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Author: Russ Roberts

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EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious is an award-winning weekly podcast hosted by Russ Roberts of Shalem College in Jerusalem and Stanford's Hoover Institution. The eclectic guest list includes authors, doctors, psychologists, historians, philosophers, economists, and more. Learn how the health care system really works, the serenity that comes from humility, the challenge of interpreting data, how potato chips are made, what it's like to run an upscale Manhattan restaurant, what caused the 2008 financial crisis, the nature of consciousness, and more. EconTalk has been taking the Monday out of Mondays since 2006. All 900+ episodes are available in the archive. Go to for transcripts, related resources, and comments.
955 Episodes
Does parenting make you a better person? Can it improve your life? Neuroscientist Erik Hoel makes the self-interested case for parenting arguing that it makes you less jaded and more heartbroken (in a good way) for how you experience the world. Listen as new father Hoel speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the universal and particular truths surrounding parenting, and why the perception presented by the media is often at odds with our own experience. Topics include different parenting styles and their effects, how parents shape children's personalities and preferences, and the famous children's books that both men love and hate. The conversation closes with a discussion of the reliability of recent studies condemning homeschooling.
What lessons can we take from the speeches of Abraham Lincoln for today's turbulent times? How did those speeches move the nation in Lincoln's day? Listen as political scientist Diana Schaub of Loyola University, Maryland talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about three of Lincoln's most important speeches and what they can tell us about the United States then and now.
For many men, surviving the test of battle intensifies the joy of being alive. A provocative claim, perhaps, but to novelist Mark Helprin, simply a fact, and one that drives his new book about men who commit themselves fully both to service during wartime and to the women they love. Listen as Helprin tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts how his service in the Israeli and American militaries, his decades of journalism and outdoor adventure, and his long career in defense and foreign policy enabled him to write The Oceans and the Stars, a lyrical and thrilling look at leadership in the crucible of war--and at sea. They also discuss Helprin's writing routine and sources of inspiration, his analysis of Israel's real-life war against Iran and its proxies, and his thoughts on the state of American culture today.
To international law expert Eugene Kontorovich of George Mason University, all the arguments that make Israel out to be an occupying force collapse under the weight of a single, simple fact: A country cannot occupy territory to which it has a legal claim. Listen as Kontorovich speaks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the legal issues surrounding occupation as well as the moral issues of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. They also discuss the crazy-quilt legal environment of jurisdiction in the West Bank in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords of 1993. Finally, they explore the likely outcomes of current proposals for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
If you're always imitating others or aspiring to be something else, what's left of the "authentic" you? According to the French philosopher René Girard, not much: Nothing can be truly authentic, he argued--everything comes from somewhere else. This is just one of the many original and counterintuitive claims put forth in Girard's sweeping approach to human history. He argues it is sameness, not our difference that leads to conflict, and he sees religion as a way to contain the chaos as opposed to its first cause. Listen as Stanford University scholar Cynthia Haven speaks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about Girard's theories of desire and violence. The conversation also includes a discussion of the power of forgiveness to put a stop to conflict's rinse-and-repeat.
Economics students are often taught that government should intervene when there is market failure. But what about government failure? Should we expect government intervention to outperform market outcomes? Listen as Duke University economist Michael Munger explores the history of how economists have thought about this dilemma and possible ways to find a third or even fourth option beyond government or markets.
Can a document unify a nation? Yuval Levin of the American Enterprise Institute and author of American Covenant argues that the Constitution unified the United States at the founding of the country and that understanding the Constitution can help bring the country together today. Listen as Levin speaks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about how the Constitution not only took into account fractious politics, but also ensured that polarization would lead to a stronger democracy. Topics include the inherent limitations placed on the majority and how that affects policy formation, the vital if misunderstood advantages of the electoral college, and why, despite all the warnings to the contrary, this is far from a dangerous moment in American political history.
When poet, lawyer, and MacArthur Fellow Dwayne Betts was imprisoned for nine years at the age of 16 for carjacking, he only wept twice. One of those times was when he read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." In this powerful conversation with EconTalk's Russ Roberts, Betts explains why he cried, what he learned from King, King's urgency in the face of injustice, and Betts's thoughts on writing the introduction to a new volume of King's letter.
The Covid vaccine saved many lives but so many mistakes were made in how public health officials discussed it, implemented it, and assessed its effectiveness. Epidemiologist Vinay Prasad of the University of California, San Francisco talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about what went wrong, the costs of the mistakes that were made, and what we can do better the next time.
If you didn't have to work to enjoy material abundance, would you do it anyway? If an algorithm or a pill could achieve better results, would you bother shopping or going to the gym? These are the kinds of questions we'll need to ask ourselves if AI makes all human labor and other traditional ways of spending time obsolete. Oxford philosopher Nicholas Bostrom, author of Deep Utopia, is downright bullish about our ability, not only to adjust to a life stripped of labor, but to thrive. Listen as Bostrom explains to EconTalk's Russ Roberts what pleasure and leisure might look like in a world without struggle or pain, and why art and religion may come out still standing, or even become more necessary. Finally, they speak about how AI might free us up to be the best people we can be.
Glenn Loury Tells All

Glenn Loury Tells All


Economist and social critic Glenn Loury talks about his memoir, Late Admissions, with EconTalk's Russ Roberts. In a wide-ranging and blunt conversation, Loury discusses his childhood, his at-times brilliant academic work, his roller-coaster ideological journey, and his personal flaws as a drug addict and imperfect husband. This is a rich conversation about academic life, race in America, and the challenges of self-control.
What does it mean to live Constitutionally in the year 2024? For a start, it means getting off social media. It also means swapping a quill pen for your keyboard, and candlelight for electricity. And don't forget the tricorn hat and musket--though maybe skip the boiled mutton. Join author A.J. Jacobs as he deep-dives with EconTalk's Russ Roberts into the centuries-old principles of the U.S. Constitution and tries to apply them to the current day. Topics include the original conceptions of our most cherished amendments, the office of the President, and the Supreme Court, and an explanation of how one can be an originalist and still believe in gender equity. Jacobs also shares his family's experience writing its own constitution, and explains why his research made him more optimistic about the future of American democracy.
The favorite EconTalk episodes for host Russ Roberts are when he and his guest have an unusually powerful connection such as his recent episode with Charles Duhigg, and the ones where he learns something mind-blowing, like Adam Mastroianni’s insight that you can’t reach the brain through the ears. Listen as Russ explains how he chooses guests, and why EconTalk has evolved to focus on things other than economics. He also shares listeners' favorite conversations from 2023, and tells a story that shows the challenges—and opportunities—of applying EconTalk’s lessons to our personal lives.
Would an AI simulation of your dead loved one be a blessing or an abomination? And if you knew that after your own death, your loved ones would create a simulation of you, how would that knowledge change the way you choose to live today? These are some of the questions psychologist Paul Bloom discusses with EconTalk's Russ Roberts as we stand on the threshold of digital immortality.
If the Wright Brothers could have used AI to guide their decision making, it's almost certain they would never have gotten off the ground. That's because, points out Teppo Felin of Utah State University and Oxford, all the evidence said human flight was impossible. So how and why did the Wrights persevere? Felin explains that the human ability to ignore existing data and evidence is not only our Achilles heel, but also one of our superpowers. Topics include the problems inherent in modeling our brains after computers, and the value of not only data-driven prediction, but also belief-driven experimentation.
While religion may play less of a role in many people's lives, rituals--the lifeblood of religion--remain central to the human experience. Listen as Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School explains how and why rituals remain at the center of our lives--they give meaning to life-cycle events and secular holidays, calm our fears, and give us a sense of control when the pressure to perform can otherwise overwhelm us.
Can you be too happy? Psychologist Adam Mastroianni talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about our emotional control systems, which seem to work at bringing both sadness and happiness back to a steady baseline. Too much happiness is--perhaps surprisingly--not necessarily a good thing. They also explore whether our general level of happiness is really related to events in our lives or connected to something much larger than ourselves.
Listen as Megan McArdle and EconTalk's Russ Roberts use Google's new AI entrant Gemini as the starting point for a discussion about the future of our culture in the shadow of AI bias. They also discuss the tension between rules and discretion in Western society and why the ultimate answer to AI bias can't be found in technology.
Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib spent much of his childhood in Gaza before becoming an American citizen. He has lost dozens of family members and both his childhood homes in Israel's war in Gaza. But he hasn't lost hope for peace and the future of the Palestinian people. Listen as he describes the reality of life in Gaza under Hamas rule, and what he believes most Gazans think of Hamas. He also shares his thoughts on how to save Israel's hostages, and how Palestinians can thrive once the war is over.
The world of today would seem alien to someone living 30 years ago: people seduced by their screens in private and public and now AI blurring the lines between humans and the machine. Author and technologist Azeem Azhar chronicles the pace of change and asks whether the human experience can cope with that pace while preserving what is fundamentally human.
Comments (121)


Great show about the past {Lincoln era} and very pertinent to the current troubled times we face.

Jul 21st


It is difficult word. For example, amendment and constitution.

Jun 28th

Habia Khet


Feb 5th

Savitha Rengabashyam

Really enjoyed this conversation! Michael put forth such clear examples to understand how strategies are used to push people past moderation. The scarcity loop and the three components of the scarcity loop really hit home, especially in understanding how social media gets us scrolling away to no end. Made me also wonder if the scarcity loop is relevant to scenarios involving excessive book reading. Though reading is a good thing, the three components of the loop may be relevant to books as well?

Dec 19th

roberto iannucci

My expectations were pretty low for this episode, and I recognize and respect the good intentions, but this is ridiculous.

Dec 4th

Bruno Duarte

great episode, subscribed to Munger's pcast

Jul 1st

Taylor Lassiter

skip. guest is a moron

May 30th

Michael McGrath

Great, thoughtful conversation👍🏼

Feb 7th

Jorge Cueto

So many bad colonialist takes in this episode 💀💀💀

Jan 19th

Reza Gholi

it's kind of funny how you both skipped the later edit cohen did to "lovers" song and deleted the phrase he was calling Israelis as brothers.

Jun 7th

Reza Gholi

Immediately after he wrote [that verse], he apparently frightened himself and crossed out the word ‘my brothers.’ You can see the line in the notebook, and he replaced it with the words “the children.”

Jun 7th

Reza Gholi

He writes about an incident where he is evacuating wounded and he was very emotional, and then they say to him, ‘Don’t worry those are Egyptians,’ and he is relieved. And then he catches himself and says ‘Why am I relieved that it’s only Egyptians,’ and he later writes ‘This is blood on my hands,'” Friedman recounted, noting that Cohen hardly ever mentioned the war afterward

Jun 7th

Captain Creditor

Dog's breakfast bit needs to be on the best of '22 list. 😆

May 18th

Reza Gholi

there is a day called "nikbah". the day that nearly 1 milion Palestinian were thrown out of their house, and the state of israel was stablished. the occupation and oppression has just gone up since that day. it's really odd to sea pro Israelis talking about the oddness of human's capacity for cruelty and oppression.

May 4th


good show

Jan 29th
Reply (1)

Dan Kaiser

If poor people knew what they really needed they wouldn't be poor.

Dec 16th

Prabhat kumar

So much pretension...this guy talks like Donald Trump

Oct 21st

Dan Kaiser

Reminder that George Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose. No autopsy evidence of suffocation.

Oct 11th
Reply (1)

Reza Gholi

how do yo feel working in an apartheid system?

Jul 10th

Prajay Maganlal

this was such a great episode

Mar 19th