Paul Romer of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about charter cities, Romer's idea for helping the poorest of the poor around the world. Romer envisions a city where the rules about property and safety and contract and so on are rules that allow individuals to flourish in an urban setting in contrast to the cities they live in now where so many aspects of economic and personal life are dysfunctional. Charter cities would be havens for the world's poor and could be created on uninhabited land in either rich or poor countries. This concept raises many difficult practical questions--some of them are discussed here along with how Romer came to be interested in creating the concept and how he hopes to bring it to reality.
Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the world of profit, money, love, gifts, and incentives. What motivates people, self-interest or altruism? Both obviously. But how do these forces interact with each other? Does relying on one always provide a stronger incentive than the other? Do charities, for-profit businesses or government agencies do a better job providing a good or service? Munger and Roberts have a wide-ranging discussion across these issues including a section where they discuss whether Christmas gift-giving and gift-giving in general is inefficient.
Diane Ravitch of NYU talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Ravitch argues that the two most popular education reform movements, accountability and choice, have had unintended consequences that have done great harm to the current generation of students. She argues that the accountability and testing provisions in legislation like No Child Left Behind and similar reforms have actually corrupted the testing process, taken time away from subjects other than math and reading, and failed even to boost success in math and reading. She argues that the empirical record has provided little evidence that school choice as it has been implemented has boosted achievement. The discussion closes with a discussion of what reforms might indeed make a difference.
Yochai Benkler of Harvard University talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about net neutrality, access to the internet, and innovation. Benkler argues in favor of net neutrality and government support of broadband access. He is skeptical of the virtues of new technology (such as the iPad) fearing that they will lead to less innovation. The conversation closes with a discussion of commons-based peer production--open source software and Wikipedia.