Russ Roberts

March 2014

A Monthly Archive (14 entries)

Podcast episode Cochrane on Education and MOOCs

EconTalk Episode with John Cochrane
Hosted by Russ Roberts

John Cochrane of the University of Chicago talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the experience of teaching a massive open online course (MOOC)--a class delivered over the internet available to anyone around the world. Cochrane contrasts the mechanics of preparing the class, his perception of the advantages and disadvantages of a MOOC relative to a standard in-person classroom, and the potential for MOOCs to disrupt traditional education.

Size:28.2 MB
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Christy/Emanuel Postmortem

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

Here's my postmortem on the Christy/Emanuel episode. The original episode can be found here.


CATEGORIES: Environment


For those of you wishing to dig a little deeper into this week's episode on climate change, here are some additional questions for your consideration. Share your thoughts in the comments, or share the questions with others, and let us know how it goes.

1. Why do you think non-experts are so passionate about climate change and macroeconomics? How do you think they would justify their passion? Do you think evidence can settle these disputes? What can be done to "detribalize" these debates?

2. In August, 2013 Roberts talked with MIT Economics Professor Robert Pindyck about the policy challenges of climate change. Unlike his MIT colleague Emanuel, Pindyck argues the climate change debate is not characterized by uncertainty, but by disagreement. How does the way Pindyck views the "climate change dilemma" compare to the views of Christy and Emanuel? By whom are you most persuaded, and why? [Note: The Pindyck episode also has a corresponding Listening Guide, which may be useful for further questions and/or instructional use.]

3. In December, 2013, Roberts spoke with Georgia Institute of Technology atmospheric scientist Judith Curry about the complexities and uncertainties of climate change. Like Emanuel, she emphasizes the variability and multiple factors that contribute to temperature fluctuations. But she concludes, "There's bigger things to worry about than climate change." What sorts of things is Curry worried about, and how do they compare to the concerns of Christy and Emanuel? What do you think our focus should be in terms of climate policy, and why?

CATEGORIES: Environment


This week's episode was recorded live at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, featuring two guests, both climate scientists, but with different views on what we know about climate change and what policies should be put in place, if any, to deal with it.

Here are some questions based on their conversation. Please share your responses in the comments, and/or let us know how you use this Extra to spark your own conversation offline.

Please keep Econlib's comment policy in mind.

1. In what ways is climate science like macroeconomics? How are climate models like economic models? How are they different?

2. Christy claims that the debate over climate change really entails a moral question, not a scientific one. What does he have in mind? To what extent do you agree?

3. In discussing temperature trends over the past ten to fifteen years, Roberts says, "one person's eon is another person's blink." What does he mean by this, and how does it help illustrate the differences in the perspectives of the two guests?

4. Christy thinks the upper bound of the Emanuel's temperature change forecast is unlikely to occur. How do you think he might justify that claim?

5. Emanuel concedes that current climate models are imperfect. How does he justify his predictions in the face of that imprecision? How does this influence the policy applications Emanuel thinks should follow?

CATEGORIES: Environment


Podcast episode John Christy and Kerry Emanuel on Climate Change

EconTalk Episode with John Christy and Kerry Emanuel
Hosted by Russ Roberts

John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology talk with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about climate change. Topics discussed include what we know and don't know about global warming, trends in extreme weather such as hurricanes, rising sea level, the likely change in temperature in the next hundred years. Both scientists also give their perspective on what policies might be put in place to reduce risk from climate change. This episode was recorded before a live audience at the College of Business Administration at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Size:29.7 MB
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The seductiveness of beauty

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

Stanford's Andrei Linde discovers that his theory about the first nano-nano-nano-second of the universe is confirmed by the latest experimental evidence. It is very moving. EconTalk listeners will particularly enjoy his closing remarks about the dangers of confirmation bias. He says:

If this is true, this is a moment of understanding of nature, of such a magnitude, it just overwhelms. Let's just hope that this is not a trick. I always live with this feeling--what if I am tricked, what if I believe in this just because it is beautiful...

It's a danger for all of us--we are all at risk at being tricked. Though sometimes it's not beauty but comfort or habit. Always good to remember. Richard Feynman said it best:

The first principle is not to fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool.

Coming next to EconTalk--John Christy and Kerry Emanuel discuss climate change.

[Addendum: Video on youtube at -- Econlib. Ed.]

CATEGORIES: Data and Evidence


Postmortem on Sachs Episode

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

After the Nina Munk episode, I considered inviting Jeffrey Sachs to respond. But I decided against it--he has plenty of outlets to get himself heard and I didn't think an episode devoted to responding to another episode would be very interesting.

But shortly after the Munk episode, Sachs contacted me and asked if he could appear on the program. Despite my earlier decision, the fact that he asked made it hard for me to say no. My only condition was that he agree to discuss the Millennium Villages Project more generally. Along the way, I would ask him about the Munk episode and give him a chance to respond.

It ended up being a very challenging and rewarding interview as you can tell if you've listened. And the Munk episode came up early and often. Not my plan but that's the way these things work.



We're loving your responses so far! Let's keep the conversation going...Just a friendly reminder, for general comments on a particular episode, the best landing spot is still the original post (here in the case of Sachs). And for those of you commenting for the first time, you might want to check out Econlib's general comment policy.

In this "Extra," we're encouraging you to go a bit deeper with the ideas raised in the Sachs, episode as well as the Munk episode...So here are some new questions. Share your responses below, or let us know how you're using EconTalk Extras to start your own conversations offline.

1. One of Munk's most pointed criticisms of the MVP projects' sustainability is that they fail to create long-term opportunities for employment. Why does she believe the project fails to accomplish this? How does Sachs respond to this criticism? What evidence might settle their disagreement?

2. Sachs suggests Munk's story about villages attempts at growing and selling maize is an "urban legend." What did Munk find so troubling in this story? What does Sachs appreciate in Munk's recounting, and how does he respond to the elements with which he takes issue?

3. Roberts seems unconvinced of the effectiveness of what he calls a "top-down" approach. But does he have an alternative way to help poor people in Africa? How might someone who agrees with Roberts answer that challenge?


Hello! I'm Amy Willis, and I'm a Fellow at Liberty Fund, the host of the Library of Economics and Liberty, and I work with Russ and the other fine folks at Econlib.

As Russ mentioned, we want to provide more opportunities for you to engage with our content, each other, us, and people we've yet to know. To that end, here are some questions for your consideration based on this week's episode with Jeffrey Sachs. We'd love it if you posted your responses in the comments, shared them on social media, used them in your classroom, used them to spark a conversation at the dinner table...well, you get the idea. We can't wait to hear from you!

1. What are the goals the MVP project aspires to, and what does Sachs believe makes them different from other programs aimed at alleviating poverty?To what extent does Sachs convince you that this strategy will be more effective than its predecessors?

2. Roberts cites a Lancet article that raised questions about the effectiveness of the MVP programs. What was the basis of the criticism, and how does Sachs counter?

3. Roberts questions whether smaller, more narrowly targeted programs might be more effective for given problems (such as malaria) than Sachs' approach. Why does Roberts suggest such efforts might be more successful, and to what extent do you agree?

4. Throughout, Roberts argues that top-down approaches to aid are less desirable. Yet he and Sachs seem to disagree regarding what exactly constitutes a top-down approach, and whether the MVP initiatives would qualify as such. In particular, Russ challenges Sachs on the initiative which introduced maize (also discussed in the Nina Munk episode). Sachs replies that, "You could have said the same thing...about malaria nets." What does he mean by this, and to what extent do you agree with Sachs?


Announcing EconTalk Extras

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

I've noticed in recent years that many of you want to get more out of EconTalk than just listening an hour each week. You want to go deeper and learn more. So we're starting a new feature here, EconTalk Extras, to try to enrich the learning experience of EconTalk. It will also be a way for me to interact with you beyond our weekly hour together and beyond FaceBook and Twitter.

We're going to start with some variety. Sometimes, I'll be doing a post-mortem on an episode, and possibly responding to some of the comments you've made. Other times we'll have discussion questions for you to react to or write about or just think about if you're interested. We have other ideas that we'll introduce as we go along.

I'll be producing some of this material and some will be produced by educators and staffers from Liberty Fund, the sponsor of EconTalk. They'll introduce themselves with their first post and every post will be identified by author.

We hope this new material makes EconTalk a richer educational experience. Let us know what you think. We'd love to hear other ideas as well.



Podcast episode Jeffrey Sachs on the Millennium Villages Project

EconTalk Episode with Jeffrey Sachs
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the Millennium Villages Project talks with EconTalk host about poverty in Africa and the efforts of the Millennium Villages Project to fight hunger, disease, and illiteracy. The project tries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a set of poor African villages using an integrated strategy fighting hunger, poverty, and disease. In this lively conversation, Sachs argues that this approach has achieved great success so far and responds to criticisms from development economists and Nina Munk in her recent EconTalk interview.

Size:38.5 MB
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Top 10 EconTalk Episodes of 2013

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts
I want to thank all of you who voted for your favorite episodes of EconTalk for 2013. Here are the episodes that received the most votes (and yes, there was a tie for first place):

We'll do it again next year.



Podcast episode Richard Epstein on Classical Liberalism, Libertarianism, and Lochner

EconTalk Episode with Richard Epstein
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Richard Epstein, of New York University and Stanford University's Hoover Institution, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the differences between classical liberalism and hard-line libertarianism. What is the proper role of the state? Topics discussed include the Constitution, prudent regulation, contract enforcement, intellectual property, and the Supreme Court case, Lochner vs. New York.

Size:31.5 MB
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Podcast episode Velasquez-Manoff on Autoimmune Disease, Parasites, and Complexity

EconTalk Episode with Moises Velasquez-Manoff
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Moises Velasquez-Manoff, author of An Epidemic of Absence, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book--a discussion of why allergies and autoimmune diseases have been on the rise in the developed world for the last half-century. Velasquez-Manoff explores a recent hypothesis in the epidemiological literature theorizing the increase is a response to the overly hygienic environment in rich countries and the absence of various microbes and parasites. Velasquez-Manoff also considers whether reintroducing parasites into our bodies can have therapeutic effects, a possibility currently under examination through FDA trials. The conversation continues a theme of EconTalk--the challenge of understanding causation in a complex world.

Size:33.4 MB
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