Conversations with Tyler

By Mercatus Center

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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
46 - Michelle Dawson on Autism and Atypicality
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Michelle: Follow Tyler: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Aug 01, 2018
45 - Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything
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: *** Transcripts and links: Follow Vitalik: Follow Tyler: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jul 18, 2018
44 - Juan Pablo Villarino on Travel and Trust
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. Transcripts and links: Keep up with Juan's travels on Instagram: Get his book: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jul 03, 2018
43 - Elisa New on Poetry in America and Beyond
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. Transcripts and links: Check out Elisa's show on PBS: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jun 20, 2018
42 - David Brooks on Youth, Morality, and Loneliness (Live at Mason)
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. Transcripts and links: Follow David Brooks: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jun 06, 2018
41 - Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Self-Education and Doing the Math (Plus special guest Bryan Caplan)
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. Transcript with Tyler: Transcript with Bryan: Follow the thinkers: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
May 23, 2018
40 - Bryan Caplan on Learning across Disciplines (Live at Mason Econ)
"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. Conversations with Tyler fans - we want to hear from you! Fill out this quick survey to help us find other people like you who will love the show. Not only will you be helping us out, but you’ll also have the chance to win a special gift from Tyler: Transcripts and links: Follow Bryan Caplan: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
May 09, 2018
39 - Balaji Srinivasan on the Power and Promise of the Blockchain
When Balaji Srinivasan sat down for his conversation with Tyler he was the CEO of 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. Conversations with Tyler fans - we want to hear from you! Fill out this quick survey to help us find other people like you who will love the show. Not only will you be helping us out, but you’ll also have the chance to win a special gift from Tyler: Transcripts and links: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Apr 25, 2018
38 - Agnes Callard on the Theory of Everything
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? Transcripts and links: Follow Agnes Callard: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Apr 11, 2018
37 - Martina Navratilova on Shaping Herself (Live at Mason)
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Martina Navratilova: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Mar 28, 2018
36 - Chris Blattman on Development, Conflict, and Doing What’s Interesting
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Chris Blattman: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Mar 14, 2018
35 - Robin Hanson on Signaling and Self-Deception (Live at Mason Econ)
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: Transcripts and links: Follow Robin Hanson: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Feb 28, 2018
34 - Matt Levine Live at Bloomberg HQ
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Matt Levine: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Feb 14, 2018
33 - Charles C. Mann on Shaping Tomorrow’s World and the Limits to Growth
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Charles C. Mann: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jan 31, 2018
32 - Ross Douthat on Narrative and Religion (Live at Mason)
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Ross Douthat: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Jan 17, 2018
31 - Andy Weir on the Economics of Sci-Fi and Space
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Andy Weir: Twitter: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Dec 20, 2017
BONUS - Doug Irwin on US Trade Policy
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Doug Irwin: Twitter: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Nov 29, 2017
30 - Sujatha Gidla on being an Ant amongst the Elephants (Live)
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. Transcripts and links: Follow Sujatha Gidla: Twitter: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Nov 15, 2017
BONUS - Steve Teles and Brink Lindsey on *The Captured Economy*
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. Transcripts and links: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Nov 01, 2017
29 - Mary Roach on Disgust, Death, and Danger (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Mary Roach: Twitter: More CWT goodness: Facebook: Twitter: Email:
Oct 18, 2017
28 - Larry Summers on Macroeconomics, Mentorship, and Avoiding Complacency (Live)
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. Larry on Macro Musings: Transcript and links: Follow Larry Summers: Twitter: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter: Email:
Sep 20, 2017
27 - Dave Barry on Humor, Writing, and Life as a Florida Man
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. Transcript and links: Follow Dave Barry: Twitter: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter: Email:
Aug 16, 2017
BONUS - Dave Rubin on Digital Media, Crowdfunding, and Comedy (Live)
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. Follow Dave Rubin: Twitter: Rubin Report: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter: Email:
Aug 02, 2017
26 - Atul Gawande on Priorities, Big and Small
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.” Transcript and links: Follow Atul Gawande: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter: Email:
Jul 19, 2017
25 - Ben Sasse on the Space between Nebraska and Neverland (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Ben Sasse: Ben Sasse the Senator - Ben Sasse the Dad - Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jun 28, 2017
Bonus – Edward Luce on The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Live)
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. Follow Edward Luce: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jun 21, 2017
24 - Jill Lepore on Traveling through Time
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. Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jun 14, 2017
BONUS - Tyler Cowen and Steve Davies talk Theresa May, Brexit, and Europe (Live)
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? Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jun 07, 2017
23 - Raj Chetty on Teachers, Social Mobility, and How to Find Answers to Big Questions
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. Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
May 24, 2017
22 - Garry Kasparov on AI, Chess, and the Future of Creativity
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. Transcript and links: Follow Garry Kasparov: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
May 10, 2017
21 - Patrick Collison has a Few Questions for Tyler (Live at Stripe)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Patrick Collison: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Apr 12, 2017
20 - Malcolm Gladwell Wants to Make the World Safe for Mediocrity (Live at Mason)
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.” Transcript and links: Follow Malcolm Gladwell: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Mar 15, 2017
BONUS - *The Complacent Class* with Katherine Mangu-Ward (Live at Mason)
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. Follow Katherine Mangu-Ward: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Mar 13, 2017
19 - Rabbi David Wolpe on Leadership, Religion, and Identity (Live at Sixth & I)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Rabbi David Wolpe: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Feb 15, 2017
18 - Chef Mark Miller on Food as the Ultimate Intellectual Exploration
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. Want to win a signed copy of Tyler's upcoming book *The Complacent Class*? Just rate and review us on iTunes and visit…utm_campaign=CWT Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jan 25, 2017
17 - Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing, Translation, and Crossing Between Cultures (Live at Mason)
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. Want to win a signed copy of Tyler's upcoming book *The Complacent Class*? Just rate and review us on iTunes and visit Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jan 11, 2017
16 - Joseph Henrich on WEIRD Societies and Life Among Two Strange Tribes (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Please help others find the podcast: subscribe, share, star and review! Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Dec 14, 2016
15 - Fuchsia Dunlop on Chinese Food, Culture, and Travel
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, 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: Transcript and links: Please help others find the podcast: subscribe, share, star and review! Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Nov 16, 2016
14 - Steven Pinker on Language, Reason, and the Future of Violence (Live at Mason)
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). Transcript and links: Follow Steven Pinker: Please help others find the podcast: subscribe, share, star and review! Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Nov 02, 2016
13 – Ezra Klein on Media, Politics, and Models of the World
Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief of, 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. Transcript and links: Follow Ezra Klein: 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. Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Oct 06, 2016
12- Margalit Fox on Life, Death, and the Best Job in Journalism
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. Transcript and links: Follow Margalit Fox: Please help others find the podcast: subscribe, share, star and review! Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Aug 24, 2016
11 - Michael Orthofer on Why Fiction Matters
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. Transcript: Reader Q&A Video: Strand shopping video: Follow Michael Orthofer: Please subscribe, share, star and review! Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jul 27, 2016
10 - Cass Sunstein on Judicial Minimalism, the Supreme Court, and Star Wars (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Cass Sunstein: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Jun 22, 2016
09 - Camille Paglia on her Lifestyle of Observation (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Apr 25, 2016
08 - Jonathan Haidt on Morality, Politics, Disgust, and Intellectual Diversity on Campus
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. Transcript and links: Follow Jonathan Haidt: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Mar 25, 2016
07 - Nate Silver on the Supreme Court and the Underrated Stat for Finding Good Food (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Nate Silver: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Feb 23, 2016
06 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Fighting Bruce Lee, Growing Up in Harlem, and Basketball (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Feb 02, 2016
05 - Cliff Asness on Comics and Why Never to Share a Gym with Cirque du Soleil (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Cliff Asness: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Nov 18, 2015
04 - Dani Rodrik on Premature Industrialization and Why the World is Second Best at Best
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. Transcript and links: Follow Dani Rodrik: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Oct 01, 2015
03 - Luigi Zingales on Italy, Google and Conglomeration, and Donald Trump (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Sep 16, 2015
02 - Jeffrey Sachs on Charter Cities and How to Reform Graduate Economics Education (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Jeffrey Sachs: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Apr 01, 2015
01 - Peter Thiel on Stagnation, Innovation, and What Not to Call your Company (Live at Mason)
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. Transcript and links: Follow Peter Thiel: Follow us on social: FB: Twitter:
Mar 26, 2015