Conversations with Tyler

By Mercatus Center at George Mason University

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 Aug 15, 2019


 May 11, 2019

Guy Molinari
 Feb 20, 2019
#Top10 podcast.

Andrew Liese
 Nov 8, 2018
Tyler Cowen asks incredibly insightful questions to uniquely interesting guests. This has quickly become my favorite interview podcast.

Atma Khalsa
 Oct 23, 2018
Insightful conversations on politics, economics, globalization, and culture with a variety of high quality guests.

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.

Episode Date
Daron Acemoglu on the Struggle Between State and Society
55:19

What determines the economic, social, and political trajectories of nations? Why were settlers in colonies like Jamestown and Australia able to escape the extractive systems desired by their British masters, while colonial subjects in Barbados and Jamaica were not? In his latest book, Daron Acemoglu elevates the power of institutions over theories centering on human capital, culture, or geography. Institutions help strike the balance of power in the constant struggle between state and society, creating a ‘narrow corridor’ through which liberty and prosperity is achieved.

Daron joined Tyler for a conversation about drivers of economic growth, the economic causes and effects of democratization, how Germanic tribes introduced “bottom-up politics” to the Roman empire, the institutional reasons that China’s state capacity and control has increased with its wealth, his predictions for the future of liberty in his birth country of Turkey, the biggest challenges currently facing the Middle East, what we can learn from the example of Lagos, why publishing in the “top five” is overrated, tips on motivating graduate students, and more.

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Dec 04, 2019
Mark Zuckerberg Interviews Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen on the Nature and Causes of Progress (Bonus)
01:08:05

Over the past year Mark Zuckerberg has held a series of interviews themed around technology and society. This conversation with Tyler and Patrick is the last in that series, and covers why they think the study of progress is so important, including how it could affect biomedical research, the founding of new universities and foundations, building things fast, housing and healthcare affordability, the next four years of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and more.

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Nov 27, 2019
Shaka Senghor on Incarceration, Identity, and the Gift of Literacy
01:00:24

How do you survive seven years in solitary confinement? The gift of literacy is what saved Shaka Senghor. Reading, journaling, academic study, and writing books was a way to structure and survive an inhumane, mentally toxic environment. And after 19 years in total behind bars, he was finally able to apply that gift and create employment for himself as a writer and organizational leader upon rejoining society.

Shaka joined Tyler to discuss his book Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, what it was like to return to society not knowing the difference between the internet and a Word document, entrepreneurialism and humor in prison, the unexpected challenges formerly incarcerated people face upon release, his ideas for helping Detroit, what he connects with in Eastern philosophy, how he’s celebrating the upcoming anniversary of his tenth year of freedom, and more.

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Nov 20, 2019
Lunch with Fuchsia Dunlop at Mama Chang (Bonus)
01:16:48

Three years after her first appearance, Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop joins Tyler to celebrate the release of her latest cookbook and talk all things food and China. This time the conversation was held over a special homestyle meal at Mama Chang, the newest restaurant from Chef Peter and Lisa Chang. Together with their daughter Lydia Chang, Fuchsia selected a menu to share with Tyler and a group of friends from the DC food scene. Each dish inspired new avenues for discussion, including the trendiness of ‘Chinese’ cauliflower, why hot pot is overrated, what Western food China has recently perfected, first experiences with Sichuan peppercorns, whether ma la will take over the world, why Michelin inspectors underrate Chinese cuisine, what to serve a Westerner for a Chinese dessert, and much more.

Joining Tyler, Fuchsia, and Lydia around the table were Chef Pichet Ong, Chef Seng Luangrath, David Hagedorn, Stefanie Gans, Rivka Friedman, Natasha Cowen, and Yana Chernyak.

Special thanks to Peter, Lisa, Lydia and all the staff at Mama Chang for the wonderful meal.

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Nov 13, 2019
Ted Gioia on Music as Cultural Cloud Storage
01:03:19

To Ted Gioia, music is a form of cloud storage for preserving human culture. And the real cultural conflict, he insists, is not between “high brow” and “low brow” music, but between the innovative and the formulaic. Imitation and repetition deaden musical culture—and he should know, since he listens to 3 hours of new music per day and over 1,000 newly released recordings in a year. His latest book covers the evolution of music from its origins in hunter-gatherer societies, to ancient Greece, to jazz, to its role in modern-day political protests such as those in Hong Kong.

He joined Tyler to discuss the history and industry of music, including the reasons AI will never create the perfect songs, the strange relationship between outbreaks of disease and innovation, how the shift from record companies to Silicon Valley transformed incentive structures within the industry–and why that’s cause for concern, the vocal polyphony of Pygmy music, Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize, why input is underrated, his advice to aspiring music writers, the unsung female innovators of music history, how the Blues anticipated the sexual revolution, what Rene Girard’s mimetic theory can tell us about noisy restaurants, the reason he calls Sinatra the “Derrida of pop singing,” how to cultivate an excellent music taste, and why he loves Side B of Abbey Road.

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Nov 06, 2019
Henry Farrell on Weaponized Interdependence, Big Tech, and Playing with Ideas
01:11:06

The one concept most valuable for understanding the news today might be Henry Farrell’s theory of weaponized interdependence. Whether it’s China’s influence over the NBA, the US ban of Huawei, or whether social media should be regulated on a global scale, Henry Farrell has played a key role articulating how global economic networks can enable state coercion.

Tyler and Henry discuss these issues and more, including what a big tech breakup would mean for security and privacy, why political economics suggests Facebook’s Oversight Board won’t work, what Italy might reveal about China’s future, his family connection to Joyce, his undying affection for My Bloody Valentine, why Philip K. Dick would have reveled in QAnon, why Twitter seems left-wing, and being a first generation academic blogger.

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Oct 23, 2019
Ben Westhoff on Synthetic Drugs, Dive Bars, and the Evolution of Rap
01:00:44

Ben Westhoff has written some of Tyler’s favorite books on everything from dive bars to the evolution of American rap music to how fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic. So how does he get it done? Not from the outside in, by finding exotic experiences as he originally thought. Instead he found that it comes from the inside out: eating right, exercising, getting sleep, and journaling. Do those things, Ben says, and you’ll be in a much better position to notice the good stories happening all around you.

He joined Tyler to discuss those many stories, including the proliferation of synthetic drugs, China’s role in the crisis, the merits of legalization versus decriminalization, why St. Louis is underrated, New Jersey hip-hop, how CDs changed rap, what’s different about Dr. Dre, whether the entourage is efficient, the social utility of dive bars, and more.

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Oct 09, 2019
Alain Bertaud on Cities, Markets, and People
01:20:26

Markets, Alain Bertaud likes to say, are like gravity: they exist everywhere. But while urban planners are quite good at taking gravity into account, they tend to ignore market forces entirely in their designs, resulting in city development that too often fails to address the needs of their residents.

Following the release of his recent book, Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities, Alain joined Tyler in New York City for a discussion of the politics affecting urban centers, his advice to Robert Moses, whether the YIMBY movement can win, why he loves messy cities, what he got wrong about Shenzhen, why the Moscow subway is so wonderful, whether cities can move, favorite movies about cities, the region of the world most likely to start a charter city, how to reform the World Bank, his top three NYC planning reforms, why Central Park is the perfect size, and more.

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Sep 25, 2019
Samantha Power on Learning How to Make a Difference
01:06:34

A former war correspondent and UN ambassador, Samantha Power has had her share of tough assignments. But writing a memoir about it all is also a daunting prospect. The format itself is a challenge: how do you convince the reader you’re worth spending time with? How do you paint a relatable portrait without oversharing and losing your dignity? For Samantha the answer was settling upon a purpose for her memoir and ruthlessly cutting out everything not in service of that.

Tyler and Samantha discuss that purpose and more, including what she learned as an Irish immigrant, the personality traits of good diplomats (and war correspondents), relations with China, why democracy is so rare in the Middle East, the truth about Richard Holbrooke, what factors mitigate against humanitarian intervention, her favorite memoir, how to get NATO members to spend more on defense, and whether baseball games are too long.

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Sep 11, 2019
Hollis Robbins on 19th Century Life and Literature
50:23

As a graduate student, Hollis Robbins helped Henry Louis Gates, Jr. unravel a mystery about the provenance of a mid-19th century book. Robbins helped date the book by discovering allusions to popular literature of that period — her focus at the time. The realization that this perspective would bring valuable insight to other 19th century African American literature prompted her to make that her specialty.

Now a dean at Sonoma Sate University, Robbins joined Tyler to discuss 19th-century life and literature and more, including why the 1840s were a turning point in US history, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Calvinism, whether 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained are appropriate portraits of slavery, the best argument for reparations, how prepaid postage changed America, the second best Herman Melville book, why Ayn Rand and Margaret Mitchell are ignored by English departments, growing up the daughter of a tech entrepreneur, and why teachers should be like quarterbacks.

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Aug 28, 2019
Masha Gessen on the Ins and Outs of Russia
01:08:25

What sort of country would compel you to flee it, draw you back ten years later, then force you away yet again after two decades? Masha Gessen knows the answer all too well, having dedicated her career to writing and reporting about Russian society from both within and outside her native country. A true polymath, Gessen’s wide-ranging books and articles cover mathematics, history, human rights, counterterrorism, and much more.

Masha joined Tyler in New York City to answer his many questions about Russia: why was Soviet mathematics so good? What was it like meeting with Putin? Why is Russian friendship so intense? Are Russian women as strong as the stereotype suggests — and why do they all have the same few names? Is Russia more hostile to LGBT rights than other autocracies? Why did Garry Kasparov fail to make a dent in Russian politics? What did The Americans get right that Chernobyl missed? And what’s a good place to eat Russian food in Manhattan?

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Aug 14, 2019
Kwame Anthony Appiah on Pictures of the World
01:01:51

Born to a Ghanaian father and British mother, Kwame Anthony Appiah grew up splitting time between both countries — and lecturing in many more — before eventually settling in America, where he now teaches philosophy at New York University. This, along with a family scattered across half-a-dozen countries, establishes him as a true cosmopolitan, a label Appiah readily accepts. Yet he insists it is nonetheless possible to be a cosmopolitan patriot, rooted in a place, while having obligations and interests that transcend one’s national identity.

He joins Tyler to discuss this worldly perspective and more, including whether Africa will secularize, Ghanian fallibilism, teaching Jodie Foster, whether museums should repatriate collections, Karl Popper, Lee Kuan Yew, which country has the best jollof rice, the value of writing an ethical advice column, E.T. Mensah, Paul Simon, the experience of reading 173 novels to judge the Man Booker prize, and what he’s learned farming sheep in New Jersey.

We're coming to New York City! Join us for a live podcast recording with Alain Bertaud on September 9th. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

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Jul 31, 2019
Neal Stephenson on Depictions of Reality
54:55

If you want to speculate on the development of tech, no one has a better brain to pick than Neal Stephenson. Across more than a dozen books, he’s created vast story worlds driven by futuristic technologies that have both prophesied and even provoked real-world progress in crypto, social networks, and the creation of the web itself. Though Stephenson insists he’s more often wrong than right, his technical sharpness has even led to a half-joking suggestion that he might be Satoshi Nakamoto, the shadowy creator of bitcoin. His latest novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, involves a more literal sort of brain-picking, exploring what might happen when digitized brains can find a second existence in a virtual afterlife.

So what’s the implicit theology of a simulated world? Might we be living in one, and does it even matter? Stephenson joins Tyler to discuss the book and more, including the future of physical surveillance, how clothing will evolve, the kind of freedom you could expect on a Mars colony, whether today’s media fragmentation is trending us towards dystopia, why the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest triumph, whether we’re in a permanent secular innovation starvation, Leibniz as a philosopher, Dickens and Heinlein as writers, and what storytelling has to do with giving good driving directions.

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Jul 17, 2019
Eric Kaufmann on Immigration, Identity, and the Limits of Individualism
56:27

Going back and forth between Canada and Japan during his childhood sparked Eric Kaufmann’s interest in the question of identity. As a foreigner in an international school, he encountered young individuals from at least 60 other countries, and this made him think more about national identity and how people affiliate and interact with one another. Now as an academic, he explores how demographic changes — most notably caused by ethnic migration and assimilation — are the key to understanding Brexit, Trump, and pretty much every major issue du jour.

Kauffman’s latest book Whiteshift, which examines how declining white ethnic majorities will respond to these changes, is on Tyler’s list as one of the best books of the year. The two discuss the book and more, including Orangeism in Northern Ireland, Switzerland’s secret for stability, what Tocqueville got most wrong about America, predictions on Brexit’s final form, why Portugal seems immune to populism, how Notre Dame should be rebuilt, whether the Amish — or Mormons — will take over the world, and much more.

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Jul 03, 2019
Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business
56:33

Before he became the Adam Smith of Googlenomics, Hal Varian spent decades as an academic economist, writing influential papers, a popular book about the information economy, and several textbooks that are still taught today. So how has his nearly twenty years in the business world affected what he’d write and teach now? Is learning Shephard’s lemma really that important anymore?

Tyler asks Hal these questions and more: why aren’t there more second-priced auctions — or prediction markets? How have the economics of sales changed with the internet? In what ways did his hiring criteria change between academia and business? What could we learn from the sack of Rome? When should economists avoid looking at the literature? How are we always eking out victory in the war on spam? And what are people least likely to understand about Google? Fear not — Hal has an answer for it all.

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Jun 19, 2019
Russ Roberts on Life as an Economics Educator
01:01:23

What are the virtues of forgiveness? Are we subject to being manipulated by data? Why do people struggle with prayer? What really motivates us? How has the volunteer army system changed the incentives for war? These are just some of the questions that keep Russ Roberts going as he constantly analyzes the world and revisits his own biases through thirteen years of conversations on EconTalk.

Russ made his way to the Mercatus studio to talk with Tyler about these ideas and more. The pair examines where classical liberalism has gone wrong, if dropping out of college is overrated, and what people are missing from the Bible. Tyler questions Russ on Hayek, behavioral economics, and his favorite EconTalk conversation. Ever the host, Russ also throws in a couple questions to Tyler.

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Jun 05, 2019
Ezekiel Emanuel on the Practice of Medicine, Policy, and Life
01:02:12

Ezekiel Emanuel is a reflection of his upbringing: a doctor for a father who loved to travel, a mother interested in policy and community activism, and all the competition and friendship that comes with growing up closely with two brothers. Put those together and you wouldn’t be surprised that the result is someone who has worked at both the highest levels of, medicine, policy and academia — though the intense interest in jam might surprise you.

Do we overrate the importance of doctors? What’s the importance of IQ versus EQ in the practice of medicine? What is the prospect for venture capital in biotech? How should medical training be changed? Why does he think the conventional wisdom about a problem tends to be wrong? Would immortality be boring? What would happen if we let parents genetically engineer their kids?

Tyler questions Emanuel on these topics and more, including the smartest thing his parents did while raising him, whether we have right to medical self-defense, healthcare in low- versus high-trust institutions, and much more.

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May 22, 2019
Karl Ove Knausgård on Literary Freedom
01:00:05

What is Karl Ove Knausgård’s struggle, exactly? The answer is simple: achieving total freedom in his writing. “It’s a space where I can be free in every sense, where I can say whatever, go wherever I want to. And for me, literature is almost the only place you could think that that is a possibility.”

Knausgård’s literary freedom paves the way for this conversation with Tyler, which starts with a discussion of mimesis and ends with an explanation of why we live in the world of Munch’s The Scream. Along the way there is much more, including what he learned from reading Ingmar Bergman’s workbooks, the worst thing about living in London, how having children increased his productivity, whether he sees himself in a pietistic tradition, thoughts on Bible stories, angels, Knut Hamsun, Elena Ferrante, the best short story (“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”), the best poet (Paul Celan), the best movie (Scenes from a Marriage), and what his punctual arrival says about his attachment to bourgeois values.

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May 08, 2019
Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention
01:14:39

Margaret Atwood defines the Canadian sense of humor as “a bit Scottish,” and in this live conversation with Tyler, she loves to let her own comedic sensibilities shine. In addition to many other thoughts about Canada — it’s big after all — she and Tyler discuss Twitter, biotechnology, Biblical history, her families of patents, poetry, literature, movies, and feminism.

Is it coincidence that Atwood started The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin during 1984? Does she believe in ghosts? Is the Western commitment to free speech waning? How does she stay so productive? Why is she against picking favorites? Atwood provides insight to these questions and much more.

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Apr 24, 2019
Ed Boyden on Minding your Brain
01:01:35

Ed Boyden builds the tools and technologies that help researchers think about and treat the brain, an organ we still know surprisingly little about. When it comes to how our brains make decisions, form emotions, and exhibit consciousness, there is still a lot we can learn.

But just as fascinating as the tools Boyden and his team build is the way in which they build them. Boyden employs a number of methods to design more useful tools, such as thinking backwards from the problem, hiring eclectic talent, practicing a particular type of meditation, waking long before dawn, or just trying the opposite of what’s already been attempted.

Would emulating the brain require emulating the entire body? Is consciousness fundamental to the universe, or is it actually just an illusion? Does a certain disharmony in thought lead to creativity? Why don’t people feel comfortable talking about their brains? And why is it so hard for us to be empathetic with one another? Listen to this engaging and brain-stimulating conversation with Tyler to hear his perspective.

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Apr 10, 2019
Emily Wilson on Translations and Language
56:22

In a recent Twitter thread, Emily Wilson listed some of the difficulties of translating Homer into English. Among them: “There aren’t enough onomatopoeic words for very loud chaotic noises” (#2 on the list), “It’s very hard to come up with enough ways to describe intense desire to act that don’t connote modern psychology” (#5), and “There is no common English word of four syllables or fewer connoting ‘person particularly favored by Zeus due to high social status, and by the way this is a very normal ordinary word which is not drawing any special attention to itself whatsoever, beyond generic heroizing.’” (#7).

Using Twitter this way is part of her effort to explain literary translation. What do translators do all day? Why can the same sentence turn out so differently depending on the translator? Why did she get stuck translating the Iliad immediately after producing a beloved translation of the Odyssey?

She and Tyler discuss these questions and more, including why Silicon Valley loves Stoicism, whether Plato made Socrates sound smarter than he was, the future of classics education, the effect of AI on translation, how to make academia more friendly to women, whether she’d choose to ‘overlive’, and the importance of having a big Ikea desk and a huge orange cat.

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Mar 20, 2019
Raghuram Rajan on Understanding Community
56:17

Raghuram Rajan thinks a lot about how to empower individuals, both at the community and international level. In his new book, Rajan draws upon experience both as an academic and policymaker to break down how the three pillars of society — the state, markets, and communities — interact with each other, and argues that we’re currently balancing this complex relationship wrong. 

How much has the U.S. actually fixed the financial system? Does India have the best food in the world? Why does China struggle to maintain a strong relationship with allies? Why are people trading close-knit communities for isolating cities? And what types of institutions are we missing in our social structure? Listen to Rajan’s thorough conversation with Tyler to dive into these questions and much more.

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Mar 13, 2019
Sam Altman on Loving Community, Hating Coworking, and the Hunt for Talent
01:08:12

Founders aren’t superheroes, says Sam Altman.They may play extreme sports, respond to emails within seconds, and start billion-dollar companies, but they are rarely the product of extraordinary circumstance. In fact, they tend to be solidly upper-middle class, reasonably smart, and with loving parents. 

So would Sam fund Peter Parker? What about Bruce Wayne?

Tyler and Sam discuss these burning questions and more, including what’s wrong with San Francisco, Napoleon’s underrated skill, nuclear energy, the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution, his rant against coworking spaces, UBI and AGI, risk and regret, optimism and beauty, and why venture capitalists don’t have superpowers either.

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Feb 27, 2019
Jordan Peterson on Mythology, Fame, and Reading People
53:06

Jordan Peterson joins Tyler to discuss collecting Soviet propaganda, why he’s so drawn to Jung, what the Exodus story can teach us about current events, his marriage and fame, what the Intellectual Dark Web gets wrong, immigration in America and Canada, his tendency towards depression, Tinder’s revolutionary nature, the lessons from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fixing universities, the skills needed to become a good educator, and much more.

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Feb 13, 2019
Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama on *Persecution and Toleration*
01:16:11

How did religious freedom emerge — and why did it arrive so late? In their forthcoming book, fellow Mason economists Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama argue that while most focus on the role of liberal ideas in establishing religious freedom, it was instead institutional changes — and the growth of state capacity in particular — that played the decisive role.

In their conversation with Tyler, Johnson and Koyama discuss the ‘long road to religious freedom’ and more, including the link between bad weather and Jewish persecution, why China evolved into such a large political unit, whether the Black Death proves Paul Romer wrong, scapegoating, usury prohibitions in history, and the economic impact of volcanic eruptions.

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Jan 30, 2019
Larissa MacFarquhar on Getting Inside Someone's Head
01:00:05

As a writer of profiles, Larissa MacFarquhar is granted the privilege of listening to, learning from, and sharing the stories of extraordinary thinkers like Derik Parfit, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Mantel, and Paul Krugman. And she’s often drawn to write about the individual thinking behind extreme altruism, dementia care, and whether to stay in a small town. Motivating her is a desire to place readers inside someone’s head: to see what they see and to think how they think.

In their dialogue, Larissa and Tyler discuss the thinking and thinkers behind her profiles, essays, and books, including notions of moral luck, exit vs voice, the prose of Kenneth Tynan, why altruistic heroes are mainly found in genre fiction, why she avoids describing physical appearances in her writing, the circumstances that push humans to live more extraordinary lives, what today has in common with the 1890s, and more.

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Jan 16, 2019
Rebecca Kukla on Moving through and Responding to the World
01:00:57

Before she ever studied them as an academic, Rebecca Kukla was fascinated by cities. Growing up in the middle of Toronto, she spent her days walking the city and noticing the way people and place interact. That fascination stayed with her, and motion, embodiment, and place has become a subtle through line in both her professional philosophy and personal interests.

In her conversation with Tyler, Kukla speaks about the impossibility of speaking as a woman, curse words, gender representation and “guru culture” in philosophy departments, what she learned while living in Bogota and Johannesburg, what’s interesting in the works of Hegel, Foucault, and Rousseau, why boxing is good for the mind, how she finds good food, whether polyamory can scale, and much more.

We're coming to San Francisco! Join us for a live podcast recording with Sam Altman on January 28th. To learn more and register for the event, click here.

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Jan 02, 2019
Daniel Kahneman on Cutting Through the Noise
01:09:17

If you enjoy Conversation with Tyler, consider making a year-end donation at ConversationsWithTyler.com/donate. All gifts will support the show’s production, including future live podcast recordings like this one.

You might be surprised by what occupies Daniel Kahneman’s thoughts. “You seem to think that I think of bias all the time,” he tells Tyler. “I really don’t think of bias that much.” These days, noise might be the concept most on Kahneman’s mind. A forthcoming book, coauthored with Cass Sunstein and “a brilliant Frenchman you haven’t heard of” is about how random variability affects our decision-making. And while we’ve spent a lot of time studying how bias causes error in judgment, Kahneman says, we aren’t thinking nearly enough about the problem of noise.

In November, Kahneman joined Tyler for a live conversation about bias, noise and more, including happiness, memory, the replication crisis in psychology, advice to CEOs about improving decision-making, superforecasters, the influence of Freud, working in a second language, the value of intuition, and why he can’t help you win arguments with a spouse. 

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Dec 19, 2018
Paul Romer on the Unrivaled Joy of Scholarship
52:39

Throughout his career, Paul Romer has enjoyed sampling and sifting through an ever-growing body of knowledge. He sometimes jokingly refers to himself as a random idea generator, relying on others to filter out the bad ones so his contributions are good. Not a bad strategy, as it turns out, for starting a successful business and winning a Nobel Prize.

Just before accepting that Prize, he joined Tyler for a conversation spanning one filtered set of those ideas, including the best policies for growth and innovation, his new thinking on the trilemma facing migration, how to rework higher education, general-purpose technologies, unlocking the power of reading for all kids, fixes for the English language, what economics misses about the ‘inside of the head,’ whether he’s a Jane Jacobs or Gouverneur Morris type, what Kanban taught him about management, his recent sampling of Pierce’s semiotics, Clarence White vs. Gram Parsons, his favorite Hot Tuna song, and more.

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Dec 05, 2018
John Nye on Revisionist Economic History and Having Too Many Hobbies
58:30

Is John Nye the finest polymath in the George Mason economics department?

Raised in the Philippines and taught to be a well-rounded Catholic gentleman, John Nye learned the importance of a rigorous education from a young age. Indeed, according to Tyler he may very well be the best educated among his colleagues, having studied physics and literature as an undergraduate before earning a master’s and PhD in economics. And his education continues, as he’s now hard at work mastering his fourth language. 

On this episode of Conversations with Tyler, Nye explains why it took longer for the French to urbanize than the British, the origins of the myth of free-trade Britain, why Vertigo is one of the greatest movies of all time, why John Stuart Mill is overrated, raising kids in a bilingual household, and much more. 

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Nov 21, 2018
Eric Schmidt on the Life-Changing Magic of Systematizing, Scaling, and Saying "Thanks" (Live)
54:51

The son of an economist, Eric Schmidt eschewed his father’s profession, first studying architecture before settling on computer science and eventually earning a PhD. Now one of the most influential technology executives in the world, he still however credits his interest in network economies and platforms for a large part of his success.

In this live event hosted by Village Global in San Francisco, Tyler questioned Schmidt about underused management strategies, what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate sixteen times, his opinion on early vs. late Picasso, the best reform in corporate governance, why we might see a bifurcation of the Internet, what technology will explode in the the next 10 years, the most underrated media source, and more.

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Nov 07, 2018
Ben Thompson on Business and Tech
01:00:08

Not only is Ben Thompson's Stratechery frequently mentioned on MR, but such is Tyler's fandom that the newsletter even made its way onto the reading list for one of his PhD courses. Ben's based in Taiwan, so when he recently visited DC, Tyler quickly took advantage of the chance for an in-person dialogue.

In this conversation they talk about the business side of tech and more, including whether tech titans are good at PR, whether conglomerate synergies exist, Amazon's foray into health care, why anyone needs an Apple Watch or an Alexa, growing up in small-town Wisconsin, his pragmatic book-reading style, whether MBAs are overrated, the prospects for the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA rule changes, the future of the tech industries in China and India, and why Taiwanese breakfast is the best breakfast.

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Oct 24, 2018
Rob Wiblin interviews Tyler on *Stubborn Attachments*
02:30:23

In this special episode, Rob Wiblin of 80,000 Hours has the super-sized conversation he wants to have with Tyler about Stubborn Attachments. In addition to a deep examination of the ideas in the book, the conversation ranges far and wide across Tyler's thinking, including why we won't leave the galaxy, the unresolvable clash between the claims of culture and nature, and what Tyrone would have to say about the book, and more.

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Order Stubborn Attachments from Stripe Press here.

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Oct 16, 2018
Paul Krugman on Politics, Inequality, and Following Your Curiosity
52:56

After winning the Nobel, Paul Krugman found himself at the "end of ambition," with no more achievements left to unlock. That could be a depressing place, but Krugman avoids complacency by doing what he's always done: following his curiosity and working intensely at whatever grabs him most strongly.

Tyler sat down with Krugman at his office in New York to discuss what's grabbing him at the moment, including antitrust, Supreme Court term limits, the best ways to fight inequality, why he's a YIMBY, inflation targets, congestion taxes, trade (both global and interstellar), his favorite living science fiction writer, immigration policy, how to write well for a smart audience, new directions for economic research, and more.

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Oct 10, 2018
Bruno Maçães on the Spirit of Adventure
57:45

Political scientist Bruno Maçães has built a career out of crossing the globe teaching, advising, writing, and talking to people. His recent book, born out of a six-month journey across Eurasia, is one of Tyler's favorites.

So how does it feel to face Tyler's rat-a-tat curiosity about your life's work? For Bruno, the experience was "like you are a politician under attack and your portfolio is the whole of physical and metaphysical reality."

Listen to this episode to discover how well Bruno defended that expansive portfolio, including what's missing from liberalism, Obama's conceptual foreign policy mistake, what economists are most wrong about, how to fall in love with Djibouti, stagnation in Europe, the diversity of Central Asia, Hitchcock's perfect movie, China as an ever-growing global force, the book everyone under 25 should read, the creativity of Washington, D.C versus Silicon Valley, and more.

Get Bruno's latest book here.

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Sep 26, 2018
Michele Gelfand on Tight and Loose Cultures
56:05

Michele Gelfand is professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and author of the just-released Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. In her conversation with Tyler, Michele unpacks the concept of tight and loose cultures and more, including which variable best explains tightness, the problem with norms, whether Silicon Valley has an honor culture, the importance of theory and history in guiding research, what Donald Trump gets wrong about negotiation, why MBAs underrate management, the need to develop cultural IQ, and why mentorship should last a lifetime.

Order Michele's book here.

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Sep 12, 2018
Claire Lehmann on Speaking Freely
47:05

Claire Lehmann is the founding editor of Quillette, an online magazine dedicated to free thought and open inquiry. Founded in 2015, the magazine has already developed a large and growing readership that values Quillette's promise to treat all ideas with respect, even those that may be politically incorrect.

As an Australian, Claire tells Tyler she doesn't think she could have started the magazine in America. Even in risk-loving San Fransisco, where this conversation took place, people are too afraid to speak their minds. "You celebrate entrepreneurs and courage in making money and that kind of thing, but there is a general timidity when it comes to expressing one's honest views about things," she tells Tyler. "I find that surprising, and particularly among people who are risk-taking in all sorts of other domains."

She and Tyler explore her ideas about the stifling effect of political correctness and more, including why its dominant form may come from the political right, how higher education got screwed up, strands of thought favored by the Internet and Youtube, overrated and underrated Australian cities, Aussie blokes, and more.

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Aug 29, 2018
Michael Pollan on the Science and Sublimity of Psychedelics
59:15

Michael Pollan has long been fascinated by nature and the ways we connect and clash with it, with decades of writing covering food, farming, cooking, and architecture. Pollan's latest fascination? Our widespread and ancient desire to use nature to change our consciousness.

He joins Tyler to discuss his research and experience with psychedelics, including what kinds of people most benefit from them, what it can teach us about profundity, how it can change your personality and political views, the importance of culture in shaping the experience, the proper way to integrate it into mainstream practice, and - most importantly of all - whether it's any fun.

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Aug 15, 2018
Michelle Dawson on Autism and Atypicality
53:36

Perhaps no one else in the world more appreciates the challenges facing a better understanding of autism than Michelle Dawson. An autistic herself, she began researching her condition after experiencing discrimination at her job. "Because I had to address these legal issues and questions," she tells Tyler, "I did actually look at the autism literature, and suddenly I had information I could really work with. Suddenly there it was, this information that I was supposed to be too stupid to work with." And so she continued reading papers - lots and lots of papers - and is now an influential researcher in her own right.

For Michelle, the best way to understand autism is to think of it as atypical information processing. Autistic brains function differently, and these highly varied divergences lead to biases and misunderstanding among typical thinkers, including autism researchers.

In her conversation with Tyler, she outlines the current thinking on autism, including her ideas about cognitive versatility and optionality, hyperlexia and other autistic strengths, why different tests yield wildly different measures of IQ among autistics, her 'massive bias' against segregating autistics, how autistic memory is different, why sometimes a triangle is just a freaking triangle, and more.

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Aug 01, 2018
Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything
52:34

At the intersection of programming, economics, cryptography, distributed systems, information theory, and math, you will find Vitalik Buterin, who has managed to synthesize insights across those fields into successful, real-world applications like Ethereum, which aims to decentralize the Internet.

Tyler sat down with Vitalik to discuss the many things he's thinking about and working on, including the nascent field of cryptoeconomics, the best analogy for understanding the blockchain, his desire for more social science fiction, why belief in progress is our most useful delusion, best places to visit in time and space, how he picks up languages, why centralization's not all bad, the best ways to value crypto assets, whether P = NP, and much more.

***

Do you have a world-changing idea like Vitalik? The Mercatus Center is launching a new fellowship and grant program called Emergent Ventures to support transformational thinkers and doers.

Listen to Tyler talk about the new project on the latest Mercatus Policy Download.

And click here to learn more.

***

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Jul 18, 2018
Juan Pablo Villarino on Travel and Trust
01:01:27

Travel writer Juan Pablo Villarino had visited 90 countries before making the trek to exotic Arlington, Virginia for this chat with Tyler. Amazingly enough, this recording marked his first trip to the mainland United States, which is now the 91st country in an ever-expanding list.

The world's best hitchhiker talks with Tyler about the joys of connecting with people, why it's so hard to avoid stereotypes (including of hitchhikers), how stamp collecting guides his trips, the darkest secrets of people he's gotten rides from, traveling and writing books with his wife, the cause of violence in the Americas, finding the emotional heart of a journey, where he's going next, and more.

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Jul 03, 2018
Elisa New on Poetry in America and Beyond
54:10

Elisa New believes anyone can have fun reading a poem. And that if you really want to have a blast, you shouldn't limit poetry to silent, solitary reading  - why not sing, recite, or perform it as has been the case for most of its history?

The Harvard English professor and host of Poetry in America recently sat down with Tyler to discuss poets, poems, and more, including Walt Whitman's city walks, Emily Dickinson's visual art, T.S. Eliot's privilege, Robert Frost's radicalism, Willa Cather's wisdom, poetry's new platforms, the elasticity of English, the payoffs of Puritanism, and what it was like reading poetry with Shaquille O'Neal.

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Jun 20, 2018
David Brooks on Youth, Morality, and Loneliness (Live at Mason)
01:22:31

For two hours every morning, David Brooks crawls around his living room floor, organizing piles of research. Then, the piles become paragraphs, the paragraphs become columns or chapters, and the process - which he calls "writing" - is complete.

After that he might go out and see some people. A lunch, say, with his friend Tyler. And the two will discuss the things they're thinking, writing, and learning about. And David will feel rejuvenated, for he is a social animal (as are we all).

Then one day David will be asked by Tyler to come on his show, and perform this act publicly. To talk about his love for Bruce Springsteen, being a modern-day Whig, his "religious bisexuality," covenants vs. contracts, today's answer to the "Fallows Question," why failure is overrated, community and loneliness, the upside of being invaded by Canada, and much more.

And though he will be intimidated, David will oblige, and the result is here for you to enjoy.

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Jun 06, 2018
Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Self-Education and Doing the Math (Plus special guest Bryan Caplan)
01:37:20

Though what Taleb was really after was a discussion with Bryan Caplan (which starts at 51:50), the philosopher, mathematician, and author most recently of *Skin in the Game* also generously agreed to a conversation with Tyler.

They discuss the ancient Phoenicians and Greco-Roman heritage of Lebanon, philology, genetics, the blockchain, driverless cars, the advantages of Twitter fights, how to think about religion, fancy food vs. Auntie Anne's pretzels, autodidactism, The Desert of the Tartar, why Taleb refused to give a book tour, inverse role models, why math isn't just a young man's game, and more.

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May 23, 2018
Bryan Caplan on Learning across Disciplines (Live at Mason Econ)
01:11:57

"No single paper is that good", says Bryan Caplan. To really understand a topic, you need to read the entire literature in the field. And to do the kind of scholarship Bryan's work requires, you need to cover multiple fields. Only that way can you assemble a wide variety of evidence into useful knowledge.

But few scholars ever even try to reach the enlightened interdisciplinary plane. So how does he do it?

Tyler explores Bryan's approach, including how to avoid the autodidact's curse, why his favorite philosopher happens to be a former classmate, what Tolstoy has that science fiction lacks, the idea trap, most useful wrong beliefs, effective altruism, Larry David, what most economics papers miss about the return to education, and more.

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May 09, 2018
Balaji Srinivasan on the Power and Promise of the Blockchain
54:54

When Balaji Srinivasan sat down for his conversation with Tyler he was the CEO of Earn.com. Today he is the CTO at Coinbase, which acquired his company in the intervening weeks (congrats Balaji!). But while his job title has changed, his passion remains the same: harnessing the power of the blockchain to launch a new generation of entrepreneurs, businesses, and entire markets.

Balaji talks with Tyler about the potential of the blockchain and beyond, including how firewalls may become the new immigration policy tool, why drones are still underrated, the future of news and academia, what the Silicon Valley opener reveals about how America views the tech industry, and more.

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Apr 25, 2018
Agnes Callard on the Theory of Everything
59:47

Is a written dialogue the best way to learn from philosopher Agnes Callard?

If so, what does that say about philosophy? Is Plato’s Symposium about love or mere intoxication? If good people lived forever, would they be less bored than the bad people? Should we fear death? Is parenting undertheorized? Must philosophy rely on refutation? Should we read the classics? Is Jordan Peterson’s moralizing good? Should we take Socrates at his word? Is Hamlet a Cartesian? Are we all either Beethoven or Mozart people? How do we get ourselves to care about things we don’t yet care about?

To what should we aspire?

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Apr 11, 2018
Martina Navratilova on Shaping Herself (Live at Mason)
01:05:48

Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. No one has won more matches than her thanks to an astonishing 87 percent win rate in a long and dominant career.

In their conversation, she and Tyler cover her illustrious tennis career, her experience defecting from Czechoslovakia and later becoming a dual citizen, the wage gap in tennis competition and commentary, gender stereotypes in sports, her work regimen and training schedule, technological progress in tennis, her need for speed, journaling and constant self-improvement, some of her most shocking realizations about American life, the best way to see East Africa, her struggle to get her children to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and more.

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Mar 28, 2018
Chris Blattman on Development, Conflict, and Doing What’s Interesting
01:00:48

Chris Blattman’s made his career as a development economist by finding a place he likes and finding a reason to live there. Not a bad strategy considering the impact of the work he’s done in Liberia, Uganda, and most recently, Colombia. He joins Tyler to talk about what he’s learned from his work there, including the efficacy of cash transfers, the spread of violence and conflict, factory jobs as a social safety net, Botswana’s underappreciated growth miracle, Battlestar Galactica, standing desks, how to write papers with your spouse, and more.

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Mar 14, 2018
Robin Hanson on Signaling and Self-Deception (Live at Mason Econ)
01:05:47

If intros aren’t about introductions, then what’s this here for? Is not including one a countersignal? Either way, you’ll enjoy this conversation — and that says a lot about you.

This episode was recorded live at Mason for econ grad students. If you’re interested in learning economics with great professors like Robin and Tyler, check out these fellowships.

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Feb 28, 2018
Matt Levine Live at Bloomberg HQ
01:06:02

Is Matt Levine a modern-day Horace? Like Matt, Horace has a preoccupation with wealth and the law. There’s a playful humor as he segues from topic to topic. An ability to read Latin. And many of Horace’s letters are about the length of a Bloomberg View column. QED, says Tyler.

So Matt, the Latin teacher turned lawyer turned investment banker turned finance writer, recently joined Tyler for a conversation on Horace and more, including cryptocurrencies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nabakov, New York, Uber, financial regulation, market volatility, M&A, whether finance is nerdy, and why panic is central to the Matt Levine production function.

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Feb 14, 2018
Charles C. Mann on Shaping Tomorrow’s World and the Limits to Growth
55:42

At the beginning of their conversation, Tyler dubs Charles C. Mann a tlamatini, or ‘he who knows things.’ And oh, the things he knows, effortlessly weaving together, history, anthropology, economics, and a half-dozen other disciplines into enthralling writing. And the latest book, *The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World*, is no exception, which Tyler calls one of the best overall frameworks for thinking about environmentalism and the limits to growth.

In the course of their chat, Tyler and Charles cover pollution, why the environmental impact of beef might be overstated, what fixed factor might ultimately constrain growth (and if there is one), Jared Diamond and Bjorn Lomberg, the underrated political genius of Cortes, his top tip for appreciating Robert Frost, and why Andrew Jackson didn’t have to be such a jerk.

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Jan 31, 2018
Ross Douthat on Narrative and Religion (Live at Mason)
01:25:17

Last year, Tyler asked his readers “What Is the Strongest Argument for the Existence of God?” and followed up a few days later with a post outlining why he doesn’t believe in God. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat accepted the implicit challenge, responding to the second post in dialogic form and arguing that theism warrants further consideration.

This in-person dialogue starts along similar lines, covering Douthat’s views on religion and theology, but then moves on to more earth-bound concerns, such as his stance on cats, The Wire vs The Sopranos, why Watership Down is the best modern novel for understanding politics, eating tofu before it was cool, journalism as a trade, why he’s open to weird ideas, the importance of Sam’s Club Republicans, the specter of a Buterlian Jihad, and more.

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Jan 17, 2018
Andy Weir on the Economics of Sci-Fi and Space
52:39

Before writing a single word of his new book Artemis, Andy Weir worked out the economics of a lunar colony. Without the economics, how could the story hew to the hard sci-fi style Weir cornered the market on with The Martian? And, more importantly, how else can Tyler find out much a Cantonese meal would run him on the moon?

In addition to these important questions of lunar economics, Andy and Tyler talk about the technophobic trend in science fiction, private space efforts, seasteading, cryptocurrencies, the value of a human life, the outdated Outer Space Treaty, stories based on rebellion vs. cooperation, Heinlein, Asimov, Weir’s favorite episode of Star Trek, and the formula for finding someone else when stranded on a lonely planet.

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Dec 20, 2017
Doug Irwin on US Trade Policy
57:06

Tyler thinks Douglas Irwin has just released the best history of American trade policy ever written. So for this conversation Tyler went easy on Doug, asking softball questions like: Have tariffs ever driven growth? What trade exceptions should there be for national security, or cultural reasons? In an era of low tariffs, what margins matter most for trade liberalization? Do investor arbitration panels override national sovereignty? And, what’s the connection between free trade and world peace?

They also discuss the revolution as America’s Brexit, why NAFTA is an ‘effing great’ trade agreement, Jagdish Bhagwati’s key influence on Doug, the protectionist bent of the Boston Tea Party, the future of the WTO, Trump, China, the Chicago School, and what’s rotten in the state of New Hampshire.

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Nov 29, 2017
Sujatha Gidla on being an Ant amongst the Elephants (Live)
01:02:44

Sujatha Gidla was an untouchable in India, but moved to the United States at the age of 26 and is now the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York City Subway. In her memoir Ants Among Elephants, she explores the antiquities of her mother, her uncles, and other members of her family against modern India’s landscape. Through this book she redeemed the value of her family’s memories, understanding her family’s stories were not those of shame, but did reveal to the world the truth of India and its caste system.

During her conversation with Tyler, they discuss the nature and persistence of caste, gender issues in India, her New York City lifestyle, religion, living in America versus living in India, Bob Dylan and Dalit music, American identity politics, the nature of Marxism, and why she left her job at the Bank of New York to become a New York City Subway conductor.

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Nov 15, 2017
Steve Teles and Brink Lindsey on *The Captured Economy*
52:43

What happens when a liberal and a libertarian get together?  In the case of Steve Teles and Brink Lindsey, they write a book. And then Tyler separates them for a podcast interview about that book, prisoner’s dilemma style.

How much inequality is due to bad policy? Is executive compensation to blame? How about higher education? And what’s the implicit theory of governance in Bojack Horseman? Tyler wants to know—and so do you.

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Nov 01, 2017
Mary Roach on Disgust, Death, and Danger (Live at Mason)
01:15:52

Legal writing was never Mary Roach’s thing. She describes that short-lived stint as an inscrutable “bringing forth of multisyllabic words.” Instead, she’s forged a career by letting curiosity lead the way. The result has been a series of successful books — Grunt, Gulp, Spook, Stiff, and Bonk among them— that all reveal a specific sense of nonsensibility (and love for monosyllabic titles).

She joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation covering the full range of her curiosity, including fear, acclimating to grossness, chatting with the dead, freezing one’s head, why bedpans can kill you, sex robots, Freud, thinking like an astronaut, the proper way to eat a fry, and why there’s a Medicare reimbursement code for maggots.

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Oct 18, 2017
Larry Summers on Macroeconomics, Mentorship, and Avoiding Complacency (Live)
01:13:31

The economist, President Emeritus at Harvard University, and former Treasury Secretary joins Tyler to discuss innovation in higher education, Herman Melville, the Fed, Mexico, Russia, China, the Larry Summers production function, philanthropy and Larry’s table tennis adventure in the summer Jewish Olympics.

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Sep 20, 2017
Dave Barry on Humor, Writing, and Life as a Florida Man
57:56

Though most know him first as a humor columnist, Dave Barry’s career has spanned many forms of media, including books, movies, TV, and music. Driving this relentless output, says Barry, is the constant worry he’ll find himself stuck in a rut — or worse — no longer funny. And do we even need professional comedians in an age where so many funny amateurs are readily available online?

Tyler and Dave discuss all these topics and more, including the weirdness of Peter Pan, what makes Florida special, how it felt to teach Roger McQuinn a lick on the guitar, and why business writing is so terrible.

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Aug 16, 2017
Dave Rubin on Digital Media, Crowdfunding, and Comedy (Live)
32:45

Today many YouTube channels have more influence than traditional TV shows. This fact is not lost on Dave Rubin, who started his talk show career in traditional media, but soon decided to strike out on his own. He now hosts The Rubin Report, which has half a million subscribers on YouTube and is financially backed by its fans on Patreon.

But the most important indicator of influence? All but one of Tyler’s law and literature class had heard of Dave before this taping.

Recorded live at an event a few months ago, Dave and Tyler’s conversation covers all this and more, including what Dave learned from his year abroad in Israel and his pick for the most underrated Star Wars movie.

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Aug 02, 2017
Atul Gawande on Priorities, Big and Small
57:33

The surgeon, researcher, and celebrated writer joined Tyler for a conversation on why Watson will never diagnose your illness, what George Church’s narcolepsy teaches us about CRISPR, what’s missing in medical education, Michael Crichton’s cultural influence, Knausgård versus Ferrante, indie music, and the thing that makes Gawande “bawl like a baby.”

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Jul 19, 2017
Ben Sasse on the Space between Nebraska and Neverland (Live at Mason)
01:21:28

The US senator and former college president joined Tyler for a conversation on adolescence, adulthood, driving for Uber, loving Luther, hate-reading Rousseau, the decline of small towns, backpacking across Europe, America’s peculiar fondness for age-segregation, and why his latest book contains so little sex.

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Jun 28, 2017
Edward Luce on The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Live)
54:23

Edward Luce has a new book out about the rising crisis in Western liberalism, so naturally Tyler’s first question to him dealt with James II and William of Orange. #gloriousrevolution

In this bonus audio recorded at a Mercatus event last week, Tyler and Edward discuss the ideas in his book and more, including future paths of liberalism, whether the current populism is an Anglo-American phenomenon or not, Modi's India, whether Kubrick, Hitchcock, and John Lennon are overrated or underrated, and what it’s like to write speeches for Larry Summers.

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Jun 21, 2017
Jill Lepore on Traveling through Time
01:08:51

Is time like a line, a stretched out accordion, buried silos, or a flat circle? We concoct many ways to think about the relationship between the present and the past, but according to Jill Lepore one constant endures: “When you’re writing history, you’re always using your imagination.”

The historian and New Yorker writer joins Tyler for a conversation on the Tea Party, Mary Pickford, Dickens in America, growing up watching TV (the horror), Steve Bannon’s 19th century visage, the importance of friendship, the subversiveness of Stuart Little, and much more.

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Jun 14, 2017
Tyler Cowen and Steve Davies talk Theresa May, Brexit, and Europe (Live)
24:00

The UK is holding a big election on June 8, so today we’re bringing you some bonus audio on that topic featuring Tyler and Steve Davies of the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs.

They talk about how the general election could shape the terms of Brexit, how much further the EU and even the UK will splinter, the prospects for the European left-wing, and the populism underneath it all.

Note: this was recorded at event in late April shortly after May called for the snap election in June. Got it?

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Jun 07, 2017
Raj Chetty on Teachers, Social Mobility, and How to Find Answers to Big Questions
01:02:30

A high school teacher once told Raj Chetty he’d some day serve on the Federal Reserve Board. At the the time Raj thought the comment was silly, since he was busy working in the laboratory on staining techniques for electron microscopy and was set to become a biomedical scientist. About a decade later, however, and Chetty would become one of the youngest tenured economics professors at Harvard and would soon win both a John Bates Clark medal and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. Now at Stanford, he’s one of the most-cited economists in the world.

Raj’s conversation with Tyler spans that well-cited body of work and more, including social mobility, the value-add of kindergarten teachers, why corporations pay dividends, his love of Piano Guys, the most underrated US state, and why okra may have been the secret of his success.

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May 24, 2017
Garry Kasparov on AI, Chess, and the Future of Creativity
01:07:33

The chess grandmaster, political activist, and author joins Tyler for a conversation on artificial intelligence, Russia, Putin, how education must change, favorite cities for chess, the most likely challenger to Magnus Carlsen, Tolstoy v. Dostoevsky, the benefits of pressure for performance, and why we should speed up our search for new frontiers and challenges.

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May 10, 2017
Patrick Collison has a Few Questions for Tyler (Live at Stripe)
01:33:37

A few months ago, Tyler asked Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe, to be on the show. Patrick agreed, but only under the condition that the be the one to do the interviewing. Thus, what follows is the conversation Patrick wanted to have with Tyler, not the one you wanted to have.

Happily Patrick stayed true to the spirit of Conversations with Tyler, and their dialogue covers a wide range of topics including the the benefits of diverse monocultures, the state of macroeconomics, Donald Trump, the amazing economics faculty at GMU, Peter Thiel, Brian Eno, Thomas Schelling, why Twitter is underrated, and — most pressing of all — why Marginal Revolution is so strange looking.

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Apr 12, 2017
Malcolm Gladwell Wants to Make the World Safe for Mediocrity (Live at Mason)
01:32:03

Journalist, author, and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell joins Tyler for a conversation on Joyce Gladwell, Caribbean identity, satire as a weapon, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, Harvard’s under-theorized endowment, why early childhood intervention is overrated, long-distance running, and Malcolm’s happy risk-averse career going from one “fur-lined rat hole to the next.”

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Mar 15, 2017
*The Complacent Class* with Katherine Mangu-Ward (Live at Mason)
56:14

In this bonus episode, Editor-in-chief of Reason Katherine Mangu-Ward interviews Tyler about *The Complacent Class.* Make sure to listen all the way to the end for an answer Katherine describes as #PeakTyler.

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Mar 13, 2017
Rabbi David Wolpe on Leadership, Religion, and Identity (Live at Sixth & I)
01:20:20

Named one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of our time, Rabbi David Wolpe joins Tyler in a conversation on flawed leaders, Jewish identity in the modern world, the many portrayals of David, what’s missing in rabbinical training, playing chess on the Sabbath, Srugim, Hasidic philosophy, living in Israel and of course, the durability of creation.

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Feb 15, 2017
Chef Mark Miller on Food as the Ultimate Intellectual Exploration
01:15:57

Mark Miller is often called the founder of modern southwestern cuisine, but his unique anthropological approach to food has led him to explore cuisines in over 100 countries around the world. He joins Tyler for a conversation on all that he’s learned along the way, including his pick for the most underrated chili pepper, palate coaching, the best food cities in Asia, Mexico, and Europe, the problems with sous-vide, mezcal versus tequila, the decline of food brands, why Michelin guide is overrated, how to do fast food well, and why the next hipster food trend should be about corn.

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Jan 25, 2017
Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing, Translation, and Crossing Between Cultures (Live at Mason)
01:26:37

Author, teacher, and translator Jhumpa Lahiri joins Tyler for a conversation on identity, Rhode Island, writing as problem solving, reading across languages, the badness of book covers, Elena Ferrante, Bengali culture, the magic of Calcutta, Italian authors, Indian classical music, architectural influences, and much more.

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Jan 11, 2017
Joseph Henrich on WEIRD Societies and Life Among Two Strange Tribes (Live at Mason)
01:25:13

To anthropologist Joseph Henrich, intelligence is overrated. Social learning, and its ability to influence biological evolution over time, is what really sets our species apart. He joined Tyler for a conversation on his work on cultural evolution, as well as his life among different tribes (academic and otherwise), Star Trek, big gods, small gods, China’s missing industrial revolution, the merits of coconut milk, the Flynn effect, American exceptionalism, and why he wants to travel in time to 6th-century Kent.

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Dec 14, 2016
Fuchsia Dunlop on Chinese Food, Culture, and Travel
01:15:04

For centuries, China has treated its cuisine with a reverence and delight that is only just starting to emerge with Western “foodie” culture. No one understands this better than Fuchsia Dunlop, who has spent her career learning about the fantastic diversity in Chinese food, and who is one of Tyler’s favorite writers on any subject.

She joined Tyler over dinner at one of his favorite restaurants in DC to talk about all aspects of how to truly enjoy Chinese food, including where to visit, how to order, the few key ingredients to keep in your pantry, her favorite Chinese dishes, what Chinese chefs think about Western food, and why you should really learn to love sea cucumbers.

For this conversation, Tyler was also joined by Ezra Klein, past CWT guest and editor-in-chief of Vox.com, chef and super-taster Mark Miller, journalist Megan McArdle, and Eva Summer, a graduate student from Shandong province. Their comments can be found in the Q&A near the end of the chat.

Watch the peppercorn tasting here.

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Nov 16, 2016
Steven Pinker on Language, Reason, and the Future of Violence (Live at Mason)
01:26:46

Steven Pinker has spent an entire academic career thinking deeply about language, cognition, and human nature. Driving it all, he says, is an Enlightenment belief that the world is intelligible, science can progress, and through rational inquiry we can better understand ourselves.

He recently joined Tyler for a conversation not only on the power of reason, but also the economics of irrational verbs, whether violence will continue to decline, behavioral economics, existential threats, the merits of aerobic exercise, photography, group selection, Fermi’s paradox, Noam Chomsky, universal grammar, free will, the Ed Sullivan show, and why people underrate the passive (or so it is thought).

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Nov 02, 2016
Ezra Klein on Media, Politics, and Models of the World
01:17:05

Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of Vox.com, joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on biases in digital media, the morality of meat-eating, how working for large organizations has changed his worldview, the psychographics of CEOs, what’s missing in public discourse, the most underrated member of the Obama administration, and why you should never follow his lead on what’s good culture.

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Note: This podcast is also being released to listeners of The Ezra Klein Show. We encourage CWT listeners to check out his show if you haven’t already. Special thanks also to Panoply for lending us production help for this podcast.

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Oct 06, 2016
Margalit Fox on Life, Death, and the Best Job in Journalism
47:54

The stereotypical obituary is a formulaic recitation of facts — dry, boring, and without craft. But Margalit Fox has shown the genre can produce some of the most memorable and moving stories in journalism. Exploiting its “pure narrative arc,” Fox has penned over 1,200 obituaries, covering well-known and obscure subjects with equal aplomb.

In her conversation with Tyler Cowen, Fox reveals not only the process for writing an obituary, but her thoughts on life, death, storytelling, puzzle-solving, her favorite cellist, and how it came to be that an economist sang opera 86 times at the Met.

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Aug 24, 2016
Michael Orthofer on Why Fiction Matters
56:51

Michael Orthofer, one of the world’s most prolific book reviewers, joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on — what else? — books. Read to discover why Michael believes everyone should read more fiction, how we should choose books, why American popular literature is overrated, what he thinks about authors like Herman Melville, Fyoder Dostoevsky, Goethe, J.K. Rowling, Arno Schmidt, and many others, his recommendations for the best sites for readers, why studying literature at college was such a big disappointment, how much book covers matter, and why his opinion will never be the final word.

Check out the reader Q&A here and the Strand shopping video here.

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Jul 27, 2016
Cass Sunstein on Judicial Minimalism, the Supreme Court, and Star Wars (Live at Mason)
01:17:21

Cass Sunstein joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on judicial minimalism, Bob Dylan’s best album, the metaphysics of nudging, Byatt's Possession, the ideal size of the Supreme Court, Hayek, why people should choose their own path, the benefits of a banned products store, James Joyce, and, oh yeah, Star Wars.

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Jun 22, 2016
Camille Paglia on her Lifestyle of Observation (Live at Mason)
01:26:46

Camille Paglia joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on the brilliance of Bowie, lamb vindaloo, her lifestyle of observation, why writers need real jobs, Star Wars, Harold Bloom, Amelia Earhart, Edmund Spenser, Brazil, why she is most definitely not a cultural conservative, and much more.

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Apr 25, 2016
Jonathan Haidt on Morality, Politics, Disgust, and Intellectual Diversity on Campus
01:09:14

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on morality, politics, disgust, how to maintain free speech on campus, the enriching effects of LSD, antiparsimonialism, and why economists set all the interesting variables to zero.

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Mar 24, 2016
Nate Silver on the Supreme Court and the Underrated Stat for Finding Good Food (Live at Mason)
01:21:20

Nate Silver joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on data, forecasting, My Bloody Valentine, the social value of gambling, Donald Trump and the presidential field, vacation advice, Supreme Court picks, the wisdom of Björk, and the most underrated statistic for finding good food.

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Feb 23, 2016
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Fighting Bruce Lee, Growing Up in Harlem, and Basketball (Live at Mason)
01:22:15

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joins Tyler Cowen for a conversation on segregation, Islam, Harlem vs. LA, Earl Manigault, jazz, fighting Bruce Lee, Kareem’s conservatism, dancing with Thelonious Monk, and why no one today can shoot a skyhook.

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Feb 02, 2016
Cliff Asness on Comics and Why Never to Share a Gym with Cirque du Soleil (Live at Mason)
01:22:31

Tyler and investment strategist Cliff Asness discuss momentum and value investing strategies, disagreeing with Eugene Fama, Marvel vs. DC, the inscrutability of risk, high frequency trading, the economics of Ayn Rand, bubble logic, and why never to share a gym with Cirque du Soleil.

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Nov 18, 2015
Dani Rodrik on Premature Deindustrialization and Why the World is Second Best at Best
01:24:47

Tyler and Dani Rodrik discuss premature deindustrialization, the world’s trilemmas, the political economy of John le Carré, what’s so special about manufacturing, Orhan Pamuk, RCTs, and why the world is second best at best.

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Oct 01, 2015
Luigi Zingales on Italy, Google and Conglomeration, and Donald Trump (Live at Mason)
01:16:42

In the third event of this series, Tyler and Luigi Zingales discuss Italy, Donald Trump, Antonio Gramsci, Google and conglomeration, Luchino Visconti, Starbucks, and the surprisingly high productivity of Italian cafés.

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Sep 16, 2015
Jeffrey Sachs on Charter Cities and How to Reform Graduate Economics Education (Live at Mason)
01:32:17

Tyler Cowen and Jeffrey Sachs discuss the resource curse, why Russia failed and Poland succeeded, charter cities, Sach's China optimism, JFK, Paul Rosenstein-Rodan, whether Africa will be able to overcome the middle income trap, Paul Krugman, Sach's favorite novel, premature deindustrialization, and how to reform graduate economics education.

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Mar 31, 2015
Peter Thiel on Stagnation, Innovation, and What Not to Call your Company (Live at Mason)
01:20:33

Peter Thiel and Tyler Cowen, both New York Times bestselling authors, are among today’s top global thought leaders and influential innovators. Listen as these two engage in a serious dialogue on the ideas and policies that will shape the future of innovation and progress in the coming years and decades.

Peter Thiel is among the most impressive innovators of the past two decades. As co-founder of Paypal and seed-funder for Facebook, Thiel has been instrumental in the conception and growth of some of today’s most entrepreneurial and innovative companies. In his latest best-selling book, Zero to One, Thiel explains how to build a better future by capitalizing on innovation. A staunch optimist, he maintains that progress can be achieved anywhere the human mind is able to think creatively. Thiel describes how entrepreneurial thinking leads to innovation, which builds something new and moves the mark from zero to one.

Note: Due to a technical malfunction, the audio quality briefly drops from 11:15 - 13:30.

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Mar 25, 2015