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Econlib publishes three to four new economics articles and columns each month. The latest articles and columns are made available to the public on the first Monday of each month.

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The Library of Economics and Liberty carries the podcast EconTalk, hosted by Russ Roberts. The weekly talk show features one-on-one discussions with an eclectic mix of authors, professors, Nobel laureates, entrepreneurs, leaders of charities and businesses, and people on the street. The emphases are on using topical books and the news to illustrate economic principles. Exploring how economics emerges in practice is a primary theme.

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Recent Posts

Here are the 10 latest posts from EconLog.

EconLog February 25, 2018

Roberts and Peterson on Human Connection, by David Henderson

Russ Roberts: For Smith--those--you just said it in a very rich way. The way I summarize it: When we interact with other people, we have these little feedback loops of approval and disapproval. That's what Smith talks about. And, it's the raised eyebrow. It's that look, that you are talking about, that says, 'I want more. I want to be here.' And, when you get that look, you know you are doing something right.

Jordan Peterson: Right--

Russ Roberts: It's a beautiful signal.

Jordan Peterson: Exactly. I want to be here with you now. That's a good look.

Russ Roberts: And, just to refund (?) that for a second--some of the most transcendent moments of my life have been the handful of times that I've had a conversation where that kind of connection is established, with a person who might be almost, sometimes a stranger. Doesn't have to be your wife--although but if it's your wife, it's lovely, and your children, or your loved ones. But when you can connect with another human being in that open, inviting--it's a delicious thing. It doesn't have to be--it's not someone just telling you a joke. It can be somebody sharing a tragedy that you empathize with that connects them to you in a profound way.

Jordan Peterson: Yeah. Well, I describe that in Chapter 9. That's Rule 9. Assume that the person you are listening to knows something you don't. And it's a guide to having that kind of conversation. And I would say that's a conversation where, speaking metaphysically, I would say that's a conversation where the logos is present, right? Because both of you are developing in the conversation.
This is my favorite part of the most-recent EconTalk episode, "Jordan Peterson on 12 Rules for Life," EconTalk, February 19, 2018.

It led me to two thoughts.

  1. I think of most of my close friendships and how I can remember a particular conversation that started them, where one of us said something and the other responded in a way that showed that he had truly gotten it, not just intellectually but, often, emotionally. Russ Roberts mentions his wife. What I recall is the first two conversations I had with the woman who became my wife and how they made me think "This is the one."

  2. I also think of my own way of being in the world where the odds that any human interaction will lead to a close friendship are low, but nevertheless I get a real pleasure that actually sometimes is so intense that I can feel my head getting a little fuzzy. I shared one of them here a few years ago. In my normal month, this happens a fair amount, but it happens even more frequently when I travel. I take many of the opportunities to enjoy and appreciate someone I run into in a hotel, say, and I sometimes get a lot back.

When I spoke at Webber International University last week, I had 3 events in the afternoon and evening. The first was my talk on numeracy in a statistics class. It went reasonably well, but not as well as I had hoped and not as well as it went when I was a professor and did it in class. The third was my public talk to about 90 to 100 people, 90% of whom were undergrads. It went reasonably well but, I think, was too technical for that audience and maybe that's why there were, at times, 3 or 4 side conversations that were so distracting that I stopped my talk to ask them to please stop talking. But the second one was amazingly good. My host, Professor Phil Murray, had told the students that they could come and talk to me about anything--their careers, economics, freedom (one of the students was reading my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist's Odyssey), and I don't know whether he put any other topics on the agenda. I've done this before at other schools with reasonable results, but in this one, many of us were really connecting. I had told them early in the hour, because it was a propos of something, about my hugging Ronald Reagan in his office in Century City. After I answered one student's question "How much do you trust government?" with the answer "Under 10 percent," we had a really interesting discussion. First, a number of them thought I had said, "One hundred and ten percent," and so I clarified and then I got the impression that some were relieved that it wasn't total but most seemed to have more trust in government than I did--there's a lot of room between 10 and 110. Second, I laid out examples to back up my distrust in government. I mentioned George W. Bush who, I concluded in some recent research with Chad Seagren, may not have been lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but was certainly looking for confirming evidence. I mentioned the police in Baltimore who, according to one cop, carried BB guns "in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them." I gave the example of Defense Secretary and my former Hoover colleague Jim Mattis, who, when Donald Trump asked him what the justification was for sending so many troops to so many countries, answered "Sir, we're doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square."

Then one student said, "Do you think that government sometimes lies to us in order to calm us down when they're afraid of telling us the scary truth." I said that I think that sometimes happens but that it's more typically the other way--trying to hype a small threat when doing so will help pass legislation that they want. A student from Haiti said that the way he looked at it you could either just tell yourself that government is keeping us safe and trust them to do it or you could be more realistic and realize that you need to take care of yourself. I told him I could hug him. Afterwards, in fact, I did.

I also liked this part:

Russ Roberts: And I do my part. But it doesn't get into my bones the way--I don't feel the need to rant, say, about the latest policy blunder the way I used to. And I'm increasingly humble about what I'm sure of. So, that's all good. But at the same time, I worry, as I think you do, that the American experiment or more broadly the Western experiment that celebrates and honors liberty, restrains the power of the state, recognizes the sanctity of the individual--that that's in jeopardy. Maybe serious jeopardy. And I see your book and your book and your videos as a part of an effort to fight against that serious tide. And I want your advice on how to balance tending one's own garden with the chaos that seems to be erupting outside of ourselves and saying, 'Well, I'll just stick here to my little garden. I don't need to solve all that.' I can't. And besides, it's a lot of nonsense, mostly. But, it could be that the house is on fire. I'm getting a little nervous.
Peterson answers:
Well, I would say that having the sorts of conversations that we're having--I mean, these are public conversations as well. I can't think of anything that's better that you can do. Like, what could you possibly do that would be better than that? You know--you are not in a position at the moment to directly influence large-scale policy decisions, let's say. And you know how difficult it is to formulate those properly to begin with. I believe--I truly believe--that if people tended to what was in front of them, if they paid attention to what they can control and they organized that properly, that that would do the trick. That would solve the policy problems. I believe that it's the right level of analysis. And so, you know, you said, while you have a family and you've raised your family and you're trying to get along with your kids, and you have this podcast, and you are trying to put forth the ideas of Adam Smith--genius-level idea of Adam Smith. And I presume that you find that engaging and meaningful. And it might be that you are working at exactly the right level of resolution.
I like that. But I also like the fact that a local friend, Lawrence Samuels, got me involved against a fight against a county-wide sales tax increase in 2003. It was my first focused activism to achieve a particular goal and we won. If I were to, Thomas Jefferson-style, list a few things on my grave stone that I was proudest of in my life, I would list that battle. So I'm glad I went beyond the usual things academic and journalistic economists do, at least that one time. (See here, here, and here for my story about the whole thing.)

I want to add one thing. One way to both do what you do well and still be doing other things to save civilization is to be courageous and model courage for others. I sometimes have fantasies about foiling a terrorist hijacker and that's great but, fortunately, it's unlikely to happen. But we have chances to speak up in many situations. When I was a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, I did it by asking tough questions of visiting 3- and 4-star Admirals and of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (at 43:40). As one of my students put it, "There's no problem with saying 'Choose your battles.' It's good advice. The problem is that many people who say 'Choose your battles' never choose any battles."

(0 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 24, 2018

Don't use the Phillips Curve, destroy it, by Scott Sumner

David Beckworth has an excellent post discussing the Fed's confused relationship with the Phillips Curve. Recall that the Fed has the Keynesian interpretation of the Phillips Curve---which basically says that rising inflation is caused by an overheating economy. Or more simply; inflation is procyclical.

In fact, whether inflation is procyclical or countercyclical is up to the Fed---it depends on the monetary policy regime. David shows that the Bank of Israel makes inflation countercyclical by producing a nice smooth path of NGDP growth. Rather than being some sort of fundamental law of nature, the Phillips Curve is actually the outcome of policy choices. Check out David's very interesting graphs of Israeli inflation, RGDP growth and NGDP growth.

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David also has a tweet that directed me to the FOMC minutes:

Almost all participants who commented agreed that a Phillips curve-type of inflation framework remained useful as one of their tools for understanding inflation dynamics and informing their decisions on monetary policy. Policymakers pointed to a number of possible reasons for the difficulty in estimating the link between resource utilization and inflation in recent years. These reasons included an extended period of low and stable inflation in the United States and other advanced economies during which the effects of resource utilization on inflation became harder to identify, the shortcomings of commonly used measures of resource gaps, the effects of transitory changes in relative prices, and structural factors that had made business pricing more competitive or prices more flexible over time. It was noted that research focusing on inflation across U.S. states or metropolitan areas continued to find a significant relationship between price or wage inflation and measures of resource gaps.This reminds me of (highly flawed) cross sectional studies of the relationship between fiscal policy and output. I can't emphasize enough that you cannot draw macro conclusions from regional studies. Even if (as I claim) there is no reliable Phillips curve relationship at the macro level---that any observed relationship reflects bad monetary policy---you would expect this sort of correlation at the regional level. You'd expect higher inflation in booming regions than in depressed regions.

PS. I will be interviewed on monetary policy by Charlie Deist for 1 hour tomorrow morning (8-9am Sunday, Pacific time, or 11-12am, EST) Here is the link.

HT: Inklet

(1 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 24, 2018

A Simplistic Model of Public Policy, by Contributing Guest

by Pierre Lemieux

_ Philosophers have been debating moral values for two and a half millennia, and counting... I would argue that, at least when moral philosophy becomes political philosophy, consequences matter. _

prison.jpg According to FBI statistics, 39% of all murders (counting only those where the murderer's age is known) are committed by young males aged 17 to 24. These murders impose great costs on the victims and, perhaps even more, on their parents, children, and other loved ones. The internment of all young males from their 17th birthday until they turn 25 would prevent these murders. Therefore, this public policy should be implemented.

Many people seem to believe that public policy should be based on this sort of reasoning, which can be expressed under the form of a syllogism:

X imposes great costs on some people;
Z would reduce the occurrence of X;
Therefore, Z must be done.
Call this the simplistic public-policy syllogism. (I was reminded of this sort of public-policy model by a Facebook comment from independent researcher Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan, which he later developed into a blog post.)

As a preliminary consideration, we want to make sure that the minor premise (the second one) of the syllogism guarantees a net reduction of X (murders committed). Z (the preventive incarceration of all young men) would not eliminate the roughly 6,000 murders committed annually by young men, for some would be committed in their prison--especially with all these testosterone-laden young guys around. But it would reduce the occurrence of murders. It would save at least some lives (if not most). As public health activists are fond of saying, "If it could save only one life..."

Even if the two premises are correct, the syllogism is logically invalid. The conclusion does not logically follow because, as philosophers know, an "ought" cannot be derived from an "is." There is a jump between the positive and the normative. A normative conclusion requires the input of moral values (often called "value judgments" by economists).

Philosophers have been debating moral values for two and a half millennia, and counting. The deontological version of ethics is usually based on some conception of natural law. I would argue that, at least when moral philosophy becomes political philosophy, consequences matter. A deontological ethics that would render everybody on earth miserable would be indefensible. Consequences, however, must still be evaluated.

We need to evaluate the consequences of a public policy compared with its absence (or with its absence in the presence of a different public policy, but I ignore this complication here). Assume that we are only interested in individuals--as opposed to, say, what Gaia thinks or what "society" feels. All the costs and benefits of Z to all individuals must be factored in. The concept of opportunity cost is useful here (as everywhere): benefits foregone are costs, and costs avoided are benefits. Thus, maximizing benefits is the same as minimizing costs over the two alternatives Z and non-Z. And, needless to say, all psychic costs and benefits must be included.

The cost of Z would include the pleasure lost by the young men during their preventive incarceration. Foregone schooling would translate into reduced future earnings and enjoyment of life. The cost of Z also includes the benefits lost by other individuals as a result of the internment policy: parents deprived of their sons during seven years, young women deprived of young men, the loss to taxpayers who have to pay for the jails and guards, and so forth.

Standard welfare economics and its practical application, cost-benefit analysis, are not capable of eliminating the need for moral criteria in evaluating the consequences of public policy. Even if the total benefits of Z are greater than its total costs, some individuals will be harmed. The idea that the individuals benefited by Z could potentially compensate those harmed, even if they did not or could not actually do it, is not sufficient, for what allows government to favor some individuals over other individuals? This is a standard and well-taken critique of the New Welfare Economics that developed in the 1930s.

Economists have demonstrated that, if everybody is to count equally, it is impossible to aggregate all individual preferences into a sort of "social welfare function" representing a moral agreement about how some can be harmed in order to favor others. I present an introduction to these proofs in my Econlib article "The Vacuity of the Political We." Somebody--individual, group, or majority-- will typically impose his value judgments on all others in society.

Add to this a crucial fact: long-term consequences that must be factored in are impossible to predict. How many young males would have become hardened criminals when they are released from their prisons, and will they commit more murders than they would otherwise have? What would be the consequences of this assault on individual liberty in general? How will all this change the nature of society and the state? The character of the jailers? The relations between boys and their families? (Would parents start aborting their male foetuses as many Chinese did to their daughters-to-be because of another sort of public policy?) Marriage and the family? Conventional morals? And so on and so forth.

To summarize, the simplistic public-policy syllogism is useless and dangerous. It is not logically valid. The fact that X imposes great costs on some people is not a sufficient reason to implement Z, because all costs must be considered. Accepting a distribution of these costs and benefits among different people requires value judgments, even if the net benefit is positive. These value judgments will have to be imposed by a majority (at best) to the rest of society. Moreover, long-run costs and benefits are impossible to forecast.

There are ways to circumvent those problems and create a (narrow) space for public policy. We may invoke James Buchanan's social contract, Friedrich Hayek's free society principles and spontaneous rules, or perhaps even Anthony de Jasay's (modified) presumption of liberty. But none of these approaches justifies the simplistic public-policy syllogism.

(7 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 23, 2018

Politics, complexity, and confusion in the social media sphere, by Alberto Mingardi

_ Very few people have used the seemingly sensible argument that there is little use in arguing against public debt when borrowing is so cheap. _
debt clock.jpg "El vulgo admira mas lo confuso que lo complejo." My rough translation: the people admire more what is confused than what is complex.

This is an aphorism of Nicolás Gómez-Dávila, a fascinating Colombian philosopher who may change your view (if you hold it) that aphorisms are best left to adolescence, as memorable but seldom meaningful little sentences. Here's a review-profile of Nicolás Gómez-Dávila in Modern Age.

I thought a great deal about this aphorism in the last few days, for Istituto Bruno Leoni has chosen to do something rather unusual, by think tank standards (or, at least, by our standards) for the upcoming Italian election.

Since 2010, we have been running on our website a 'debt-clock', which forecasts the monthly trends of Italian public debt. Italy didn't have a 'debt-clock' before and we placed it online, regularly updating with new data from the central bank, and making it available for any website that wants to use it.

As in this electoral campaign, the natural tendency of politicians to promise the moon to voters seems to be particularly pronounced. We chose, with a considerable effort (again, for our own standards), to put the 'debt-clock' as an ad on the maxi LED screens of the biggest train stations in Milan and Rome. It runs 855 times a day, in places where 900,000 people pass by every day.

We didn't use this ad to propose any "solution" (like privatisations) to the Italian humongous public debt: we only wanted to remind people that, well, there are no free lunches.

The reactions have been interesting. Quite a few people contacted us asking for information and clarification. On social media, we have found ourselves at the center of quite a storm: insulted and accused typically from groups on the extreme left (by which I mean: basically communists) and the extreme right (by which I mean: basically fascists).

A few of the accusations were weird but interesting. For example, we have been accused of "criminalising" common people, instead of politicians who are more directly responsible of the state of Italian public finance. Of course, we were trying to inform "common people", whose demands politicians should take into account. Very few people have used the seemingly sensible argument that there is little use in arguing against public debt when borrowing is so cheap. Most criticisms (and death threats and the like) came from people who subscribe to some kind of version of MMT, who believe that quitting the euro and renominating debt in good old liras will solve all problems, and who think that "democracies" should borrow at will, without being strangled by "markets" (by which they mean: creditors).

Here Gómez-Dávila comes in handy.

At first sight, these arguments do not look simple. They are actually constructed to seem elaborate. They are also fashionable because they have something of the mystery religion: if you buy into this, you're like admitted to share secrets that the rest of the world do not want you to access (the "mainstream"). They are elaborate, and by being elaborate they constitute a call to arms.

At the same time, these arguments are simplistic. They do not take into account complexity, let alone the complex interconnections of social events in a modern economy. They point to a deus ex machina (monetary sovereignty) which will solve all problems. They do still confuse money with wealth: a fallacy Adam Smith pointed out quite a few years ago. But that gains traction, because the opposite, sober, but uncomfortable viewpoint is presented as a contrivance of "the elites."

I think this mixture of being elaborate and being simplistic is what would go with Gómez-Dávila's "confused." This confusion is what substitutes for complexity.

Is this the secret of successful mobilisation in the contemporary social media sphere?

(2 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 23, 2018

Will the Swiss adopt 100% reserve banking?, by Scott Sumner

The answer is clearly no, because they are not being asked to adopt 100% reserve banking. However there is an upcoming referendum for creating a system of 100% reserve backed demand deposits in Swiss banks. I read the literature in support of this referendum, and I'm having trouble figuring out what problem this is supposed to solve:

3) What are the fundamental advantages of sovereign money?Sovereign money in a bank account is completely safe because it is central bank money. It does not disappear when a bank goes bankrupt. Finance bubbles will be avoided because the banks won't be able to create money any more. The state will be freed from being a hostage, because the banks won't need to be rescued with taxpayers' money to keep the whole money-transaction system afloat i.e. the "too big to fail" problem disappears. The financial industry will go back to serving the real economy and society. The money and banking systems will no longer be shrouded in complexity, but will be transparent and understandable.Unless I'm mistaken, this is simply false.

...

PS. Here is the title page of my copy of 100% Money. The frontispiece is actually signed by Irving Fisher. I bought the book in Madison, Wisconsin, for $3.50. :)

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EconLog February 23, 2018

Restricting Speech for Nationalist Reasons, by Contributing Guest

by Pierre Lemieux

Statements invoking "the people" are generally no more than political demagoguery from those who claim to represent this magical and rousing entity. Polish flags.jpg I don't know to what extent Poles helped the Nazis carry out the Holocaust, but it is impossible that it involved 100% of the Poles. It is also inconceivable that it was 0%. Moreover, since I don't speak Polish, I haven't read the law that was just adopted in that country. Despite these caveats, I think there are still a couple of lessons to be safely drawn from the current controversy.

According to an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal of February 2, Polish president Andrzej Duda approved a libel law, which includes jail penalties, against "accusing the Polish people of assisting in the Holocaust." It would be important to know which exact expression the Polish President and others used. The Wall Street Journal reporter also writes "the Polish population" and "Polish society," not in quotation marks. Translation is a complex matter but the concept of "the people" has been around for a few centuries--not to mention more ambiguous concepts in antiquity, such as the Roman senatus populusque romanus ("the senate and the people of Rome"). But it wouldn't be surprising if Duda invoked "the people" as modern politicians, especially the populist ones, love to do.

EconLog February 22, 2018

The Double Whammy of Uselessness, by Bryan Caplan

While promoting my new book, I've repeatedly argued that foreign language requirements in U.S. schools are absurd and should be abolished.  For two distinct reasons.

Reason #1: Americans almost never use their knowledge of foreign languages (unless they speak it in the home).

Reason #2: Americans almost never learn to speak a foreign language very well in school, even though a two- or even three-year high school requirement is standard.

This double whammy is easily generalized.  If studying X for years yields minimal knowledge, and you wouldn't use X even if you knew it, you could defend X as an elective.  But how could anyone defend X as a requirement? 

Yet plenty of people I've met can and do stand by such requirements.  Indeed, they think I'm the crazy one.

(29 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 22, 2018

You get what you pay for, by Scott Sumner

This tweet caught my attention:

Jeff Bezos possesses $121.3 billion dollars. There are about 550,000 homeless people in America. If Jeff Bezos gave every homeless person in America $100,000, he would still have $66.3 Billion Dollars!

Let that sink in...
You get what you pay for.

Let that sink in...

PS. What if the money were spent lobbying for weaker zoning laws?

HT: Razib Khan

(27 COMMENTS)

EconLog February 21, 2018

A Balanced View of Trump, by David Henderson

I rarely find a balanced view of Trump. I gave one about a month ago. I've now found another.

Here's Richard Brookhiser on what William F. Buckley, Jr. thought of Trump:

Buckley wrote about Trump the politician once, in an article for Cigar Aficionado, which ran in the spring of 2000 after Trump's brief pursuit of the nomination of the Reform party, Ross Perot's then-rudderless vehicle. Buckley ID'd Trump as a demagogue, narcissist division. "When he looks at a glass," Buckley wrote, "he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America." This was a political as well as a personal judgment: Trump sought office not to accomplish anything, but to advance and gratify himself. Candidate Trump had issues in 2000, and more in 2016, and beyond. But Bill knew his man. They had been fellow New Yorkers for decades. Bill did not regularly read Page Six, but his wife Pat did. Bill had observed every step of Trump's public career. He knew Trump was gilt all the way down.
Brookhiser, "WFB Today," National Review, February 16, 2018.

EconLog February 21, 2018

Do deficits matter?, by Scott Sumner

I am seeing a disturbing rise in "free lunch" thinking. One place this increasingly shows up is in the case of "deficits". People seem to have trouble grasping that deficit spending implies future austerity.

Let's start with an electric company. Suppose it plans on being in business forever. It decides to issue enough debt so that it's current stock of debt at any given point in time is equal to 1% of the GDP of the city it serves. If the city it serves is growing over time, the electric company can basically run "deficits" forever, or so it would appear.

In fact, the electric company still faces a budget constraint. It must still service that debt with money earned from customers. The net present value of future interest and principle payments is still equal to the value of the debt issued. The debt continues to be a liability, in any meaningful sense of the terms. Ratepayers should still be concerned about the electric company issuing too much debt, and saddling them with huge future liabilities.

Here are the 10 latest posts from EconTalk.

EconTalk February 21, 2018

Chaos and Order: Could 12 Rules for Life Help Us Find Balance

by Alice Temnick

Is it a relief to know that there is a shared belief in life as tragic, troubled, and full of misery? Would a plan for engaging in meaningful conversation, feeling significant and taking responsibility relieve us from an anxious and miserable state?

Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life, talks about the book and his lectures with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Aggregating the psychological wisdom of the 20th century, this clinical psychologist aims to help improve lives through deep and practical advice about daily choices. Rejecting a goal of happiness, Roberts and Peterson explore topics of parenting, activism, university education shortcomings, and more through recognizing and harnessing the power of the darker side of life.

  1. Peterson likens his current phenomenon on YouTube and best-selling Amazon author status as 'surfing a hundred foot wave'. He acknowledges that fame is fragile and can change instantly, that the price of making a mistake is high. Is this more prominent in today's social media-entrenched culture? What examples can you provide to support or refute this?

EconTalk February 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson on 12 Rules for Life

12%20Rules%20for%20Life.jpgJordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life, talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Topics covered include parenting, conversation, the role of literature in everyday life, and the relationship between sacrificial rites and trade.

Play

Time: 1:18:22

EconTalk February 14, 2018

Learning How (Not?) to Learn

by Alice Temnick

What does the "sheepskin effect" tell us about earning a college degree? Does a college education buy more than a Grade A premium employee stamp?

sheepskin.jpg Bryan Caplan discusses human capital, the ability bias, and the particular importance of signaling as the reason for the greater earnings of college graduates as compared to high school graduates. In questioning the difficulty of measuring the value of a college education, host Russ Roberts steers this week's conversation toward how we learn, some of the shortcomings of K-12 and college education, and how we apply what we learn in practical settings.

  1. Given the value of signalling and the findings of the sheepskin effect, to what extent is a college education a waste of time and/or money? What other factors, such as the acquisition of the first post-college job in one's desired field, to their eventual career trajectory?

EconTalk February 12, 2018

Bryan Caplan on the Case Against Education

Case%20Against%20Ed.jpgBryan Caplan of George Mason University and the author of The Case Against Education talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Caplan argues that very little learning takes place in formal education and that very little of the return to college comes from skills or knowledge that is acquired in the classroom. Schooling, he concludes, as it is currently conducted is mostly a waste of time and money. Caplan bring a great deal of evidence to support his dramatic claim and much of the conversation focuses on the challenge of measuring and observing what students actually learn.

Play

Time: 1:11:28

EconTalk February 8, 2018

Modernity Under Attack?

by Alice Temnick

big rock.jpg
In this week's episode, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay discuss the threat to modernity, the increasing polarization of society and associated break-down in discourse as a global phenomenon. Host Russ Roberts probes with questions about the pre-modern and post-modern extremists and the challenges faced by the spectrum that makes up the middle. Where do you fall on the political spectrum? How do you see modernity's influence on human flourishing?

  1. The Oxford English Dictionarydefines manifesto as a public declaration of policy and aims. Is the authors' support of modernity an anti-authoritarian claim against the political far-left and/or far-right? Is it a call for moderates from across the political spectrum to come together? To what extent is collective action a concern to Pluckrose and Lindsay?

EconTalk February 3, 2018

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay on the Enemies of Modernity

choose%20center.jpgHelen Pluckrose and James Lindsay talk with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about their essay on the enemies of modernity. Pluckrose and Lindsay argue that modernity--by which they mean democracy, reason, and individual liberty--is under attack from pre-modern and post-modern ideological enemies. They discuss why modernity is under attack and encourage people on the political left and right to support modernity.

Play

Time: 1:09:27

EconTalk February 1, 2018

The allure, tradition, and success of Man-Burning

by Alice Temnick

Burning Man.jpg What does an eight day participatory city with nothing for sale look like? In this week's episode, Marian Goodell, CEO of the Burning Man Project, and EconTalk host and Russ Roberts discuss various aspects of the annual phenomenon event that takes place in the Nevada desert and the global reach of Burning Man's influence.

  1. What is the mix of planning and emergent order that enables the annual production of Burning Man? Could an eight day "city" emerge without a central plan? How necessary is cultural acceptance of the rules of the game?

EconTalk January 28, 2018

Marian Goodell on Burning Man

10principles-banner-credit-300x203.jpgMarian Goodell, CEO of the Burning Man Project, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Burning Man, the 8-day art and music festival in the Nevada Desert. Goodell explains how Burning Man has evolved over the years, the principles and rules that govern the experience today, and plans for expanding the Burning Man experience around the world.

Play

Time: 1:12:35

EconTalk January 24, 2018

Lies, Lies, and Statistical Significance

by Alice Temnick

How do p-hacking, type M errors, and the "winners curse" affect the research findings that make weekly news? Or the research findings published in academic journals? In this week's episode, Stanford University's John Ioannidis and host Russ Roberts discuss the surprising frequency and enormity of the problem as well as some causes of false research findings.

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1. What concerns you most about the extent of the false research findings surrounding us, and why?

EconTalk January 20, 2018

John Ioannidis on Statistical Significance, Economics, and Replication

stat%20hacking.jpgJohn Ioannidis of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his research on the reliability of published research findings. They discuss Ioannidis's recent study on bias in economics research, meta-analysis, the challenge of small sample analysis, and the reliability of statistical significance as a measure of success in empirical research.

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Time: 1:05:12