickly, a much greater number do not. Yet, the idea that the messiness of democracy is inferior to a dictatorship remains seductive. Easterly gives a number of arguments for the perennial appeal of autocracy as a growth strategy. The conversation closes with a discussion of the limitations of our knowledge about growth and where that leaves policymakers.

  • Harford on Adapt and the Virtues of Failure

    23/05/2011 Duración: 58min

    Tim Harford, author and journalist, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Adapt, Harford's book on the virtues of failure and the trial and error process. Harford argues that success is more likely when there is experimentation and trial and error followed by adapting, rather than following a top-down, ex ante plan driven by expertise. The conversation looks at the what war can teach us about information, knowledge, and planning, the challenge of admitting mistakes, and the implications of trial and error for our daily lives.

  • Byers on the Blind Spot, Science, and Uncertainty

    16/05/2011 Duración: 01h10min

    William Byers of Canada's Concordia University and author of The Blind Spot talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of knowledge, science and mathematics. Byers argues that there is an inherent uncertainty about science and our knowledge that is frequently ignored. Byers contrasts a science of wonder with a science of certainty. He suggests that our knowledge of the physical world will always be incomplete because of the imperfection of models and human modes of thought relative to the complexity of the physical world. The conversation also looks at the implications of these ideas for teaching science and social science.

  • Caplan on Parenting

    09/05/2011 Duración: 01h07min

    Bryan Caplan of George Mason University and EconLog talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in Caplan's new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. Caplan argues that parents spend too much time trying to influence how their kids will turn out as adults. Using research on twins and adopted children, Caplan argues that nature dominates nurture and that parents have little lasting influence on many aspects of their children's lives. He concludes that parents should spend less time and energy trying to influence their children. If parenting takes less time, then have more kids, says Caplan. The conversation concludes with a discussion of whether a larger population is bad for the planet.

  • Papola on the Keynes Hayek Rap Videos

    02/05/2011 Duración: 01h20min

    John Papola of Emergent Order talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about their collaboration creating rap videos based on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek. Their first was "Fear the Boom and Bust" which was released January 25, 2010. This past week they released "Fight of the Century." The latest video discusses the overarching differences between the philosophies of Keynes and Hayek and their views on whether government spending promotes recovery from an economic downturn and whether it leads to prosperity. In this conversation, Papola and Roberts discuss some of the underlying ideas in the video--whether the military spending of World War II ended the Great Depression, the debate between Malthus and Say and their influence on Keynes and Hayek, and the fundamental differences between Keynes and Hayek in how economic prosperity is created.

  • Rubinstein on Game Theory and Behavioral Economics

    25/04/2011 Duración: 01h44s

    Ariel Rubinstein of Tel Aviv University and New York University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the state of game theory and behavioral economics, two of the most influential areas of economics in recent years. Drawing on his Afterword for the 60th anniversary edition of Von Neumann and Morgenstern's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Rubinstein argues that game theory's successes have been quite limited. Rubinstein, himself a game theorist, argues that game theory is unable to yield testable predictions or solutions to public policy problems. He argues that game theorists have a natural incentive to exaggerate its usefulness. In the area of behavioral economics, Rubinstein argues that the experimental results (which often draw on game theory) are too often done in ways that are not rigorous. The conversation concludes with a plea for honesty about what economics can and cannot do.

  • Munger on Microfinance, Savings, and Poverty

    18/04/2011 Duración: 58min

    Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about microfinance. Munger argues that cultural forces make it difficult for some families to save, and the main value of microfinance is to allow a higher level of savings. Families are willing to save via microfinance even though returns can be negative. Munger argues that this counterintuitive result is possible when other means of savings are unavailable. Munger also discusses microfinance that is used for entrepreneurship and the potential role for microfinance in development.

  • Rodrik on Globalization, Development, and Employment

    11/04/2011 Duración: 01h03s

    Dani Rodrik of Harvard University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about trade, the labor market, and trade policy. Drawing on a recent paper with Margaret McMillan on trade and productivity, Rodrik argues that countries have very differing abilities to respond to increases in productivity that allow production to expand using fewer workers in a particular sector. When workers are displaced by productivity increases, what is their next best alternative? Rodrik discusses how this varies across countries and policies that might improve matters. He argues that poor countries should subsidize new products as a way of overcoming uncertainty and externalities from new ventures.

  • Andresen on BitCoin and Virtual Currency

    04/04/2011 Duración: 57min

    Gavin Andresen, Principal of the BitCoin Virtual Currency Project, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about BitCoin, an innovative attempt to create a decentralized electronic currency. Andresen explains the origins of BitCoin, how new currency gets created, how you can acquire BitCoins and the prospects for BitCoin's future. Can it compete with government-sanctioned money? How can users trust it? What threatens BitCoin and how might it thrive?

  • Vincent Reinhart on Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and the Financial Crisis

    28/03/2011 Duración: 01h09min

    Vincent Reinhart of the American Enterprise Institute talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the government interventions and non-interventions into financial markets in 2008. Conventional wisdom holds that the failure to intervene in the collapse of Lehman Brothers precipitated the crisis. Reinhart argues that the key event occurred months earlier when the government engineered a shotgun marriage of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase by guaranteeing billion of Bear's assets and sending a signal to creditors that risky lending might come without a cost. Reinhart argues that there is a wider menu of choices available to policy makers than simply rescue or no rescue, and that it is important to take action before the crisis comes to a head.

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