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Russ Roberts

Podcast episode Paul Bloom on Empathy

EconTalk Episode with Paul Bloom
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Against%20Empathy.jpg Psychologist Paul Bloom of Yale University talks about his book Against Empathy with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bloom argues that empathy--the ability to feel the emotions of others--is a bad guide to charitable giving and public policy. Bloom argues that reason combined with compassion is a better and more effective guide to making the world a better place.

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Demand-Side Narconomics

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

border patrol.jpg Illegal drugs appear to be a scourge on many a community, and while wanting to solve the drug problem is laudable, this week's EconTalk guest argues we're going about it all wrong. In his new book, Narconomics, Tom Wainwright of "The Economist," suggests that rather than targeting supply, governments should attend to the demand side of the market for best effect.

What do you think? If the US government were to change the direction of the War on Drugs would it meet with success? And what exactly constitutes success in this case? Should the state be in the business of trying to dissuade people from doing something they want to do, even if they know it's bad for them? Are people really making a free and informed choice when they use? These questions and more emerged from host Russ Roberts's conversation with Wainwright, and we hope their conversation sparked even more questions of your own. And, of course, we hope you'll share your thoughts with us. We love to hear from you.

1. If you could sit down with Wainwright after listening to his interview with Roberts, what's the one question you'd most want him to answer?

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Podcast episode Tom Wainwright on Narconomics

EconTalk Episode with Tom Wainwright
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Narconomics.jpg When fighting the war on drugs, governments typically devote enormous resources trying to reduce the supply. But is this effective? Journalist and author Tom Wainwright of the Economist and author of Narconomics talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ways that the drug cartels respond to government attempts to reduce the availability of drugs. Like any business trying to maintain profitability, cartels look for ways to cut costs and maintain or grow revenue. Wainwright uses extensive on-the-ground interviews and reporting to understand the behavior of the cartels and argues that reducing demand would be a much more effective strategy for reducing drug use.

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Your Favorite Episodes of 2016

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

Here are the results of the survey of your favorite episodes of 2016. I want to thank all of you around the world (and you live in over 60 different countries) who responded. I'm particularly grateful to those who took the trouble to make suggestions and to share your thoughts on EconTalk. I am hoping to record a bonus episode sharing some of the other survey results and responding to some of your comments. And congrats to the guests who earned your votes.

1. Munger on Slavery and Racism (which received 34% of the vote--one in three of you put it in your top five.

2. Thomas Leonard on Race, Eugenics, and Illiberal Reformers

3. Cathy O'Neil on Weapons of Math Destruction

4. Chuck Klosterman on But What If We're Wrong

5. Matt Ridley on the Evolution of Everything

6. Doug Lemov on Reading

7. David Autor on Trade, China, and U.S. Labor Markets

8. Terry Anderson on Native American Economics

9. Angela Duckworth on Grit

10. Angus Deaton on Inequality, Trade, and the Robin Hood Principle




Turning Socialism Against Itself

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

Venezuela bitcoin.jpg If you lived in a country ravaged by crime and widespread food shortages, what lengths would you go to in order to feed your family? We've all heard stories of the dangers people bravely face to do just that. According to Reason's Jim Epstein, guest on this week's EconTalk episode, a growing number of people in Venezuela have found a safer- thus far- method. The price controls that have kept grocery shelves empty have also created a cheap supply of electricity, and some enterprising young Venezuelans have set up shop as Bitcoin miners. While it's harder to squeeze value out of this in more developed countries, "it's like having a home mint" in Caracas.

While the technology underlying this process is fascinating, the really intriguing part of the story is the part Bitcoin may- or may not- be able to play in freeing up the economy. Like always, we'd like to hear what you think the implications might be. Feel free to use our prompts below, pose questions of your own, or spark some conversation offline. Let's just keep it going!

1. The title of this Extra comes from Epstein...What does he mean when he says Bitcoin is "turning socialism against itself?" To what extent do you share his optimism?

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Podcast episode Jim Epstein on Bitcoin, the Blockchain, and Freedom in Latin America

EconTalk Episode with Jim Epstein
Hosted by Russ Roberts

blockchain.jpg Writer, reporter, and film producer Jim Epstein talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about mining Bitcoins in Venezuela as a way to import food. Venezuela is a tragicomic example of how policy can lead to strange and presumably unexpected outcomes. Epstein also discusses how Bitcoin is being used elsewhere in Latin America and the potential for the blockchain technology to lower the costs of owning and transferring property.

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Save the Pastrami!

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

sugar.jpg What's the first thing you think of when you imagine a birthday, wedding, or anniversary celebration? When your kid has a great game or brings home a great report card, what do you reward him with? (We bet it's not a kale-cicle.) If you're like me, your answer centers on...SUGAR. And according to this week's EconTalk guest, author Gary Taubes, that's dangerous. Taubes calls sugar's role in creating insulin resistance a "pandemic" that threatens to overwhelm health care systems worldwide.

Does this sound hyperbolic, or does the claim hit close to home? Can Taubes convince you of the merits of a different sort of diet, one that's high in fat and low in sugar? (As one twitter follower hilariously tweeted this week, "Taubes may have stolen our sugar, but at least he left the pastrami.")

As always, we'd like to hear more from you. Leave your thoughts in the Comments, or use the prompts below to start your own conversations offline. No matter how you respond, please keep being lovely!

1. In his effort to debunk the "empty calories" claim about sugar, Taubes notes that research has shown that slimmer people tend to consume more sugar than heavier people. How is this example illustrative of his larger critique of scientific research?

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Podcast episode Gary Taubes on the Case Against Sugar

EconTalk Episode with Gary Taubes
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Case-Against-Sugar.jpg Sugar appears to have no nutritional value. But is it more than just empty calories? Is it actually bad for us? Author and journalist Gary Taubes talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his latest book, The Case Against Sugar. Taubes argues that there is substantial circumstantial evidence suggesting that sugar is the underlying cause of a host of modern health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Taubes concedes the evidence is not iron-clad or definitive and reflects along the way on the intellectual and personal challenges of holding a strong view in the face of significant skepticism.

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When is a Worker More than a Worker?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

immigrant.jpg As I mentioned earlier this week over at EconLog, this week's EconTalk episode, while not without controversy, was a breath of fresh air amidst the vitriolic discussion of immigration on the interwebs and in the media these days...I was heartened to listen to a reasoned, civil conversation on the topic, and it made me again optimistic that civil discourse remains possible. To be sure, host Russ Roberts and Harvard economist George Borjas didn't agree on everything, and of course that's also what made the conversation interesting.

We hope you'll join us in continuing in this civil spirit by sharing your reaction to this week's episode in the comments below. Here are some prompts to get you started:

1. What is the significance of the title of Borjas's book? How does he hope it will affect the way people think about immigration policy?

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Podcast episode George Borjas on Immigration and We Wanted Workers

EconTalk Episode with George Borjas
Hosted by Russ Roberts

WeWantedWorkers_cover.jpeg George Borjas of Harvard University and author of We Wanted Workers talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about immigration and the challenges of measuring the impact of increased immigration on American workers and consumers. The discussion also looks at the cultural impact of immigration and what immigration in the past can tell us about immigration today.

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