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Author: Russ Roberts

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EconTalk: Conversations for the Curious is an award-winning weekly podcast hosted by Russ Roberts of Shalem College in Jerusalem and Stanford's Hoover Institution. The eclectic guest list includes authors, doctors, psychologists, historians, philosophers, economists, and more. Learn how the health care system really works, the serenity that comes from humility, the challenge of interpreting data, how potato chips are made, what it's like to run an upscale Manhattan restaurant, what caused the 2008 financial crisis, the nature of consciousness, and more. EconTalk has been taking the Monday out of Mondays since 2006. All 900+ episodes are available in the archive. Go to for transcripts, related resources, and comments.
940 Episodes
While religion may play less of a role in many people's lives, rituals--the lifeblood of religion--remain central to the human experience. Listen as Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School explains how and why rituals remain at the center of our lives--they give meaning to life-cycle events and secular holidays, calm our fears, and give us a sense of control when the pressure to perform can otherwise overwhelm us.
Can you be too happy? Psychologist Adam Mastroianni talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about our emotional control systems, which seem to work at bringing both sadness and happiness back to a steady baseline. Too much happiness is--perhaps surprisingly--not necessarily a good thing. They also explore whether our general level of happiness is really related to events in our lives or connected to something much larger than ourselves.
Listen as Megan McArdle and EconTalk's Russ Roberts use Google's new AI entrant Gemini as the starting point for a discussion about the future of our culture in the shadow of AI bias. They also discuss the tension between rules and discretion in Western society and why the ultimate answer to AI bias can't be found in technology.
Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib spent much of his childhood in Gaza before becoming an American citizen. He has lost dozens of family members and both his childhood homes in Israel's war in Gaza. But he hasn't lost hope for peace and the future of the Palestinian people. Listen as he describes the reality of life in Gaza under Hamas rule, and what he believes most Gazans think of Hamas. He also shares his thoughts on how to save Israel's hostages, and how Palestinians can thrive once the war is over.
The world of today would seem alien to someone living 30 years ago: people seduced by their screens in private and public and now AI blurring the lines between humans and the machine. Author and technologist Azeem Azhar chronicles the pace of change and asks whether the human experience can cope with that pace while preserving what is fundamentally human.
There's often a gap between the textbook treatment of statistics and the cookbook treatment--how to cook up the numbers when you're in the kitchen of the real world. Jeremy Weber of the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Statistics for Public Policy hopes his book can close that gap. He talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how to use numbers thoughtfully and honestly.
When EconTalk's Russ Roberts sat down with Charles Duhigg to talk about his new book on the art of conversation, Supercommunicators, Roberts tried to apply some of its lessons to his conversation with the author. The result is this special conversation between two people eager to connect and communicate. Enjoy.
Journalist and author Robert Wright invited EconTalk's Russ Roberts to his podcast, NonZero, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, knowing that there would be plenty to disagree about. The two then agreed to release their back-and-forth on their respective podcasts. The result is a lively but respectful discussion that is more debate than the usual EconTalk episode. We hope there will still be much to learn from this slightly more combative than usual episode.
How far back should you go to understand the current moment in the relationship between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors and the attack of October 7? Some would say 2005, or 1967, or maybe 1948 when the State of Israel was founded. But for historian and author Hillel Cohen of Hebrew University, year zero was 1929. Listen as he explains to EconTalk's Russ Roberts the significance of that year for the current moment, and the challenge of being an open-minded historian when tribal issues loom large.
For decades, American aid to Israel has sent a strategic message: the greatest superpower in the world stands behind the Jewish state. But does it really? Historian and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren tells EconTalk's Russ Roberts that it's time for Israel to stop accepting U.S. foreign aid. He also explains why he's optimistic about Israel's future even as the Gaza War drags on.
Pollster and political scientist Dahlia Scheindlin has worked extensively with public opinion polls of both Palestinians and Israelis. Listen as she talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the dreams, fears, anger, and frustration of both sides. Along the way she analyzes the mood of Arab-Israelis and what optimism, if any, she has for a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians in the aftermath of October 7th.
How did a husband-and-wife vacation end up saving a city from the atomic bomb while destroying another? And how did a century-old murder of one family bring another into existence? Easily, explains political scientist Brian Klaas of University College London, who points out that history is replete with chance events that profoundly shaped both society and individual lives. Listen as Klaas discusses his book Fluke with EconTalk's Russ Roberts. Klaas argues that recognizing the randomness of everyday life and history can lead to a newfound appreciation for the meaning of every decision, and to a focus on joyful experimentation instead of relentless optimization.
Did nations get rich on the backs of other nations? Did the West get rich from imperialism? Noah Smith says no. But why not? If you can steal stuff, isn't that better than having to make it yourself? Listen as Noah Smith and EconTalk's Russ Roberts discuss the impact of imperialism and industrialization on growth and wealth. Smith argues that understanding plunder and where wealth comes from is more than an exercise in economic history--it matters for today's world, too.
Journalist Matti Friedman worked for the Jerusalem Bureau of the Associated Press from 2006 to 2011. Looking back at that experience, Friedman argues that little has changed in the journalism landscape. Listen as Friedman discusses with EconTalk host Russ Roberts the media's obsession with Israel and how and why the media often sidelines facts in service of ideology, and the challenge of objective reporting in wartime.
Over the 25 years he's lived in Israel, author Daniel Gordis of Shalem College has seen many chapters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, beginning with the Second Intifada that followed the Oslo Accords. Listen as he and EconTalk's Russ Roberts discuss why Hamas's massacre of October 7th is different and is an existential threat to Israel. They also speak about why Israelis are demanding a different response to Hamas than they have in the past, and how and why this war will change Israel and the Jewish people.
It seems obvious that moral artificial intelligence would be better than the alternative. But psychologist Paul Bloom of the University of Toronto thinks moral AI is not just a meaningless goal but a bad one. Listen as Bloom and EconTalk's Russ Roberts have a wide-ranging conversation about the nature of AI, the nature of morality, and the value of ensuring that we mortals can keep doing stupid or terrible things. 
Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur takes us on a deep dive into the origins of Israel--how European Jew-hatred gave birth to Zionism and the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. He then turns to the rise of Palestinian terrorism and explains why the Palestinian experience and the Israeli experience are so incompatible. Along the way, Gur places the Holocaust in a much broader European context. I learned an immense amount from this conversation and hope you do, too.
How can we create a radically different atmosphere at American universities? Easy, says historian Niall Ferguson of Stanford University's Hoover Institution--have meaningful rules about free speech, and ensure that they're upheld. As with humans, as with institutions: It's all about incentives. Ferguson discusses the current state of free speech on American campuses and how the new University of Austin when it opens hopes to safeguard freedom of speech. The conversation shifts then to the war in the Middle East. Ferguson draws on his work on the biography of Henry Kissinger and compares the present moment for Israel to the Yom Kippur War and the role Kissinger played in 1973.
In 2018, author Yossi Klein Halevi wanted Palestinians to understand his story of how Israel came into existence. At the same time, he wanted Palestinians to tell him their personal and national stories, too, about the same land. The result was Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, a candid, heartfelt book that engaged Jews and Arabs around the world in conversation. Listen as Klein Halevi talks about his book and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with EconTalk's Russ Roberts. Halevi explains why he believes that dialogue is possible, even when there are things about which the two sides will never agree. Finally, he speaks about where he sees Israel headed in the wake of Hamas's brutal October 7th attack.
Who is the greatest economist of all time? In Tyler Cowen's eclectic view, you need both breadth and depth, macro and micro. You can't have been too wrong--and you need to be mostly right. You have to have had a lasting impact, and done both theory and empirical work. If you meet all these criteria, you may just be history's greatest economist. Listen as Cowen talks about his new and freely accessible book GOAT with EconTalk's Russ Roberts. Along the way to crowning a winner, Cowen offers original insights into what shaped the theories and worldviews of the greatest economists of all time. Cowen and Roberts also talk about the evolution of economics from a field concerned mainly with ideas to one that mostly grapples with empirical challenges.
Comments (119)

Habia Khet


Feb 5th

Savitha Rengabashyam

Really enjoyed this conversation! Michael put forth such clear examples to understand how strategies are used to push people past moderation. The scarcity loop and the three components of the scarcity loop really hit home, especially in understanding how social media gets us scrolling away to no end. Made me also wonder if the scarcity loop is relevant to scenarios involving excessive book reading. Though reading is a good thing, the three components of the loop may be relevant to books as well?

Dec 19th

roberto iannucci

My expectations were pretty low for this episode, and I recognize and respect the good intentions, but this is ridiculous.

Dec 4th

Bruno Duarte

great episode, subscribed to Munger's pcast

Jul 1st

Taylor Lassiter

skip. guest is a moron

May 30th

Michael McGrath

Great, thoughtful conversation👍🏼

Feb 7th

Jorge Cueto

So many bad colonialist takes in this episode 💀💀💀

Jan 19th

Reza Gholi

it's kind of funny how you both skipped the later edit cohen did to "lovers" song and deleted the phrase he was calling Israelis as brothers.

Jun 7th

Reza Gholi

Immediately after he wrote [that verse], he apparently frightened himself and crossed out the word ‘my brothers.’ You can see the line in the notebook, and he replaced it with the words “the children.”

Jun 7th

Reza Gholi

He writes about an incident where he is evacuating wounded and he was very emotional, and then they say to him, ‘Don’t worry those are Egyptians,’ and he is relieved. And then he catches himself and says ‘Why am I relieved that it’s only Egyptians,’ and he later writes ‘This is blood on my hands,'” Friedman recounted, noting that Cohen hardly ever mentioned the war afterward

Jun 7th

Captain Creditor

Dog's breakfast bit needs to be on the best of '22 list. 😆

May 18th

Reza Gholi

there is a day called "nikbah". the day that nearly 1 milion Palestinian were thrown out of their house, and the state of israel was stablished. the occupation and oppression has just gone up since that day. it's really odd to sea pro Israelis talking about the oddness of human's capacity for cruelty and oppression.

May 4th


good show

Jan 29th
Reply (1)

Dan Kaiser

If poor people knew what they really needed they wouldn't be poor.

Dec 16th

Prabhat kumar

So much pretension...this guy talks like Donald Trump

Oct 21st

Dan Kaiser

Reminder that George Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose. No autopsy evidence of suffocation.

Oct 11th
Reply (1)

Reza Gholi

how do yo feel working in an apartheid system?

Jul 10th

Prajay Maganlal

this was such a great episode

Mar 19th

Dan Kaiser

Sounds like a good book for elementary school age kids who are still learning that "Not all X people are X problem."

Feb 23rd

Dan Kaiser

Any person who unironically uses the term latinx does not speak for the latino community and should be dismissed entirely. Also note Katherine's blatant racism in that every white neighborhood needs to subsidize homes for blacks, but all black neighborhoods need the right to prevent whites from moving in. As well as her extremely racist assertion that low income housing is synonymous for housing for blacks.

Dec 21st
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