DiscoverConversations with Tyler
Conversations with Tyler
Claim Ownership

Conversations with Tyler

Author: Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Subscribed: 9,732Played: 225,669
Share

Description

Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
131 Episodes
Reverse
Daniel Carpenter is one of the world’s leading experts on regulation and the foremost expert on the US Food and Drug Administration. A professor of Government at Harvard University, he’s conducted extensive research on regulation and government organizations, as well as on the development of political institutions in the United States. His latest book Democracy by Petition: Popular Politics in Transformation, details the crucial role petitions played in expanding the franchise and shaping modern America. Daniel joined Tyler to discuss how to reform the hiring and firing practices for public employees, what the history of the postal service can teach us about internet regulation, the problem with the term “institutional capture”, what the FDA got right and wrong regarding COVID-19 vaccines, how nationalism is affecting vaccine rollout, why vaccinating the young is crucial for herd immunity, the drawbacks of a “Good Housekeeping” model of the FDA, how black box drug labels sometimes change behavior for the worse, the institutional variables of foreign drug trials and manufacturing, the pivotal role petitions played during the 19th century women’s rights movement, the French Canadian petition that changed history, why political scientists should study Native Americans, the benefits of fly fishing, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
A self-professed nerd, the young Shadi Bartsch could be found awake late at night, reading Latin under the covers of her bed by flashlight. Now a professor of Classics at the University of Chicago, Dr. Bartsch is one of the best-known classicists in America and recently published her own translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. Widely regarded for her writing on Seneca, Lucan, and Persius, her next book focuses on Chinese interpretations of classic literature and their influence on political thought in China. Shadi joined Tyler to discuss reading the classics as someone who is half-Persian, the difference between Homer and Virgil’s underworlds, the reasons so many women are redefining Virgil’s Aeneid, the best way to learn Latin, why you must be in a room with a native speaker to learn Mandarin, the question of Seneca’s hypocrisy, what it means to “wave the wand of Hermes”, why Lucan begins his epic The Civil War with “fake news”, the line from Henry Purcell’s aria that moves her to tears, her biggest takeaway from being the daughter of an accomplished UN economist, the ancient text she’s most hopeful that new technology will help us discover, the appeal of Strauss to some contemporary Chinese intellectuals, the reasons some consider the history of Athens a better allegory for America than that of Rome, the Thucydides Trap, the magical “presentness” of ancient history she’s found in Italy and Jerusalem, her forthcoming book Plato Goes to China, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Shadi on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Before he was California Poet Laureate or leading the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia marketed Jell-O. Possessing both a Stanford MBA and a Harvard MA, he combined his creativity and facility with numbers to climb the corporate ladder at General Foods to the second highest rung before abruptly quitting to become a poet and writer. That unique professional experience and a lifelong “hunger for beauty” have made him into what Tyler calls an “information billionaire,” or someone who can answer all of Tyler’s questions. In his new memoir, Dana describes the six people who sent him on this unlikely journey. In this conversation, Dana and Tyler discuss his latest book and more, including how he transformed several businesses as a corporate executive, why going to business school made him a better poet, the only two obscene topics left in American poetry, why narrative is necessary for coping with life’s hardships, how Virgil influenced Catholic traditions, what Augustus understood about the cultural power of art, the reasons most libretti are so bad, the optimism of the Beach Boys, the best art museum you’ve never heard of, the Jungianism of Star Trek, his favorite Tolstoy work, depictions of Catholicism in American pop culture, what he finds fascinating about Houellebecq, why we stopped building cathedrals, how he was able to effectively lead the National Endowment for the Arts,  the aesthetic differences between him and his brother Ted, his advice for young people who want to cultivate their minds, and what he wants to learn next. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Dana on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
What can new technology tell us about our ancient past? Archaeologist and remote sensing expert Sarah Parcak has used satellite imagery to discover over a dozen potential pyramids and thousands of tombs from ancient Egypt. A professor of anthropology and founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sarah’s work combines technology, historical study, and cultural anthropology to advance discoveries about the past while navigating the political and ethical dilemmas that plague excavation work today. She joined Tyler to discuss what caused the Bronze Age Collapse, how well we understand the level of ancient technologies, what archaeologists may learn from the discovery of more than a hundred coffins at the site of Saqqara, how far the Vikings really traveled, why conservation should be as much of a priority as excavation, the economics of looting networks, the inherently political nature of archaeology, Indiana Jones versus The Dig, her favorite contemporary bluegrass artists, the best archaeological sites to visit around the world, the merits of tools like Google Earth and Lidar, the long list of skills needed to be a modern archaeologist, which countries produce the best amateur space archaeologists, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Sarah on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
What unites John Cochrane the finance economist and “grumpy” policy blogger with John Cochrane the accomplished glider pilot? For John, the answer is that each derives from the same habit of mind which seeks to reduce things down to a few fundamental principles and a simple logical structure. And thus, piloting a glider can be understood as an application of optimal portfolio theory, and all of monetary policy can be made to fit within the structure of a single equation. John joined Tyler to apply that habit of mind to a number of puzzles, including why real interest rates don’t equalize across countries, what explains why high trading volumes and active management persist in finance, how the pandemic has affected his opinion of habit formation theories, his fiscal theory of price level and inflation, the danger of a US sovereign debt crisis, why he thinks Bitcoin will eventually die, his idea for health-status insurance, becoming a national gliding champion, how a Renaissance historian for a father and a book translator for a mother shaped him intellectually, what’s causing the leftward drift in economics, the need to increase competition among universities, how he became libertarian, the benefits of blogging, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow John on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Patricia Fara is a historian of science at Cambridge University and well-known for her writings on women in science. Her forthcoming book, Life After Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career, details the life of the titan of the so-called Scientific Revolution after his famous (though perhaps mythological) discovery under the apple tree. Her work emphasizes science as a long, continuous process composed of incremental contributions–in which women throughout history have taken a crucial part–rather than the sole province of a few monolithic innovators. Patricia joined Tyler to discuss why Newton left Cambridge to run The Royal Mint, why he was so productive during the Great Plague,  why the “Scientific Revolution” should instead be understood as a gradual process, what the Antikythera device tells us about science in the ancient world, the influence of Erasmus Darwin on his grandson, why more people should know Dorothy Hodgkin, how George Eliot inspired her to commit unhistoric acts, why she opposes any kind of sex-segregated schooling, her early experience in a startup, what modern students of science can learn from studying Renaissance art, the reasons she considers Madame Lavoisier to be the greatest female science illustrator, the unusual work habit brought to her attention by house guests, the book of caricatures she’d like to write next, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Brian Armstrong first recognized the potential of cryptocurrencies after witnessing firsthand the tragic consequences of hyperinflation in Argentina. Coinbase, the company he co-founded, aims to provide the primary financial accounts for the crypto economy. Their success in accomplishing this, he says, is due as much to their innovative approach to regulation as it is anything technological. Brian joined Tyler to discuss how he prevents Coinbase from being run by its lawyers, the value of having a mission statement, what a world with many more crypto billionaires would look like, why the volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is more feature than bug, the potential for scalability in Ethereum 2.0, his best guess on the real identity of Satoshi, the biggest obstacle facing new charter cities, the meta rules he’d institute for new Martian colony, the importance of bridging the gap between academics and entrepreneurs, the future of crypto regulation, the benefits of stablecoin for the unbanked, his strongest and weakest interpersonal skill, what he hopes to learn from composing electronic music, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Brian on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Benjamin Friedman has been a leading macroeconomist since the 1970s, whose accomplishments include writing 150 papers, producing more than dozen books, and teaching Tyler Cowen graduate macroeconomics at Harvard in 1985. In his latest book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Ben argues that contrary to the popular belief that Western economic ideas are a secular product of the Enlightenment, instead they are the result of hotly debated theological questions within the English-speaking Protestant world of thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume. Ben joined Tyler to discuss the connection between religious belief and support for markets, what drives varying cultural commitments to capitalism, why the rate of growth is key to sustaining liberal values, why Paul Volcker is underrated, how coming from Kentucky influences his thinking, why annuities don’t work better, America’s debt and fiscal sustainability, his critiques of nominal GDP targeting, why he wouldn’t change the governance of the Fed, how he maintains his motivation to keep learning, his next big project on artificial intelligence, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
“The world of innovation is very much one of toggling between survival and then thriving,” says Noubar Afeyan. Co-founder of Moderna and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, the biomedical innovator, philanthropist, and entrepreneur credits his successes to his “paranoid optimism” shaped by his experiences as an Armenian-American. Exceptional achievements like the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine, he believes, aren’t usually unpredictable but rather the result of systematic processes that include embracing unreasonable propositions and even unreasonable people. He joined Tyler to discuss which aspect of entrepreneurship is hardest to teach, his predictions on the future of gene editing and CRISPR technology, why the pharmaceutical field can’t be winner takes all, why “basic research” is a poor term, the secret to Boston’s culture of innovation, the potential of plant biotech, why Montreal is (still) a special place to him, how his classical pianist mother influenced his musical tastes, his discussion-based approach to ethical dilemmas, how thinking future-backward shapes his approach to business and philanthropy, the blessing and curse of Lebanese optimism, the importance of creating a culture where people can say things that are wrong, what we can all learn by being an American by choice, and more.   Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Noubar on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Want to support the show? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate. On this special year-in-review episode, producer Jeff Holmes sat down with Tyler to talk about the most popular—and most underrated—episodes, Tyler's personal highlight of the year, how well state capacity libertarianism has fared, a new food rule for ordering well during the pandemic, how his production function changed this year, why he got sick of pickles, when he thinks the next face-to-face recording will be, the first thing he’ll do post vaccine, an update on his next book, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Want to support the show? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate. Growing up in a working-class city in New Jersey, John Brennan’s father was an Irish immigrant who always impressed upon his children how grateful they should be to be American citizens. That deeply-instilled patriotism and the sense of right and wrong emphasized by his Catholic upbringing would lead John first to become an intelligence officer and then eventually Director of the CIA. His new memoir, which Tyler found substantive on every page, recounts that career journey. John joined Tyler to discuss what working in intelligence taught him about people’s motivations, how his Catholic upbringing prepared him for working in intelligence, the similarities between working at the CIA and entering the priesthood, his ability to synthetize information from disparate sources, his assessment on the possibility of alien life, the efficacy of personality tests and polygraphs, why CIA agents are so punctual, how the CIA plans to remain a competitive recruiter for top talent, the challenges that spouses and family members of intelligence workers face, the impact of modern technology on spycraft, why he doesn’t support the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, his favorite parts of Cairo, the pros and cons of the recent Middle Eastern peace deal brokered by Jared Kushner, the reasons he thinks we should leverage American culture more abroad, JFK conspiracy theories, why there seemed to be much less foreign interference in the 2020 election than experts predicted, what John le Carré got right about being a spy, why most spies aren’t like James Bond, what he would change about FISA courts, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow John on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
After reading Zach Carter’s intellectual biography of Keynes earlier this year, Tyler declared that the book would qualify “without reservation” as one of the best of the year. Tyler’s assessment proved common, as the book would soon become a New York Times bestseller and later be declared one of the ten best books of the year by Publishers Weekly. In the book, Carter not only traces Keynes’ intellectual achievements throughout his lifetime, but also shows how those ideas have lasted long after him, making him one of the most influential economists who’s ever lived. Zach joined Tyler to discuss what Keynes got right – and wrong – about the Treaty of Versailles, how working in the India Office influenced his economic thinking, the seemingly strange paradox of his “liberal imperialism,” the elusive central message of The General Theory, the true extent of Keynes’ interest in eugenics, why he had a conservative streak, why Zach loves Samuel Delaney’s novel Nova, whether Bretton Woods was doomed to fail, the Enlightenment intuitions behind early defenses of the gold standard, what’s changed since Zach became a father, his next project, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Zach on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Jimmy Wales used to joke that choosing to build Wikipedia on a non-profit, non-advertising model was either the best or worst decision he ever made—but he doesn’t joke about that anymore. “If you think about advertising-driven social media…it's driven them in many cases to prioritize agitation and argumentation in a negative sense over education and learning and thoughtfulness.” In his now ceremonial role, Jimmy spends a lot of time thinking about how to structure incentives so that the Wikipedia community stays aligned on values and focused on building an ever-improving encyclopedia. Jimmy joined Tyler to discuss what happens when content moderation goes wrong, why certain articles are inherently biased, the threat that repealing section 230 poses to Wikipedia, whether he believes in Conquest’s Law, the difference between “paid editing” and “paid advocacy editing,” how Wikipedia handles alternative accounts, the right to be forgotten, his unusual education in Huntsville, Alabama, why Ayn Rand is under- and over-rated, the continual struggle to balance good rules and procedures against impenetrable bureaucracy, how Wikipedia is responding to mobile use, his attempt to build a non-toxic social media platform, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Jimmy on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Edwidge Danticat left Haiti when she was 12, she says, but Haiti never left her. At 14 she began writing stories about the people and culture she loved, and now is an internationally acclaimed novelist and short story writer as well a MacArthur Genius Fellow. Rather than holding herself out as an expert or sociologist on Haiti, she seeks to treat her characters and culture with nuance and show the beauty and complexity of the place she calls home. She joined Tyler to discuss the reasons Haitian identity and culture will likely persist in America, the vibrant Haitian art scenes, why Haiti has the best food in the Caribbean, how radio is remaining central to Haitian politics, why teaching in Creole would improve Haitian schools, what’s special about the painted tap-taps, how tourism influenced Haitian art, working with Jonathan Demme, how the CDC destroyed the Haitian tourism industry, her perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement, why she writes better at night, the hard lessons of Haiti’s political history, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter Image credit: Carl Juste
Michael Kremer is best known for his academic work researching global poverty, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2019 along with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Less known is that he is also the founder of five non-profits and in the process of creating a sixth. And Kremer doesn’t see anything unusual about embodying the dual archetypes of economist and founder. “I think there's a lot of relationship between the experimental method and the things that are needed to help found organizations,” he explains. Michael joined Tyler to discuss the intellectual challenge of founding organizations, applying methods from behavioral economics to design better programs, how advanced market commitments could lower pharmaceutical costs for consumers while still incentivizing R&D, the ongoing cycle of experimentation every innovator understands, the political economy of public health initiatives, the importance of designing institutions to increase technological change, the production function of new technologies, incentivizing educational achievement, The Odyssey as a tale of comparative development, why he recently transitioned to University of Chicago, what researchers can learn from venture capitalists, his current work addressing COVID-19, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Audrey Tang began reading classical works like the Shūjīng and Tao Te Ching at the age of 5 and learned the programming language Perl at the age of 12. Now, the autodidact and self-described “conservative anarchist” is a software engineer and the first non-binary digital minister of Taiwan. Their work focuses on how social and digital technologies can foster empathy, democracy, and human progress. Audrey joined Tyler to discuss how Taiwan approached regulating Chinese tech companies, the inherent extraterritoriality of data norms, how Finnegans Wake has influenced their approach to technology, the benefits of radical transparency in communication, why they appreciate the laziness of Perl, using “humor over rumor” to combat online disinformation, why Taiwan views democracy as a set of social technologies, how their politics have been influenced by Taiwan’s indigenous communities and their oral culture, what Chinese literature teaches about change, how they view Confucianism as a Daoist, how they would improve Taiwanese education, why they view mistakes in the American experiment as inevitable – but not insurmountable, the role of civic tech in Taiwan’s pandemic response, the most important remnants of Japanese influence remaining in Taiwan, why they love Magic: The Gathering, the transculturalism that makes Taiwan particularly open and accepting of LGBT lifestyles, growing up with parents who were journalists, how being transgender makes them more empathetic, the ways American values still underpin the internet, what they learned from previous Occupy movements, why translation, rotation, and scaling are important skills for becoming a better thinker, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Audrey on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
To Alex Ross, good music critics must be well-rounded and have command of neighboring cultural areas. “When you're writing about opera, you're writing about literature as well as music, you're writing about staging, theater ideas, as well as music,” says the veteran music journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker. His most recent book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, explores the complicated legacy of Wagner, as well as how music shapes and is shaped by its cultural context. Alex joined Tyler to discuss the book, what gets lost in the training of modern opera singers, the effect of recording technology on orchestras, why he doesn’t have “guilty pleasures,” how we should approach Wagner today, the irony behind most uses of “Ride of the Valkyries” in cinema, his favorite Orson Welles film, his predictions for concert attendance after COVID-19, why artistic life in Europe will likely recover faster than in America, Rothko’s influence on composer Morton Feldman, his contender for the greatest pop album ever made, how his Harvard dissertation on James Joyce prepared him for a career writing about music, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos  Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Alex on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Matt Yglesias joined Tyler for a wide-ranging conversation on his vision for a bigger, less politically polarized America outlined in his new book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. They discussed why it’s easier to grow Tokyo than New York City, the governance issues of increasing urban populations, what Tyler got right about pro-immigration arguments, how to respond to declining fertility rates, why he’d be happy to see more people going to church (even though he’s not religious), why liberals and conservatives should take marriage incentive programs more seriously, what larger families would mean for feminism, why people should read Robert Nozick, whether the YIMBY movement will be weakened by COVID-19, how New York City will bounce back, why he’s long on Minneapolis, how to address constitutional ruptures, how to attract more competent people to state and local governments, what he’s learned growing up in a family full of economists, his mother’s wisdom about visual design and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Matt on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
Note: This conversation was recorded in January 2020. Tyler credits Jason Furman’s intellectual breadth, real-world experience, and emphasis on policy for making him the best economist in the world. Furman, despite not initially being interested in public policy, ultimately served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama thanks to a call from Joe Stiglitz while still in grad school. His perspective is as idiosyncratic as his career trajectory, seeing the world of economic policy as a series of complex tradeoffs rather than something reducible to oversimplified political slogans. Jason joined Tyler for a wide-ranging conversation on how monopolies affect investment patterns, his top three recommendations to improve American productivity, why he’s skeptical of place-based development policies, what some pro-immigration arguments get wrong, why he’s more concerned about companies like Facebook and Google than he is Walmart and Amazon, the merits of a human rights approach to privacy, whether the EU treats tech companies fairly, having Matt Damon as a college roommate, the future of fintech, his highest objective when teaching economics, what he learned from coauthoring a paper with someone who disagrees with him, why he’s a prolific Goodreads reviewer, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Jason on Twitter Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
What might the electrification of factories teach us about how quickly we’ll adapt to remote work? What gives American companies an edge over their competitors on the international stage? What value do management consultants really provide? Stanford professor Nick Bloom’s research studies how management practices, productivity techniques, and uncertainty shape outcomes across companies and countries. He joined Tyler for a conversation about which areas of science are making progress, the factors that have made research more expensive, why government should invest more in R&D, how lean management transformed manufacturing, how India’s congested legal system inhibits economic development, the effects of technology on Scottish football hooliganism, why firms thrive in China, how weak legal systems incentivize nepotism, why he’s not worried about the effects of remote work on American productivity (in the short-term), the drawbacks of elite graduate programs, how his first “academic love” shapes his work today, the benefits of working with co-authors, why he prefers periodicals and podcasts to reading books, and more. Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu Follow Tyler on Twitter Facebook Newsletter
loading
Comments (16)

Michael

I always come back to this one, the exchanges are just so enlightening every time I listen.

Oct 19th
Reply

ID18193283

This was a disappointing episode tbh. Full of tenuous assertions.

Jul 18th
Reply

Jonathan Petherbridge

You didn't ask about racism and police? Would have been good to hear some discussion on Roland Fryer's paper.

Jun 17th
Reply

Michael

Consistently high quality conversations, keep them coming! Keep strong during the quarantine!

Apr 27th
Reply

Matt Bowen

a great thinker, thoughtful, intelligent

Feb 22nd
Reply

Gary Haase

First time I've heard Zuckerberg asking the questions rather than being grilled. Patrick Collison is an interesting. Big questions being raised.

Nov 27th
Reply (1)

Nimit Kathuria

Raghuram Rajan's twitter handle link is wrong.

May 18th
Reply

gg

He said the number one killer was malaria when deciding to find the theoretical cure over cancer, alluding to saving more lifes when cancer kills roughly 9 million more people worldwide per year.

Apr 24th
Reply

gg

awesome

Apr 24th
Reply

gg

great

Apr 5th
Reply

Ali Salem

good

Mar 1st
Reply

NLuc

great talk. I would love to hear more about right-wing political correctness and why is a bigger problem. I didn't see any links in the show notes. ideas?

Sep 5th
Reply

Joseph Davila

Como que Tyler tiene la sangre de atole. :D

Aug 30th
Reply

Gabo

audio quality: terrible! please record it professionally.

Aug 16th
Reply

zac wallace

great discussion. glad to be introduced to another interesting guy whose book will get lost on my growing reading list

Mar 2nd
Reply
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store