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The Ezra Klein Show

Named a best podcast of 2021 by Time, Vulture and Esquire. Each Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation on something that matters. How do we address climate change if the political system fails to act? Has the logic of markets infiltrated too many aspects of our lives? What is the future of the Republican Party? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness? What does sci-fi understand about our present that we miss? Can our food system be just to humans and animals alike?

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How America’s Covid-19 Nightmare Ends

On Jan. 28, I published a column that began like this: “I hope, in the end, that this article reads as alarmism. I hope that a year from now it’s a piece people point to as an overreaction.”Today, that column, thankfully, does look like alarmism. Cases fell, and kept falling, even in places beset by new variants. The U.S. vaccination effort accelerated. And there’s going to be vastly more vaccine supply in the coming months.Few emotions are as unnerving right now as hope. No one wants to permit themselves optimism, only to be crushed when death tolls rise. But the case for hope is strengthening. And there are important policy reasons to take that case seriously.Dr. Ashish Jha is a physician, leading health policy researcher and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. He’s been one of the clearest and most thoughtful voices through this crisis. And he’s feeling hopeful, too. So I asked Jha on the show to guide us through these next months, to help us see what he’s seeing. Don’t get him, or me, wrong: This isn’t over. But in America, things are going to feel very, very different in 45 days, for reasons he explains. And then comes another question: How do we make sure the global end to this crisis comes soon after?A note: This episode was recorded before President Biden’s March 11 address directing states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive Covid vaccines by no later than May 1; however, the timeline Jha and I discuss here is just as ambitious and its implications are just as promising.This is one Covid discussion, finally, that is not going to leave you feeling in despair.Recommendations: "LikeWar" by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric CarleYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

1hr 1min

12 Mar 2021

Rank #1

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Stop. Breathe. We Can’t Keep Working Like This.

We were promised, with the internet, a productivity revolution. We were told that we’d get more done, in less time, with less stress. Instead, we got always-on communication, the dissolution of the boundaries between work and home, the feeling of constantly being behind, lackluster productivity numbers, and, to be fair, reaction GIFs. What went wrong?Cal Newport is a computer scientist at Georgetown and the author of books trying to figure that out. At the center of his work is the idea that the technologies billed as offering us more productive, happier, socially rich lives have left us more exhausted, empty and stressed out than ever. He’s doing something not enough people do: questioning whether this was all worth it.My critique of Newport’s work has always been that it focuses too much on the individual: Telling someone whose workplace communicates exclusively via Slack and email to be a “digital minimalist” is like telling someone who lives in a candy store to diet. But his new book, “A World Without Email,” is all about systems — specifically, the systems that govern how we work. In it, Newport makes a radical argument: We are living through a massive, rolling failure of markets and firms to rethink work for the digital age. But that can change. We can change it.Recommendations: "Technics and Civilization" by Lewis Mumford"Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change" by Neil Postman“A Continuous Shape” (video)"Andrew Henry's Meadow" by Doris BurnYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

54mins

5 Mar 2021

Rank #2

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To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems

As my colleague Ben Smith wrote in an August profile, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has “made a habit of being right on the big things.” She saw the threat of the coronavirus early and clearly. She saw that the public health community was ignoring the evidence on masking, and raised the alarm persuasively enough that she tipped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toward new, lifesaving guidance. Before Tufekci was being prescient about the coronavirus, she was being prescient about disinformation online, about the way social media was changing political organizing, about what election forecasting models could actually tell us, about the rising threat of authoritarianism in America.Tufekci attributes this track record to “systems thinking,” which she believes holds the key to forming a more accurate understanding of everything from pandemics to social media to the Republican Party. So I asked Tufekci to come on a podcast for a conversation about how she thinks, and what the rest of us can learn from it. In answering those questions, we discuss why public health experts were slow to change guidance on disruptive measures like masking and travel bans, the logic of authoritarian regimes, why Asian countries so decisively outperformed Western Europe and America in containing coronavirus, why Tufekci thinks media coverage of the vaccines is too pessimistic, the crisis of American democracy, whether a more competent demagogue will succeed Donald Trump, and much more.Mentioned in this episode:  “How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right” by Ben Smith“Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired” by Zeynep Tufekci“Can We Do Twice as Many Vaccinations as We Thought?” by Zeynep Tufekci and Michael Mina“America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent” by Zeynep TufekciRecommendations: "Groundhog Day" (movie)"Normal Accidents" by Charles Perrow"The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le GuinYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

1hr 9mins

2 Feb 2021

Rank #3

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What It Means to be Kind in a Cruel World

George Saunders is one of America’s greatest living writers. He’s the author of dozens of critically acclaimed short stories, including his 2013 collection, “Tenth of December”; his debut novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” won the 2017 Booker Prize; and his nonfiction work has empathy and insight that leave pieces from more than a decade ago ringing in my head today. His most recent book, “A Swim in A Pond in the Rain,” is a literary master class built around seven Russian short stories, analyzing how they work, and what they reveal about how we work.I’ve wanted to interview Saunders for more than 15 years. I first saw him talk when I was in college, and there was a quality of compassion and consideration in every response that was, well, strange. His voice doesn’t sound like his fiction. His fiction is bitingly satirical, manic, often unsettling. His voice is calm, kind, gracious. The dissonance stuck with me.Saunders’s central topic, literalized in his famous 2013 commencement speech, is about what it means to be kind in an unkind world. And that’s the organizing question of this conversation, too. We discuss the collisions between capitalism and human relations, the relationship between writing and meditation, Saunders’s personal editing process, the tension between empathizing with others and holding them to account, the promise of re-localizing our politics, the way our minds deceive us, Tolstoy’s unusual theory of personal transformation, and much more.What a pleasure this conversation was. So worth the wait.Recommendations: "Red Cavalry" by Isaac Babel"Stamped from the Beginning" by Ibram X. Kendi"Dispatches" by Michael Herr"Patriotic Gore" by Edmund Wilson"In Love with the World" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche"Loving; Living; Party Going" by Henry Green"Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey" by Hayden Carruth"Tropic of Squalor" by Mary Carr"They Lift Their Wings to Cry" by Brooks Haxton"The Hundred Dresses" by Eleanor Estes and Louis Slobodkin"Caps for Sale" by Esphyr SlobodkinaYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

1hr 15mins

19 Feb 2021

Rank #4

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Should We Dim the Sun? Will We Even Have a Choice?

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” Stewart Brand famously wrote in “The Whole Earth Catalogue.” Human beings act upon nature at fantastic scale, altering whole ecosystems, terraforming the world to our purposes, breeding new species into existence and driving countless more into extinction. The power we wield is awesome. But Brand was overly optimistic. We did not get good at it. We are terrible at it, and the consequences surround us.That’s the central theme of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.” And yet, there is no going back. We will not return to a prelapsarian period where humans let nature alone. Indeed, as Kolbert shows, there is no natural nature left — we live in the world (and in particular, a climate) we altered, and are altering. The awful knowledge that our interventions have gone awry again and again must be paired with the awful reality that we have no choice save to try to manage the mess we have made.Examples abound in Kolbert’s book, but in my conversation with her  I wanted to focus on one that obsesses me: solar geoengineering. To even contemplate it feels like the height of hubris. Are we really going to dim the sun? And yet, any reasonable analysis of the mismatch between our glacial politics and our rapidly warming planet demands that we deny ourselves the luxury of only contemplating the solutions we would prefer. With every subsequent day that our politics fails, the choices that we will need to make in the future become worse.This is a conversation about some of the difficult trade-offs and suboptimal options that we are left with in what Kolbert describes as a “no-analog moment.” We discuss the prospect of intentionally sending sulfurous particles into the atmosphere to dim the sun, whether “carbon capture” technology could scale up to the levels needed to make a dent in emissions levels, the ethics of using gene editing technologies to make endangered species more resistant to climate change, the governance mechanisms needed to prevent these technologies from getting out of hand, what a healthier narrative about humanity’s relationship with nature would sound like, how the pandemic altered carbon emissions, and more.At the end, we discuss another fascinating question that Kolbert wrote about recently in The New Yorker: Why is a Harvard astrophysicist arguing Earth has already been visited by aliens, and should we believe him?Mentioned in this episode: Whole Earth CatalogueField Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth KolbertThe Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth KolbertThe Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley RobinsonExtraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi LoebRecommendations: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald"The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka""The Song of the Dodo" by David Quammen"Global Warming (The Complete Briefing)" by John Houghton"Cosmicomics" by Italo Calvino"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster"Charlotte’s Web" by E.B. WhiteYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

56mins

9 Feb 2021

Rank #5

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A Radical Proposal for True Democracy

One thing I want to do on this show is give space to truly radical ideas, to expand the boundaries of our political and moral imaginations. And Hélène Landemore, a political scientist at Yale, has one of those ideas. She calls it “open democracy,” and the premise is simple: What we call democracy is not very democratic.The role of the people is confined to elections, to choosing the elites who will represent us. Landemore argues that our political thinking is stuck in “18th-century epistemologies and technologies.” It is not enough.We’ve learned much in the last few hundred years about random sampling, about the benefits of cognitively diverse groups, about the ways elections are captured by those with the most social and financial capital. Landemore wants to take what we’ve learned and build a new vision of democracy atop it — one in which we let groups of randomly selected citizens actually deliberate and govern. One in which we trust deliberation and diversity, not elections and political parties, to shape our ideas and to restrain our worst impulses.This is a challenging idea. I don’t know that it would work. But it’s a provocation worth wrestling with, particularly at this moment, when our ideas about democracy have so far outpaced the thin, corrupted ways in which we practice it.You’ve heard people say, “We’re a republic, not a democracy.” Landemore’s challenge is this: What if we were a democracy? We honor those who came before us for radically reimagining who could govern, and how politics could work. But did they really discover the terminal state of democracy? Or are there bold steps left for us to take?Recommendations:"Liquid Reign" by Tim Reutemann"The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas"The Principles of Representative Government" by Bernard ManinMortelle Adèle Book SeriesYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

44mins

23 Feb 2021

Rank #6

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How the Texas Crisis Could Become Everyone's Crisis

Last week, freezing temperatures overwhelmed the Texas power grid, setting off rolling blackouts that left millions without power during an intense winter storm. But this story is a lot bigger than Texas: Our world is built around a model of the climate from the 19th and 20th centuries. Global warming is going to crack that model apart, and with it, much of the physical and political infrastructure civilization relies on.At the same time, there’s good news on the climate front, too. The Biden administration has rejoined the Paris climate accords, pushed through a blitz of executive orders on the environment, and is planning a multitrillion-dollar climate bill. China has also set newly ambitious targets for decarbonization. Renewable energy is getting cheaper, faster, than almost anyone dared hope. And if you follow climate models, you know the most catastrophic outcomes have become less likely in recent years.I wanted to have a conversation about both the emergency in Texas, and the broader picture on climate. Leah Stokes is a political scientist at University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of the excellent book “Short Circuiting Policy,” which, among other things, explores Texas’ surprising history with renewables. David Wallace-Wells is an editor at large at New York magazine and author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," one of the most sobering, disquieting portraits of our future — though he is, as you’ll hear in this discussion, getting a bit more optimistic.We discuss whether the Texas crisis is going to be the new normal worldwide, the harrowing implications of how Texas Republicans have responded, why liberals should be cheering on Elon Musk, the difficulties liberal states are having on climate policy, the obstacles to decarbonization, the horrifying truth of what “adapting” to climate change will actually entail, why air pollution alone is a public health crisis worth solving, whether nuclear energy is the answer, and much more. I learned so much getting to sit in on this conversation. You will, too.Mentioned in this episode:“Migration towards Bangladesh coastlines projected to increase with sea level rise through 2100” by AR Bell, et al.“Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure” by Christopher W. Tessum, et al.“Wildfire Exposure Increases Pro-Environment Voting within Democratic but Not Republican Areas” by Chad Hazlett and Matto Mildenberger“Prisoners of the Wrong Dilemma: Why Distributive Conflict, Not Collective Action, Characterizes the Politics of Climate Change” by Michaël Aklin and Matto MildenbergerRecommendations: "Short Circuiting Policy" by Leah Stokes"The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss"Under a White Sky" by Elizabeth Kolbert"The Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley RobinsonYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

1hr 20mins

26 Feb 2021

Rank #7

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The Author Behind ‘Arrival’ Doesn’t Fear AI. ‘Look at How We Treat Animals.’

For years, I’ve kept a list of dream guests for this show. And as long as that list has existed, Ted Chiang has been atop it.Chiang is a science fiction writer. But that undersells him. He has released two short story collections over 20 years — 2002’s “Stories of Your Life and Others” and 2019’s “Exhalation.” Those stories have won more awards than I can list, and one of them was turned into the film “Arrival.” They are remarkable pieces of work: Each is built around a profound scientific, philosophical or religious idea, and then the story or the story structure is shaped to represent that idea. They are wonders of precision and craft. But unlike a lot of science fiction, they are never cold. Chiang’s work is deeply, irrepressibly humane.I’ve always wondered about the mind that would create Chiang’s stories. And in this conversation I got to watch it in action. Chiang doesn’t like to talk about himself. But he does like to talk about ideas. And so we do: We discuss the difference between magic and technology, why superheroes fight crime but ignore injustice, what it would do to the human psyche if we knew the future is fixed, whether free will exists, whether we’d want to know the exact date of our deaths, why Chiang fears what humans will do to artificial intelligence more than what A.I. will do to humans, the way capitalism turns people against technology, and much more.The ideas Chiang offered in this conversation are still ringing in my head, and changing the way I see the world. It’s worth taking your time with this one.Recommendations: "Creation" by Steve Grand"On the Measure of Intelligence" by Francois Chollet"CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" by George Saunders"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan"Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise" (movie)"On Fragile Waves" by Lily Yu"Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie DillardControl (video game)Return of the Obra Dinn (video game)You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

50mins

30 Mar 2021

Rank #8

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A Top G.O.P. Pollster on Trump 2024, QAnon and What Republicans Really Want

In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, the polling firm Echelon Insights decided to ask voters a simple question: Do they think the goal of politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or “ensuring the country’s survival as we know it?”Only 25 percent of Republicans said politics is about policy; nearly half said it’s about survival. That’s today’s Republican Party in a nutshell.I’ve had some recent conversations with Republicans who are trying to reform their party, to push it back toward policy and, in some cases, reality. But, for now, we’re governing with the Republican Party we have, not the Republican Party many want. So what does that Republican Party, the real Republican Party, believe?Kristen Soltis Anderson is a Republican pollster, host of Sirius XM’s “The Trendline,” and co-founder of Echelon Insights. She has done some of the most in-depth surveys of Republican voters to date: the issues that animate them, the traits they look for in presidential candidates, how they consume information, their faith in Donald Trump and much more. So I asked her about what today’s Republicans believe, and what that reveals about where the party is going next.Recommendations: "Grand New Party" by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam"Resonate" by Nancy Duarte“Generations Status and Party Identification, A Theory of Operant Conditioning” by Keith Billingsley and Clyde Tucker"Dragons Love Tacos" by Adam RubinYou can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

1hr

26 Mar 2021

Rank #9

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An Unusually Optimistic Conversation With Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders didn’t win the 2020 election. But he may have won its aftermath.If you look back at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’s careers, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for forever, without much of the compromise or concerns that you used to see from Senator Joe Biden. That’s not to take anything away from Biden. He’s the president. This is his plan. And it is to his credit that he saw what the country needed, what the politics of the moment would support and where his party had moved, and met it with full force.But Sanders’s two presidential campaigns are part of the reason that the Democratic Party had moved, and the politics of the moment had changed. And so I’ve wondered what Sanders makes of this moment. Is it a triumph? A disappointment? A beginning?And I’ve wondered about his take on some of the other questions swirling around the Democratic Party: Are liberals alienating people who agree with them on economics by being too censorious on culture? Is there room to work with populist Republicans who might be open to new economic ideas even as they turn against liberal democracy itself?You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

28mins

23 Mar 2021

Rank #10