Russ Roberts

December 2015

A Monthly Archive (10 entries)
 

Come the Revolution

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

At the suggestion of YOU, our followers, EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with Bloomberg View columnist and professor of economics Noah Smith about whether economics is a science, how people's minds are changed, and more.

Let's hear what you have to contribute to our conversation...Share your thoughts with us below. And stay tuned next week for our annual survey of listeners!


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1. Early in the conversation, Roberts admits he has an ideology. If you have listened to EconTalk for a while, how would you describe Roberts's philosophical and methodological worldview? How would you describe Smith's based on this conversation?

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Podcast episode Noah Smith on Whether Economics is a Science

EconTalk Episode with Noah Smith
Hosted by Russ Roberts

nsmithimage.jpg Noah Smith of Stony Brook University and writer at Bloomberg View talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about whether economics is a science in some sense of that word. How reliable are experiments in economics? What about the statistical analysis that underlies much of the empirical work in modern economics? Additional topics include the reliability of the empirical analysis of the minimum wage, the state of macroeconomics, and the role of prejudice or prior beliefs in the interpretation of data and evidence.

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Why does it seem that pundits' and politicians' predictions are always right? How can you assess the accuracy of a probabilistic prediction? This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with Superforecasting author Phillip Tetlock, and their conversation ranged over these topics and more.

Let us know your reaction to this week's episode, and let's continue our conversation here. As always, we love to hear from you!

1. As Tetlock told Russ about his earliest forecasting tournaments about the Soviet Union, he noted how different the predictions of liberals and conservatives was. Still, he explains, none of them foresaw the rise of Mikhail Gorbechev or the collapse of the USSR, describing an "outcome-irrelevant learning situation." What does he mean by this? What sorts of outcome-irrelevant learning situations have you found yourself in and/or witness to? How might they have turned out differently?

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CATEGORIES: Books , Data and Evidence , Extras



Podcast episode Philip Tetlock on Superforecasting

EconTalk Episode with Philip Tetlock
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Superforecasting.jpg Can you predict the future? Or at least gauge the probability of political or economic events in the near future? Philip Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania and author of Superforecasting talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his work on assessing probabilities with teams of thoughtful amateurs. Tetlock finds that teams of amateurs trained in gathering information and thinking about it systematically outperformed experts in assigning probabilities of various events in a competition organized by IARPA, research agency under the Director of National Intelligence. In this conversation, Tetlock discusses the meaning, reliability, and usefulness of trying to assign probabilities to one-time events.

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How much credit (or blame) should the Fed receive for its response to the 2008 financial crisis? What about former Fed chief Ben Bernanke? This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with George Selgin of Cato's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives to discuss just that, and we think some of their answers might surprise you...

So please let us know what you thought and learned this week, and let's keep learning from one another. You're our inspiration!

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1. Selgin and Roberts both seem to think that the Fed policy of paying interest on reserve held at the Fed neutralized any stimulative effects of monetary policy. What empirical evidence would you need before accepting this claim? How might Bernanke respond?

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Podcast episode George Selgin on Monetary Policy and the Great Recession

EconTalk Episode with George Selgin
Hosted by Russ Roberts


Did Ben Bernanke and the Fed save the U.S. economy from disaster in 2008 or did the Fed make things worse? Why did the Fed reward banks that kept reserves rather than releasing funds into the economy? George Selgin of the Cato Institute tries to answer these questions and more in this conversation with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Selgin argues that the Fed made critical mistakes both before and after the collapse of Lehman Brothers by lending to insolvent banks as well as by paying interest on reserves held at the Fed by member banks.

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A Better Strategy for Feeding America?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

In this week's EconTalk episode, host Russ Roberts and Canice Prendergast of the University of Chicago talked about an innovative new allocation system for a nationwide network of food banks. But maybe there's an even better way to get food to the poor.

I'd heard rumors of this venture in the past, but today I came across this piece on a new store in Boston called Daily Table, started by a former president of Trader Joe's, Doug Rauch. The means by which Daily Table acquires its inventory bears some similarity to that of Feeding America.

But what most struck me was this:

Some are seeing this as an alternative to food banks. The benefit of cheap food, opposed to free food, is that it allows customers to buy with dignity.
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We asked you earlier this week how you thought Chris Blattman, an advocate of cash transfers as a better means of aid, so now I wonder what you think of the model used by the Daily Table. Would food banks better serve their constituents by converting to a non-for-profit store, like Daily Table? Does receiving food at no cost demean the recipient in some way that purchasing it does not?

According to the article, Daily Table allows anyone to shop there, but they must become a member so that Daily Table can better track demand. Daily Table also has an in-house kitchen that seems remarkably flexibly in its ability to prepare ready-to-eat meals with its always uncertain inventory. Does this offer any sort of advantage over food banks that distribute unprepared food? What would be some of the other impacts of having customers who pay prices rather than recipients who accept donations of food without charge? If you were running Daily Table how would you price one item relative to another or relative to prices in for-profit groceries? How might this low-price non-profit option affect the profitability of for-profit groceries?

Here's another alternative to think about. What about a grocery for the hungry that didn't rely on donations as Daily Table does but simply lowered prices below those of for-profit groceries and financed their losses from donations of cash? How would this differ from Daily Table?

Share your thoughts...As always, we love to hear from you.

CATEGORIES: Extras



Peanut Butter, Pasta, and Relative Prices

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

EconTalk host Russ Roberts once again delved into the world of charity this week, chatting with the University of Chicago's Canice Prendergrast about an innovative allocation scheme he and a group of economists developed for Feeding America.

food fight2.jpg 1. Several times Prendergrast notes how the Feeding America served to educate all those involved. Speaking of the food bank managers, he says it was "not hard to educate them on the benefits of choice." At the same time, some managers were uneasy with using prices and an auction to determine the allocation of food. How did the structure of the system implemented by Prendergast and his team resolve this tension?

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Podcast episode Canice Prendergast on How Prices Can Improve a Food Fight (and Help the Poor)

EconTalk Episode with Canice Prendergast
Hosted by Russ Roberts

If you have 250 million tons of food to give away every year to local food banks how should you do it? Canice Prendergast of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how he and a team of economists created an artificial currency and a daily auction for the national food bank Feeding America so that local food banks could bid on the types of food that were the most valuable to them. Prendergast explains the results of the new system and the cultural and practical challenges of bringing prices, even artificial ones, to a world accustomed to giving things away.

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You're Not the Boss of Me (Are You?)

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

EconTalk host Russ Roberts goes back to the future again in this week's episode with engineer David Mindell of MIT. Their conversation covers exploring the Titanic, Mars, and the moon, air travel and the future of driverless cars, and more.

Their discussion had me tossing the notion of autonomy around in my brain endlessly. What do we really mean by autonomy, and how is it (ever) achieved? We wonder this conversation made you think about. So please, share your thoughts with us. We love to hear from you.

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1. What does Mindell mean when he says that the notion of full autonomy is a myth? To what extent is autonomy a useful notion when discussing robots and machines? Can the "human machine" achieve full autonomy?

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