Russ Roberts


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 800+ episodes are available in the archive. Go to for transcripts, related resources, and comments.

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853 episodes

Russ Roberts and Mike Munger on Wild Problems

Waze and Google Maps tell us the best way to get to where we're going. But no app or algorithm can tell us whether we should head there in the first place. To economist Russ Roberts, the reason is simple: Humans are dynamic and aspirational beings. When it comes to making life's big decisions, from what to study to whom to marry or whether to have a child, it's not always us doing the deciding, he argues, but rather the people we want to be. Join the host of EconTalk, the president of Shalem College, and the author of the new book , as he speaks with friend and EconTalk favorite Michael Munger about why the traditional economic models for decision making can lead us astray--and why life should be less about solving problems than embracing possibilities.

1h 17m
Aug 08
Gerd Gigerenzer on How to Stay Smart in a Smart World

IBM's super-computer Watson was a runaway success on  But it wasn't nearly as good at diagnosing cancer. This came as no surprise to Max Planck Institute psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, who argues that when it comes to life-and-death decisions, we'll always need real, not artificial, brains. Listen as the author of  tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts why computers aren't nearly as smart as we think. But, Gigerenzer says, human beings need to get smarter in order to avoid being manipulated by people who use AI for their own ends.

1h 8m
Aug 01
John List on Scale, Uber, and the Voltage Effect

Economist John List of the University of Chicago talks about his book, , with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. He discusses what determines scalability and argues that the only good ideas that count are those that scale. Along the way, he draws on his experiences as chief economist of Uber and Lyft to peer inside the black box of ride sharing.

1h 0m
Jul 25
Vinay Prasad on the Pandemic

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination, is the risk of myocarditis greater than the benefit to a healthy male teen? Is natural immunity really better than vaccination--and were we right to mask the kids? Dr. Vinay Prasad of the University of California San Francisco talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what we learned and didn't learn from COVID so far and how we should handle a pandemic going forward.

1h 27m
Jul 18
Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Nations, States, and Scale

A language, a flag, a national anthem and shared history—like a heart that has to pump harder to support a heavier body, the bigger a nation gets, the harder to curate an identity. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about scale and governance with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Taleb sings the virtues of smaller relative to larger and decentralized as much as possible relative to centralized. Along the way, he provides a framework for Russia's war against Ukraine and explains why the United States has thrived despite its size and scope.

1h 5m
Jul 11
Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan on Immigration Then and Now

Immigration to the United States, say Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan, is more novel than short story: It takes decades for new immigrants to catch up economically. But their kids on average thrive economically and have higher rates of upward mobility than American-born kids. Abramitzky and Boustan talk about their book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Using an extraordinary data set of millions of Americans, Boustan and Abramitzky find that today's immigrants and their children are surprisingly similar to yesterday's.

1h 13m
Jul 04
A.J. Jacobs on Solving Life's Puzzles

How much of life can be solved by algorithms, and how much just can't be solved? Listen as A.J. Jacobs, author of , talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons he learned from solving every kind of puzzle imaginable, including the biggest stumper of all: what it really means to be a human being.

1h 8m
Jun 27
Roosevelt Montás on Rescuing Socrates

How do books change our lives? Educator and author Roosevelt Montás of Columbia University talks about his book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Drawing on his own educational and life journey, Montás shows how great books don't just teach us stuff--they get inside us and make us who we are.

1h 20m
Jun 20
Sridhar Ramaswamy on Google, Search, and Neeva

Former Google ads boss Sridhar Ramaswamy says that we live in a world that seems to give out free content when we use a search engine. But that world comes with a hidden cost--search results that distort what we find and serve advertisers rather than searchers. Ramaswamy talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how Google works and why he started a new search engine, Neeva, with a different business model.

1h 1m
Jun 13
Matti Friedman on Leonard Cohen and the Yom Kippur War

In October 1973, an unhappy Leonard Cohen was listening to the radio on his Greek island home when he heard that Israel was at war. He headed to Tel Aviv, exchanging a personal and creative crisis for a national one. Absent a plan and even a guitar, Cohen wound up serenading Israeli soldiers at the front. Journalist Matti Friedman talks about his book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts and explains how a songwriter and a nation were transformed in the crucible of war.

1h 9m
Jun 06
Ian Leslie on Curiosity

Why are some people incurious? Is curiosity a teachable thing? And why, if all knowledge can be googled, is curiosity now the domain of a small elite? Listen as Ian Leslie, author of , talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts why curiosity is a critical virtue, why it's now in dangerous decline, and why, when it comes to what sustains long-term fascination, mysteries beat puzzles every time.

1h 7m
May 30
Diane Coyle on Cogs, Monsters, and Better Economics

Mainstream economics, says author Diane Coyle, keeps treating people like cogs: self-interested, rational agents. But in the digital economy, we're less sophisticated consumer and more monster under the influece of social media. Listen as the economist and former UK Treasury advisor tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts how, for economics to remain relevant, it needs both more diverse methodologies and more engagement with the broader issues of the day.

1h 2m
May 23
Marc Andreessen on Software, Immortality, and Bitcoin

What's the single best thing happening in technology right now? According to entrepreneur and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, it's the ability to live in rural Wisconsin but still earn a Silicon Valley salary. Andreessen also explains to EconTalk host Russ Roberts why software is still eating the world, why he's an optimist, and why he's still bullish on Bitcoin and the blockchain.

1h 13m
May 16
Chris Blattman on Why We Fight

It's tempting to explain Russia's invasion of Ukraine with Putin's megalomania. Economist Chris Blattman of the University of Chicago talks about his book  with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Blattman explains why only a fraction of rivalries ever erupt into violence, the five main reasons adversaries can't arrive at compromise, and the problem with trying to get into Putin's head (and why it's not all about Putin. Really).

1h 8m
May 09
Dwayne Betts on Ellison, Levi, and Human Suffering

In his memoir of his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi describes Jewish prisoners bathing in freezing water without soap--not because they thought it would make them cleaner, but because it helped them hold on to their dignity. For poet and author Dwayne Betts, Levi's description of his fellow inmates' suffering, much like the novelist Ralph Ellison's portrayal of early twentieth-century black life in America, is much more than bearing witness to the darkest impulses of mankind. Rather, Betts tells EconTalk host Russ Roberts, both authors' writing turns experiences of inhumanity into lessons on what it means to be a human being.

1h 23m
May 02
Michael Munger on Antitrust

Are tech giants such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook dangerous? Do they have too much power? Dive into the murky waters of antitrust as Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about monopoly, antitrust policy, and competition in the 21st century.

1h 22m
Apr 25
Tyler Cowen on Reading

Intellectual omnivore Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and EconTalk host Russ Roberts talk about their reading habits, their favorite books, and the pile of books on their nightstands right now.

1h 8m
Apr 18
Russ Roberts on Education

What do crossing rivers and investing in stocks have in common? Real education is seeing the connection between things that seem very different. EconTalk's host Russ Roberts talks about education with Alex Aragona of the podcast, The Curious Task Roberts argues that the ability to apply insights from one area to another with which we're unfamiliar is one of the ways that real education differs from the mere accumulation of knowledge. And when we combine insights from two areas into something completely new, we can not only navigate rivers and stock markets, but also scale the heights of the human experience.

1h 1m
Apr 11
Richard Gunderman on Greed, Adam Smith, and Leo Tolstoy

Physician and careful reader Richard Gunderman of Indiana University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how Adam Smith and Leo Tolstoy looked at greed. Drawing on Tolstoy's short story, "Master and Man," and adding some Thomas Hobbes along the way, Gunderman argues that a life well-lived requires us to rise above our lower desires. Join Gunderman and Roberts for a sleigh ride into a snowy blizzard, where you won't find your way by following rules, but rather by recognizing what needs to be seen.

1h 5m
Apr 04
Pano Kanelos on Education and UATX

What is real education? What can colleges provide their students? Pano Kanelos, president of the new college-to-be in Austin, UATX, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of education, what the Great Books can teach us, and how we should rethink college education in today's world.

1h 14m
Mar 28
Robert Pindyck on Averting and Adapting to Climate Change

Economist Robert Pindyck of MIT talks about his book, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Pindyck lays out what we know and do not know about climate change. He argues that because of the nature of greenhouse gases, adaptation must be part of the policy response to climate change.

1h 10m
Mar 21
Maxine Clark on Building the Build-a-Bear Workshop

Stuff it, fluff it, stitch it, dress it: Build-a-Bear Founder and former CEO Maxine Clark built a retail-entertainment empire by letting people make their own furry friends. Two hundred million of them. What's the secret to her success? Listen as she tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts how she developed a customer-focused culture, why she sought to join (and not beat) her competition, and about some of the (seriously) strange things people have stuffed into their bears.

1h 3m
Mar 14
Angela Duckworth on Character

Many people think schools are no place for teaching character. Psychologist Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Character Lab, disagrees. She talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the implicit curriculum for character, the critical role early education plays in shaping our adult values, and why the Marshmallow Test doesn't determine our destiny.

1h 5m
Mar 07
Tamar Haspel on First-Hand Food

What did author and columnist Tamar Haspel learn from her quest to eat at least one thing she'd grown, caught, or killed every day? For starters, that just-caught fish always tastes better (unless you've caught a false albacore). That all it takes to build a coop is the will and the right power tools, and that when it comes to homegrown produce, you've got none until you've got way too much. But most of all, she tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts in talking about her book , she learned that figuring stuff out to solve problems is more delicious than the most decadent of desserts.

1h 4m
Feb 28
Luca Dellanna on Compulsion, Self-deception, and the Brain

Why do people eat too much even when they don't want to? Why are there so many bad managers? And why might anti-vaxxers be useful? Luca Dellanna, author of , thinks the answers to all of these questions are in our heads, or rather in our basal ganglia. Dellanna talks to EconTalk's Russ Roberts about why both brains and employees need immediate feedback, why we're wired to believe our best guesses, and why addiction is just our brain's way of making sure we survive.

1h 17m
Feb 21
Michael Eisenberg on the Start-Up Nation, Storytelling, and the Power of Technology

Michael Eisenberg, venture capitalist and the author of talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the secret of the Start-Up Nation, the role of principles in investing, and why he's optimistic about technology's contribution to humanity.

1h 11m
Feb 14
John Taylor on Inflation, the Fed, and the Taylor Rule

What's so bad about rising inflation? Why should we aim for a rate of 2 percent? Why is it a problem if interest rates are too low--and what do we mean by inflation, anyway? Stanford University's John Taylor talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about these questions, the Taylor Rule, why inflation is rising, and what the Fed should do about it. At the end of the conversation, Taylor discusses whether stimulus stimulates and the dangers of the national debt.

1h 5m
Feb 07
Moshe Koppel on Norms, Tradition, and Resilient Societies

Traditions and norms can seem at best out-of-touch and at worst offensive to many a modern mind. But Israeli computer scientist and Talmud scholar Moshe Koppel argues that traditions and norms--if they evolve slowly--create trust, develop our capacity for deferred gratification, and even, in the case of how we prepare cassava, protect us from poisoning. Listen as the author of talks with EconTalk Russ Roberts about tradition, religion, tribalism, resilience, and emergent order.

1h 9m
Jan 31
Penny Lane on Loving and Loathing Kenny G

Love it or hate it, but you've definitely heard it: the so-called "smooth jazz" of saxophonist Kenny G. Filmmaker Penny Lane talks about her documentary, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. They discuss the pursuit of perfection, the power of vulnerability in art, and why Kenny G is loved by the people and reviled by the critics.

1h 25m
Jan 24
Tyler Cowen and Russ Roberts on Nation, Immigration, and Israel

Can Israeli society survive the loss of universal military service? Will the deregulation of Israel's kosher supervision spell the end of its Jewish character? And, speaking of Israel, what is it that makes its television dramas so good? Tyler Cowen discusses these and other subjects with EconTalk host Russ Roberts, new immigrant to Israel and unabashed fan of the miniseries and Homer's .

1h 16m
Jan 17