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The Ezra Klein Show

The Ezra Klein Show

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Winner of the 2020 Webby and People's Voice awards for best interview podcast.

Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Stacey Abrams feels about identity politics? How Hasan Minhaj is reinventing political comedy? The plans behind Elizabeth Warren’s plans? How Michael Lewis reads minds? This is the podcast for you. Produced by Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

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Last week, Harper’s published an open letter arguing that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” The letter had a long list of signatories, and triggered an instant controversy, not so much for what it said as a text as for how it was being used as a political document. This is a hot debate on both sides because it traces the issue most central not just to journalists’ hearts, but to our jobs: Can we speak the truth, as best we understand it? And who, even, is “we”? I believe in the free exchange of information and ideas. I’ve committed my life to it. But I also worry those values are sometimes deployed as political positioning rather than democratic practice. The term "free speech" is often used here, but we're not dealing with laws regulating speech. We're dealing with media platforms that make editorial decisions as a matter of course. No one has the right to a New York Times op-ed column, or a warm reception on social media. But fear of losing your job, or your status, can chill speech — as, of course, can fear of physical or legislative harm. As such, I've come to think the core of this debate isn't freedom, but safety. The word has become polarizing, but the yearning for it is ubiquitous. To speak freely, you must feel safe, or at least safe enough. That’s what the letter’s signatories are asking for. That’s also what its critics are asking for. Yascha Mounk is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, a columnist at the Atlantic, the host of the Good Fight podcast, and now the founder of a new journal, Persuasion, dedicated to pushing back on the illiberalism he sees infecting the discourse. Yascha and I agree on most issues, and I think hold similar values, but often find ourselves arguing over this topic. So I asked him on the show to see if we could figure out why. We discuss liberalism and illiberalism, what to do with speech that restricts others from speaking, the component parts of what gets called “cancel culture,” whether the zone of debate has widened or narrowed over the past 20 years, the differing cultures of Twitter and Reddit, The NYT's Tom Cotton controversy, whether safety and free speech are truly in tension, what the word “unsafe” means to people who have daily reason to fear for their freedom and futures, and much more.  Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Masha Gessen grew up in the Soviet Union and spent two decades covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, before being driven from the country by policies targeting LGBT people. Watching Donald Trump win in 2016, Gessen felt like they had seen this movie before. Within forty-eight hours of Trump’s victory, Gessen’s essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” had gone viral, including lessons that in hindsight read as prophetic: Believe the autocrat. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Institutions will not save you. Now, Gessen is back with a new book, Surviving Autocracy, that is a collection of ideas they have been building over the course of the Trump presidency. We discuss the inherent fragility of American political institutions, Donald Trump’s autocratic aesthetic, how the language of liberal democracy paradoxically undermines genuine liberal democracy, what lessons Gessen learned from covering the rise of Vladamir Putin, why Gessen believes the US is currently in the first stage of the three part descent to autocracy, whether George W. Bush was a more damaging president than Donald Trump, the counterintuitive roots of Trumpian post-truthism, and much more. Book recommendation: The Post-Communist Mafia State by Balint Magyar Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer/ Audio Master Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
When we talk about AI, we’re often talking about a very particular, narrow form of intelligence — the sort of analytical competence that can win you games of GO or solve complex math equations. That type of intelligence is important, but it’s incomplete. Human affairs don’t operate on reason and logic alone. They sometimes don't operate on reason and logic at all. In 1995, computer scientist Rosalind Picard wrote a paper and subsequent book making the case that the fields of computer science and AI should take emotion seriously, and providing a framework for how machines could come to understand, express and monitor emotion. That project launched the field of “Affective Computing” and today Picard is the founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT, and a leading inventor and entrepreneur in affective computing.  In this conversation, Picard and I discuss the importance of emotional cognition to human decision-making, how emotion-tracking technology is being used to help disadvantaged populations (but could also be used to bring about dystopian results), how affective computing deals with the subjective expressions of human emotions, what studying affective computing taught her about interacting with other humans, why Picard believes the goal of AI technology should be to “empower the weak”and “reduce inequality,” and much more. Book recommendations: The Bible (stick around for the reasoning behind this one) Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer/ Jack-of-all-audio-trades Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
My first conversation with Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen in fall 2019 was one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t expect to have Allen on again so soon, but her work is unusually relevant to our current moment. She’s written an entire book about the deeper argument of the Declaration of Independence and the way our superficial reading and folk history of the document obscures its radicalism. (It’ll make you look at July Fourth in a whole new way). Her most recent book, Cuz, is a searing indictment of the American criminal justice system, driven by watching her cousin go through it and motivated by the murder that ended his life. Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, which Allen directs, has released the most comprehensive, operational road map for mobilizing and reopening the US economy amidst the Covid-19 crisis. And to top it all off, a two-year bipartisan commission of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, which Allen co-chaired, recently released a report with more than 30 recommendations on how to reform American democracy — and they’re very, very good. This is a wide-ranging conversation for a wide-ranging moment. Allen and I discuss what “all men are created equal” really means, why the myth of Thomas Jefferson’s sole authorship of the Declaration of Independence muddies its message, the role of police brutality in the American revolution, democracy reforms such as ranked-choice voting, DC statehood, mandatory voting, how to deal with a Republican Party that opposes expanding democracy, the case for prison abolition, the various pandemic response paths before us, the failure of political leadership in this moment, and much more. References: My first conversation with Danielle Allen Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center's Covid-19 work "Our Common Purpose" report on reinventing democracy for the 21st century Book recommendations: To Shape a New World by Brandon Terry and Tommie Shelby  Solitary by Alfred Woodfox  The Torture Letters by Laurence Ralph Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer/ Jack-of-all-audio-trades Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Land of the Giants is a podcast from our friends at Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network that examines the most powerful tech companies of our time.   The second season is called The Netflix Effect, and it’s hosted by Recode editors Rani Molla and Peter Kafka.   The Netflix Effect explores how a company that began as a small DVD-by-mail service ultimately upended Hollywood and completely changed the way we watch TV.   It’s a fascinating look at what really goes on behind the scenes at Netflix, one of the few companies that’s actually growing during the pandemic, and how they’re continuing to transform entertainment for you and me.     New episodes are released every Tuesday morning.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 1964, the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote his opus Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In it, he writes, “In the long run, a medium's content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act." Or, put more simply: "Media work their magic, or their mischief, on the nervous system itself." This idea — that the media technologies we rely on reshape us on a fundamental, cognitive level — sits at the center of Nicholas Carr's 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. A world defined by oral traditions is more social, unstructured, and multi-sensory; a world defined by the written written word is more individualistic, disciplined, and hyper-visual. A world defined by texting, scrolling and social feedback is addicted to stimulus, constantly forming and affirming expressions of identity, accustomed to waves of information. Back in 2010, Carr argued that the internet was changing how we thought, and not necessarily for the better. “"My brain, I realized, wasn't just drifting,” he wrote. “It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the same way the net fed it — and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became.” His book was a finalist for the Pulitzer that year, but dismissed by many, including me. Ten years on, I regret that dismissal. Reading it now, it is outrageously prescient, offering a framework and language for ideas and experiences I’ve been struggling to define for a decade.  Carr saw where we were going, and now I wanted to ask him where we are. In this conversation, Carr and I discuss how speaking, reading, and now the Internet have each changed our brains in different ways, why "paying attention" doesn't come naturally to us, why we’re still reading Marshall McLuhan, how human memory actually works, why having your phone in sight makes you less creative, what separates "deep reading” from simply reading, why deep reading is getting harder, why building connections is more important than absorbing information, the benefits to collapsing the world into a connected digital community, and much more. The point of this conversation is not that the internet is bad, nor that it is good. It’s that it is changing us, just as every medium before it has. We need to see those changes clearly in order to take control of them ourselves.  Book recommendations: The Control Revolution by James R. Beniger The Four-Dimensional Human by Laurence Scott A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer - Jeff Geld Research Czar - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Your questions, answered

Your questions, answered

2020-06-2501:25:458

Believe it or not, we’re already halfway through 2020. What a great year so far, huh? Just a delight. That means it’s time for an AMA. Among the questions you asked: If Joe Biden is elected president, what should his administration's first legislative priority be?  What were the best critiques of Why We’re Polarized?  How much of today's political conflict comes down to the Boomer/Millennial divide? What’s your reading process? What does preparation for EK Show episodes look like? If you were only intellectually accountable to beauty and not truth, what religion would you choose?  What’s your favorite non-Vox podcast? What’s your biggest takeaway from year 1 of being a dad? East coast or west coast?  What are the episodes that you have the most fun doing?  What’s an important identity of yours that doesn’t usually come out on the show?  Roge Karma joins me for this one. References: "In praise of polarization" by Ezra Klein "Imagining the nonviolent state" by Ezra Klein Ezra's book recommendations: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck Beyond Ideology by Francis Lee What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer  Most fun EK Shows: I build a world with fantasy master N.K. Jemisin The art of attention, with Jenny Odell Tracy K. Smith changed how I read poetry How Hasan Minhaj is reinventing political comedy Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer/Audio Wizard - Jeff Geld Researcher/Guest host - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
I got my start as a blogger. But more specifically, I got my start as a health policy blogger. My first piece of writing I remember people really caring about was a series called “The Health of Nations,” in which I checked out books from college library, downloaded international reports, and profiled the world’s leading health systems. It was crude stuff, but it taught me a lot. The way we do health care isn’t the only way to do health care. It’s not the best way, or the second best, or the third. Ezekiel Emanuel is a bioethicist, oncologist, and co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Health Transformation Institute. He was a top health policy advisor in the Obama administration, he’s a senior fellow at the Center for American progress, he makes his own artisanal chocolate, and he’s got a new book — Which Country Has the World’s Best Healthcare? — where he goes into more detail than I ever did, or could, to profile other health systems and rank them against our own. So, yes, this is a conversation about which country has the world’s best health system. But it’s also about how innovation in health care actually works, whether there’s any evidence private insurers add actual value, whether health care is the best investment to make in improving health (spoiler: no), how do you improve a health system when half of the political system will fight like hell against those improvements, and much more. Emanuel has also been doing a lot of work on coronavirus policy, and so we spend some time there, discussing the question that’ tormenting me now: Are we simply giving up that fight? And is there even a politically viable option to giving up, given how much time the government has wasted and how exhausted the public is? Book recommendations: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro The Last Place on Earth by Roland Huntford On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editer/Audio Wizard - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The criminal justice system asks three questions: What law was broken? Who broke it? And what should the punishment be? Upon that edifice — and channeled through old bigotries and fears — we have built the largest system of human incarceration on earth. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its imprisoned population.  Restorative justice asks different questions: Who was harmed? What do they need? And whose obligation is it to meet those needs? It is a radically different model, with profoundly different results both for victims and perpetrators. Studies show restorative justice programs leave survivors more satisfied, cut recidivism rates, and cost less. If we’re thinking about rebuilding the criminal justice program, restorative justice should be central to that conversation.  sujatha baliga is the director of the Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. She won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2019. She’s a survivor of abuse herself. Her work points toward a new paradigm for criminal justice: one focused on repairing breaches, not exacting retribution. And it carries lessons for how our politics might function, how our society could heal some of its oldest wounds, and how we live our own precious lives.  References: "Imagining the nonviolent state" by Ezra Klein Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm by Kazu Haga Book recommendations: For the Benefit of All Beings by the Dalai Lama  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher extraordinaire - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In his new book, The Decadent Society, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat diagnoses America’s core problems as decadence: “a situation in which repetition is more the norm than innovation; in which sclerosis afflicts public institution and private enterprises alike; in which intellectual life seems to go in circles; in which new developments in science, new exploratory projects, underdeliver compared with what people recently expected.” Douthat argues that there is a kind of ideological exhaustion, a spiritual malaise, at the center of the American project. We are a victim of our own successes, undone by our own achievements, and unable to break free from our oldest debates. But is he right? Ross and I cover a lot of ground in this conversation. We discuss why conservative Catholics talk so much more about sex than poverty, the dangers of the expansionary impulse, whether psychedelic culture is an antidote to decadence, the importance of utopian ambition, the moral foundations of effective altruism, the problem with contemporary science fiction, whether political liberalism is dependent on Christian metaphysics, why America can’t build, whether war is necessary for existential meaning, how the New York Times op-ed page has changed over the past decade, and much more. Book recommendations: From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun The Illusion of the End by Jean Baudrillard The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood The Children of Men by PD James Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
You may have been following — I hope you are following — the New York Times's recent UFO reporting. Videos that the Navy confirms are real show pilots seeing and marveling over craft they can't explain. And as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it, those videos “only scratch the surface” of the Pentagon's UFO research. UFOs are one of those topics that it’s hard to take seriously because they’re covered in kitsch and conspiracy. But there are those who take them seriously, which means approaching the question with humility. The history, frequency, and consistency of these events point toward something that merits study. But the explanations we force onto them — from religious visitations to aliens — confuse us further. We’re working backward from beliefs we already have, not forward from phenomena we don’t understand.  Diana Walsh Pasulka is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion. In 2019, she published a fascinating book called American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, in which she embeds in the world of UFO research and tries to understand it using the tools of religious scholarship. The results are revelatory in terms of theory but also in terms of the things she sees, learns, and is forced to confront. Sometimes it's healthy — and, to be honest, fun — to train our attention on what we can't explain, not just what we can. In this episode, we do just that. Book recommendations: Passport to Magonia by Jacques Vallee Authors of the Impossible by Jeffrey J. Kripal UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record by Leslie Kean Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 2017, Paul Butler published the book Chokehold: Policing Black Men. For Butler the chokehold is much more than a barbaric police tactic; it is also a powerful powerful metaphor for understanding how racial oppression functions in the US criminal justice system.  Butler describes a chokehold as “a process of coercing submission that is self-reinforcing. A chokehold justifies additional pressure on the body because a body does not come into compliance, but a body cannot come into compliance because of the vice grip that is on it.” That, he says, is the black experience in the United States.  Butler knows that experience all too well. He began his legal career as a criminal prosecutor, a job that he describes in this conversation as “basically just locking up black men.” Then, the tables turned and Butler found himself falsely accused of a misdemeanor assault. "After that experience I didn’t want to be a prosecutor any more," he writes. "I don’t think every cop lies in court but I know for sure that one did."  That experience put Butler on a journey very different than the one he began. Butler, now a Georgetown Law professor, has come to believe that the criminal justice system is not merely broken and in need of repair; rather, it is working exactly as it was designed, and thus needs to be completely reimagined. Book recommendations: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison Sula by Toni Morrison Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Editor - Jackson Bierfeldt Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The first question I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates, in this episode, was broad: What does he see right now, as he looks out at the country? “I can't believe I'm gonna say this,” he replied, “but I see hope. I see progress right now.” Coates is the author of the National Book Award-winner Between the World and Me and The Water Dancer, among others. We discuss how this moment differs from 1968, the tension between “law” and “order,” the contested legacy of MLK, Trump's view of the presidency, police abolition, why we need to renegotiate the idea of “the public,” how the consensus on criminal justice has shifted, what Joe Biden represents, the proper role of the state, the poetry Coates recommends, and much more.  But there’s one thread of this conversation, in particular, that I haven’t been able to put down: There is now, as there always is amidst protests, a loud call for the protesters to follow the principles of nonviolence. And that call, as Coates says, comes from people who neither practice nor heed nonviolence in their own lives. But what if we turned that conversation around: What would it mean to build the state around principles of nonviolence, rather than reserving that exacting standard for those harmed by the state? Book recommendations: Punishment and Inequality in America by Bruce Western Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration by Devah Pager The Country Between Us by Carolyn Forche Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Editor - Jackson Bierfeldt Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Dutch historian and De Correspondent writer Rutger Bregman got famous for the lashings he gave Tucker Carlson and the assembled plutocrats of Davos. But his work is far more utopian than polemical. The conversation we had on this show almost a year ago on his previous book Utopia for Realists is still one of my favorites. Bregman's new book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, is even more ambitious: it's an effort to establish that human beings, human nature, is kinder, friendlier, more decent, than we are given credit for. And that a new world could be built atop that understanding. I'm not convinced by everything in this book, to be honest. But that tension makes this conversation unusually generative. We discuss the deeply social, egalitarian lives of hunter-gatherers, whether the advent of human civilization was a huge mistake, and how our views toward religious faith have changed radically since our early 20s; and we debate whether humans have a nature at all, the implications of the Holocaust, whether we can build a society without CEOs, politicians, and bureaucrats, and more By the end, I'm still not sure I believe there is one human nature. But, I do think that if we believed Bregman's view of our nature, rather than, say, Donald Trump's view of our nature, maybe we could build something much more beautiful. Book recommendations: Affluence without Abundance by James Suzman Behind the Shock Machine by Gina Perry The Lost Boys by Gina Perry How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
From politician to priest

From politician to priest

2020-05-2802:04:517

I first met Cyrus Habib at a conference a few years ago. You don't forget him. He's a Rhodes scholar. Iranian-America. As lieutenant governor of Washington state, he was the youngest Democrat elected to statewide office in the country. And he's blind. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the New York Times that I didn't expect: Habib, who had a clear shot to be the next governor of Washington, is leaving politics to become a Jesuit. He is going to take a vow of obedience, of poverty, of chastity. He is going to give up his phone for years. And most fascinating of all, he doesn’t think of it as an act of sacrifice. “I don’t see it as a shrinking of my world,” he told the Times. "I see it as a shrinking of my self.” That is not something you read every day. So I asked Habib if he would come on the podcast and talk to me about this decision. The result is a remarkable conversation about Habib’s intertwining faith and political journeys, what you can and can’t achieve through political service, whether religion is the modern counterculture, how the forces of meritocracy and achievement ensnare even their winners, what it means to lead a life of joy, whether freedom comes through choice or constraint, the Jesuit theory of social change, whether a decision like this is selfish or selfless, and so much more. This conversation takes a bit of a winding path. But where it goes is really, really worth it. Book recommendations: The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon Laudato Si' by Pope Francis Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Robert Frank's radical idea

Robert Frank's radical idea

2020-05-2501:15:0312

I’ve known Cornell economist Robert Frank for almost 15 years. And for as long as I’ve known him, Frank has been trying to convince his fellow economists of an idea that’s simple to state, but radical in its implications: social pressure is a fundamental economic force. We are not rational, individual economic agents; we are social animals trying to mimic, and best each other — oftentimes without even knowing it. The failure of the economics profession to see this is, in Frank's view, a crime against public policy. Frank’s new book, Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work, came out shortly before coronavirus reshaped daily life. But it is, for that very reason, extraordinarily timed: it’s an effort to show that the economics of social contagion could reshape the world, solving our hardest problems — from climate change to income inequality — and offering new ways to think about the power we have as individuals. Absent coronavirus, its argument might’ve seemed abstract, optimistic. But now we've seen it happen. We are watching a version of Frank’s thesis play out right now, in real time. In the wake of coronavirus, social pressure has driven perhaps the single fastest behavioral transformation in human history. It is the example and pressure we face from each other that has made social distancing so effective, so fast. And if social pressure can do that — what else can it do? What Frank offers here is a theory of how public policy can shape peer pressure for good and for bad. Some of the ideas in this podcast — "expenditure cascades," "positional goods" — are hard to unsee once you see them. Others — like his proposal to rebuild the tax system around a progressive consumption tax meant to curb the intra-wealthy competitions that drive inequality — would radically reshape vast swaths of the tax code. Book recommendations: The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling "How to solve climate change and make life more awesome" with Saul Griffith (podcast) Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Grocery store clerks. Fast food cashiers. Hospice care workers. Bus drivers. Farm workers. Along with doctors and nurses, these are the people who are putting their own lives at risk to keep our society functioning day in and out amid the worst crisis of our lifetimes. We call them heroes, we label them “essential,” and we clap for their brave efforts -- even though none of them signed up for this monumental task, and many of them lack basic healthcare, paid sick leave, a living wage, cultural respect and dignified working conditions.  How did things get this way? Why did we end up with an economy that treats our most essential workers as disposable? And what does an alternative future of work look like?  Mary Kay Henry is the president of the Service Employees International Union, a 2 million person organization that represents a huge segment of America’s essential workers. If you ask a traditional economist why essential workers are paid so little, they’ll talk about marginal productivity and returns to education; ask Kay Henry and she’ll talk about something very different: power. Book recommendations: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo Lead from the Outside by Stacey Abrams The Dowry by Lorraine Paolucci Macchello Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Times of London called Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist.” Quartz describes her as “on a mission to save capitalism from itself.” Wired says she has “a plan to fix capitalism,” and warns that “it’s time we all listened. ”Mazuccato is an economist at University College London and Founder and Director of UCL's Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s the author of The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything — two books that, together, critique some of the most fundamental economic assumptions of our time, and try and chart a different path forward. This is a moment that demands critique. The workers who are being called “essential” now were treated as disposable before — paid low wages, offered little respect. The difference between states with innovative, capable public sectors and states where government agencies have been dismissed and defunded is on terrible display.  The debates Mazzucato has been trying to open for years are now unavoidable. So let’s have them. Book recommendations: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar  The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
While you read these words, the universe is splitting into countless copies. New realities, all with a version of you, exactly like you are now, but journeying off into their own branch of the multiverse. Maybe. Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at CalTech, the host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of, among other books, Something Deeply Hidden, which blew my mind a bit. He is also a believer in, and defender of, the “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which has to be one of the five most fun things in the world to think about. Science! This is a conversation where I get to do something I’ve always wanted to do: Ask a real quantum physicist all of my questions about quantum physics. And then ask again, when I don’t understand the answer, which I usually don’t. And then again, when I sort of understand, but there’s still a part tripping me up. Carroll is wonderfully patient and beautifully clear, and the result is a conversation I haven’t stopped telling friends about since I had it. This world sucks right now. Let’s think about some other ones. References: The Biggest Ideas in the Universe! YouTube series Book recommendations: How Physics Makes Us Free by J. T. Ismael How the Universe Got Its Spots by Janna Levin The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In Michigan, African Americans represent 14 percent of the population, 33 percent of infections, and 40 percent of deaths. In Mississippi they represent 38 percent of the population, 56 percent of infections, and 66 percent of deaths. In Georgia they represent 16 percent of the population, 31 percent of infections, and just over 50 percent of deaths. The list goes on and on: Across the board, African Americans are more likely to be infected by Covid-19 and far more likely to die from it. This doesn’t reflect a property of the virus. It reflects a property of our society. Understanding why the coronavirus is brutalizing black America means understanding the health inequalities that predate it. For the last 25 years, David R. Williams, a professor of public health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has been studying those inequalities. He was named one of the top 10 most-cited social scientists in the world from 1995 to 2005, and Reuters ranked him as one of the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” in 2014. At the center of Williams’s work is an attempt to grapple with some of the most difficult and sensitive questions in public: Why do black Americans have higher rates of chronic illness, disease, and mortality than white Americans? Why do those disparities remain even when you control for variables like income and education? Consider this: The life expectancy gap between a white high school dropout and a black high school dropout? 3½ years. Between a white college graduate and a black college graduate? 4.2 years. In this conversation, Williams doesn’t just give the clearest account I’ve heard of the coronavirus’s unequal toll. He also gives the clearest account of how America’s institutional and social structures have led to the most profound and consequential inequality of all. References: "Are Ghettos Good or Bad" by David Cutler and Edward Glaeser David Williams's Ted Talk on racism and health Book recommendations: American Apartheid by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton The Highest Stage of White Supremacy by John Whitson Cell The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (165)

Paulo Lavigne

Ezra, I like your show very much, but sometimes your questions are too long winded. Sorry! I marvel at the interviewees' ability to keep track of their gist. 😂

Jul 9th
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Victoria Niemeijer

Excellent discussion of this subject. Great interview, smart questions.

Jul 4th
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Elvis Kelvin

woow

Jun 15th
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Gracie Haak

this was a super interesting episode, loved the guest. she seemed like one of those people who has so much info and fascination in their brain that it's hard to pin down, which always make for fun interviews.

Jun 15th
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Greg Carroll

Thank you. Excellent discussion on what is crime and the proper response to the crime.

Jun 8th
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Greg Fishman

This is an incredible interview, and everybody should listen to it. They discuss a number of very important points about the role of police in society, and what the alternatives could be.

Jun 5th
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Jeremy Laney

less than 10 minutes into this and Ezra has already misspoke regarding basic economic theory in his intro and Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist" is trying to say that somehow 'objective' value has been incorrectly assigned in a system where 2 entities engage in a mutually agreeable economic transaction (at the price where those supply & demand lines intersect no less). There in No objective value! if I am on my home standing beside the water cooler, the bottle of Dansi you try to sell me doesn't have a whole lot of intrinsic WORTH, because I have a ready supply that is a sunk cost if I don't drink it. Alone and stranded in the middle of the desert and it is probably WORTH (to me) every worldly possession in my power to exchange.

May 19th
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ID17289390

I’ve never written a comment before on a podcast, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. I came to say thank you to you and Jenny - I didn’t understand all of the conversation but on some level it was exactly what I needed. I’m working from home I’ve moved my desk / laptop 4 times in the last week just to try to define a space that feels like I’m working. The laugh out loud moment when Jenny recommended your wife’s book made my night Keep going and stay safe

May 18th
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Michael Bracy

amazing conversation

May 13th
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Keith Johnson

but w11 73feet 0 g2dpbif4fs8 n342

Apr 23rd
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John Hills

a San Francisco libturds fake news podcast. delete.....

Mar 22nd
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John Hills

who the fuck taught these feminine men how to talk? theese vox gurls sound exactly like a 1980' valley girl squalking at the mall.

Mar 14th
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John Hills

who actually listens to these millennial twats go on and on about orange man bad...??? Trump 2020! liberalism is a mental disorder.

Mar 14th
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Philly Burbs

if I thought I would be listening to the Biden show I would have never started this podcast. After the rigged Super Tuesday event, I refuse to allow anyone to mention him name in my presence.

Mar 14th
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larry shiver

Guys I'm an Uber driver and I Gotta be honest, while I think your podcast is entirely relevant and fact filled, it is incredibly hard to listen too. My riders, they always ask me to turn away from your podcast in particular and I get it. Informationally speaking your episodes address very insightful, however your conversations easily devolve into way way too long monologues spoken so fast that they unnecessarily tests the processing power of your listeners. All this begs the question, like solo Jazz musicians are you doing this Podcast so you folks can hear yourselves or so that we, your audience can learn something? (Real question btw) If the Podcast is for our benefit and you're interested in my opinion, that a discussion. However here is a starting place... monologues on major issues must be slowed down and become conversational for your audience to absorb. You folks are everything I love and hate about Jazz. Mostly, you folks seem prone to soloing way too long, to the point of creative masturbation actually. Focus less on making your IQ's so apparent and more on being concerned about whether your audience is successfully processing the segment. add real time 'contemplate what we're saying' music along with some minor sound design. provide a moment's musical interlude for the audience to absorb major points. Make segments shorter so the audience can get a point and take a break to absorb and refresh. Making a show like this listen obal involves way more then putting 2 mikes on the table and your proficiency at circular talking. Bottom line, add real production values that magnify message absorption and watch your viewership grow. More questions? gotgreatfriends@gmail.com PS At its core, this is an important podcast. Good luck folks!

Mar 2nd
Reply (1)

Jack Jennaway

Wow. I have read some Ta-Nehisi Coetes, but I've never heard him speak before. He's hilarious!

Feb 17th
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Matt Butters

Very telling that Hasan calls groups like Boko Haram and ISIS "quote unquote terrorist groups".

Feb 7th
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Philly Burbs

Unlike Bloomberg, Tom Snyder followed the rules. I like his ideas. I'm afraid he'd going to split the vote & help Trump win again. No matter how low his numbers are he continues.

Feb 6th
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Vernon Shoemaker

"Institution" is a numinous term and temperament is an approach to that. An older word that suggests institution is "covenant" and is contractual involving a legal framework. This empowers institutional members to accomplish certain tasks. If those tasks are not constructive, or unclear, those institutions will turn their business to conflict with other institutions or individual players outside of their group. This is an irresponsible distraction. An institution is not an absolute good. Where it has betrayed it's ideals or lost track of it's purpose, it should be questioned and reformed. It's members don't derive their identity from belonging, they belong to fulfill a common purpose. "The answer to irresponsibility is responsibility.". Wow!

Jan 25th
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Cheri Anderson Phillips

she talks too fast through most of this, making it difficult to process

Jan 1st
Reply (1)
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