Cover image of EconTalk Archives, 2008

EconTalk Archives, 2008

EconTalk is an award-winning weekly talk show about economics in daily life. Featured guests include renowned economics professors, Nobel Prize winners, and exciting speakers on all kinds of topical matters related to economic thought. Topics include health care, business cycles, economic growth, free trade, education, finance, politics, sports, book reviews, parenting, and the curiosities of everyday decision-making. Russ Roberts, of the Library of Economics and Liberty and George Mason U., draws you in with lively guests and creative repartee. Look for related readings and the complete archive of previous shows at EconTalk.org, where you can also comment on the podcasts and ask questions.

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Shiller on Housing and Bubbles

Robert Shiller of Yale University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the current housing mess and related financial market problems. Shiller argues that the decade-long run up in housing prices was a bubble where speculative fervor outweighed any economic fundamentals. He also discusses the genesis of the Case-Shiller housing price index and his idea for how it might be used to reduce risk in the mortgage market. Note: This podcast was recorded on September 5, 2008, days before Secretary of the Treasury Paulson put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship.


15 Sep 2008

Rank #1

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Sowell on Economic Facts and Fallacies

Thomas Sowell of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his new book, Economic Facts and Fallacies. He discusses the misleading nature of measured income inequality, CEO pay, why nations grow or stay poor, the role of intellectuals and experts in designing public policy, and immigration.

1hr 6mins

25 Feb 2008

Rank #2

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Ellis on American Creation and the Founding

Joseph Ellis, of Mt. Holyoke College and author of American Creation, talks about the triumphs and tragedies of the founding of the United States. His goal in the book and in this podcast is to tell a story for grownups rather than for children, where the Founders are neither saints nor evil white, patriarchal slave-holding demons. It is a nuanced story of triumph--a military victory over a seemingly unbeatable vastly more experienced army, the creation of the first geographically large republic, a nation without a state religion, a nation that creates a party system with a loyal opposition, a Constitution with the virtues of ambiguous sovereignty, and tragedy--the failure to resolve the slavery issue, and the tragic conflict with the Native Americans. Some of these outcomes were intended by the Founders, others emerged unintended.

1hr 7mins

8 Sep 2008

Rank #3

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Kling on Credit Default Swaps, Counterparty Risk, and the Political Economy of Financial Regulation

Arnold Kling of EconLog talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the role of credit default swaps and counterparty risks in the current financial mess. The conversation opens with the logistics of credit default swaps and counterparty risks and moves on to their role in the financial collapse. The conversation closes with a discussion of the political economy of pending financial regulation.

1hr 3mins

10 Nov 2008

Rank #4

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Munger on the Political Economy of Public Transportation

Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Munger's recent trip to Chile and the changes Chile has made to Santiago's bus system. What was once a private decentralized system with differing levels of quality and price has been transformed into a system of uniform quality designed from the top down. How has the new system fared? Not particularly well according to Munger. Commuting times are up and the President of Chile has apologized to the Chilean people for the failures of the new system. Munger talks about why such changes take place and why they persist even when they seem inferior to the original system that was replaced.


7 Jul 2008

Rank #5

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Karol Boudreaux on Wildlife, Property, and Poverty in Africa

Karol Boudreaux, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about wildlife management in Africa. Their conversation focuses on community-based wildlife management in Namibia, a policy to give communities the incentives to protect wildlife and avoid the tragedy of the commons.


22 Sep 2008

Rank #6

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Richard Epstein on Happiness, Inequality, and Envy

Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the relationship between happiness and wealth, the effects of inequality on happiness, and the economics of envy and altruism. He also applies the theory of evolution to explain some of the findings of the happiness literature.


3 Nov 2008

Rank #7

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Hanushek on Education and School Finance

Eric Hanushek of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the strange evolution of school finance in the last four decades. In particular, the courts have played an important role in recent years in mandating expenditure increases for public school systems. Hanushek talks about why this has come about and the lack of effect these expenditures have had in affecting student achievement.

1hr 7mins

14 Jul 2008

Rank #8

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Rauch on the Volt, Risk, and Corporate Culture

Jonathan Rauch, of the Brookings Institution and the Atlantic Monthly, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the evolution of the Chevy Volt, GM's planned electric car. Due to the transparency of GM's effort, Rauch was able to spend a great deal of time on site at GM writing a piece for the Atlantic Monthly on GM's plans and hopes. Rauch discusses the huge risks, GM's past failures, and GM's hopes that the Volt might change the company's culture. The conversation closes with a discussion of competitors and the implications for energy policy.


1 Sep 2008

Rank #9

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Hanson on Signalling

Robin Hanson of George Mason University talks about the phenomenon of signalling--the ways people spend resources to convey information about ourselves to others. It begins with Hanson revisiting his theory from an earlier podcast that we spend too much on medicine because we need to signal our concern for friends and family. The conversation then moves onto apply Hanson's model of signalling to other areas of human behavior. This is a wide-ranging discussion covering not just medicine, but real estate transactions, the wooing of a spouse, the role of education in the job market, parenting, the economics of self-deception, and Robin's argument that we spend too much time on admirable activities.

1hr 25mins

26 May 2008

Rank #10

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Varian on Technology

Hal Varian, Google's Chief Economist and University of California at Berkeley professor, talks with Russ Roberts about Google, the role of technology in our everyday lives, the unintended paths of innovation, and the value of economics.


28 Jul 2008

Rank #11

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Meltzer on the Fed, Money, and Gold

Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what the Fed really does and the political pressures facing the Chair of the Fed. He describes and analyzes some fascinating episodes in U.S. monetary history, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the gold standard and ends the conversation with some insights into recent Fed moves to intervene with investment banks. This is a wonderful introduction to the political economy of the money supply and central banks.

1hr 20mins

19 May 2008

Rank #12

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Munger on Subsidies and Externalities

Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the economics of subsidies. What is the economic argument for subsidies? What is the history of the economic argument and what is its relevance today? Munger draws on his personal experience as a farmer to help listeners understand the pros and cons of using government-funded payments to encourage various activities deemed to be worth encouraging.

1hr 2mins

24 Mar 2008

Rank #13

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McKenzie on Prices

Richard McKenzie of the University California, Irvine and the author of Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies and Other Pricing Puzzles, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a wide range of pricing puzzles. They discuss why Southern California experiences frequent water crises, why price falls after Christmas, why popcorn seems so expensive at the movies, and the economics of price discrimination.

1hr 15mins

23 Jun 2008

Rank #14

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McCloskey on Capitalism and the Bourgeois Virtues

Deirdre McCloskey of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author of The Bourgeois Virtues talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about capitalism and whether markets make people more ethical or less. They also discuss Adam Smith's world view, whether people were nicer in the Middle Ages, and the role of prudence and love.


31 Mar 2008

Rank #15

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Cowen on Monetary Policy

Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and Marginal Revolution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about money, inflation, the Federal Reserve and the gold standard. Cowen argues that alternatives to the current Federal Reserve system promise more risk than return.

1hr 8mins

17 Mar 2008

Rank #16

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Don Boudreaux on Energy Prices

Don Boudreaux of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the recent surge in energy prices. They talk about why prices have risen, the implications for America's standard of living and the implications for public policy.

1hr 3mins

16 Jun 2008

Rank #17

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Don Boudreaux on Globalization and Trade Deficits

Don Boudreaux, of George Mason University, talks about the ideas in his book, Globalization. He discusses comparative advantage, the winners and losers from trade, trade deficits, and inequality with EconTalk host Russ Roberts.

1hr 19mins

21 Jan 2008

Rank #18

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Nye on Wine, War and Trade

John Nye of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book, War, Wine, and Taxes. The conversation covers the history of Britain and France's trade policy, why the British drink beer and why Ricardo's example of Britain trading wool for Portuguese wine is bizarre. Nye turns the traditional story on its head--he argues that France was more of a free trader than Britain and that the repeal of the Corn Laws was not the dividing line between Britain's protectionist past and free trade future. At the end of the discussion, Nye emphasizes the importance of domestic free trade for economic growth.

1hr 4mins

5 May 2008

Rank #19

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Rivers on Polling

Doug Rivers of Stanford University and YouGov.com talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the world of political polling. Rivers explains why publicly provided margins of error overstate the reliability of most polls and why it's getting harder and harder to do telephone polls. Rivers argues that internet panels are able to create a more representative sample. Along the way he discusses automated telephone polls, the Bradley effect, and convention bounce, and the use of exit polls in calling states in Presidential elections.

1hr 8mins

21 Jul 2008

Rank #20