EconTalk
Russ Roberts

The Maintenance of Memory

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

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Listening to this week's EconTalk episode, I felt a little like a kid in a candy store (and not just because of the reference to Ronald Reagan's jelly beans). It also sparked some wanderlust...specifically, to go visit the archives of the Hoover Institution, about whose collections EconTalk host Russ Roberts chatted with archivist Eric Wakin.

But this week's episode was about more than just the unique nature of the items housed in these archives...Lots of economic questions were raised simultaneously. So we'll share a few, and we hope you'll share your thoughts in return. Why are we as humans so attached to material reminders or our past? What is the role for archives, libraries, museums, etc. in maintaining our memory? How important is accessibility in the preservation of these memories?

1. While the archives generally do not sell the items they have, they still need to approximate the market value of them. In the absence of comparable prices, how do archivists such as Wakin do this? How accurate do you think they are? What of the gap Wakin notes between items' financial and research value- to what extent can this be accounted for?

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Podcast episode Eric Wakin on Archiving, Preservation, and History

EconTalk Episode with Eric Wakin
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Lusitania.jpg What does an x-ray of Hitler's skull have in common with a jar of Ronald Reagan's jelly beans? They are both part of the Hoover Institution archives. Eric Wakin, Director of the Library and Archives of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what it's like to be an archivist and the importance of archival materials for research, culture, and memory.

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Bigger is Better?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

big data.jpg Is economic analysis ready for the age of Big Data? That's the underlying question explored in this week's EconTalk episode. Host Russ Roberts welcomes Stanford's Susan Athey, and they discuss how machine learning might be used in conjunction with more traditional econometric techniques. They also talk about the ways commercial entities, such as amazon and Facebook, use machine learning to change their users' experiences and increase profits.

Are there lessons to be learned from these commercial experiences that can help us analyze policy? Or will counterfactuals, such as what would have happened had NAFTA not passed, forever evade such rigorous analysis? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments...As always, we love to hear from you.

1. Why is it so difficult to measure the effects of a policy such as minimum wage legislation, and how does Athey cast doubt on the Card-Krueger study?

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Podcast episode Susan Athey on Machine Learning, Big Data, and Causation

EconTalk Episode with Susan Athey
Hosted by Russ Roberts

problem.jpg Can machine learning improve the use of data and evidence for understanding economics and public policy? Susan Athey of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how machine learning can be used in conjunction with traditional econometric techniques to measure the impact of say, the minimum wage or the effectiveness of a new drug. The last part of the conversation looks at the experimental techniques being used by firms like Google and Amazon.

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Power to the President?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

USconstitution.jpg It seems somehow shocking to suggest that the American President be given more power today...Trust me...Having done so in the context of this week's EconTalk episode in different online media (here, for example), the reactions are strong. But that's just what this week's guest, Stanford political scientist Terry Moe, suggests. His reasons are interesting...and he suggests the sort of change he proposes might actually result in smaller, not to mention more efficient, government.

So let's hear what you have to say about Moe's proposal...Share your thoughts in the comments below, join us on twitter or Facebook, or strike up a conversation of your own! As always, we love to hear from you.

1. What is the mechanism by which Moe suggests more power be shifted to the President? How does he think this will increase governmental efficiency, and how convincing do you find his argument?

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Podcast episode Terry Moe on the Constitution, the Presidency, and Relic

EconTalk Episode with Terry Moe
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Relic.jpg Are there many Americans today who wish the President of the United States had more power relative to the other branches of Congress? Terry Moe is one of them. In this week's EconTalk episode, Moe--a professor of political science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution--talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his new book (co-authored with William Howell), Relic. Moe wants to give the President the power to propose legislation that Congress would have to approve or reject free of amendments. Moe argues this would improve legislation and reduce the cronyism and special interest influence on Congress.

Size:28.5 MB
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Rock, Paper, Scissors

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

rock paper scissors.jpg Voluntary exchange is good, right? It's a foundational principle of economics, and probably one of the most revered. Why then would the law purposefully not allow some kinds of voluntary exchange? What principles trump property rights and contract? And can we who love markets be OK with that? These are some of the many head-scratching questions Russ Roberts explores in this week's episode with Leo Katz, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.

This week's conversation sure made me think...How about you? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments, and use some of our prompts to start your own conversations off-line. As always, we love to hear from you.

1. Three main "stories" Katz uses in this conversation to show the occasional perversity in the law are the kidney club, the voting paradox, and emergency room triage. Which of these scenarios (long live Al, Bea, and Chloe!) seemed most counter-intuitive to you, and why?

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Podcast episode Leo Katz on Why the Law is So Perverse

EconTalk Episode with Leo Katz
Hosted by Russ Roberts

katz.jpg Leo Katz, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book, Why the Law Is So Perverse. Katz argues that certain seemingly inexplicable features of the law are the result of conflicts between multiple objectives that the law or the courts must trade off against each other. Katz also argues that structure of the law and how it is enforced are analogous to certain inevitable ambiguities of collective choice and voting theory.

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Ugly Emergence

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

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EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back favorite guest Michael Munger of Duke University for a complex discussion of slavery and the evolution of racial attitudes in the 19th century American South. Munger argues that white Southerners evolved over time as a way of rationalizing an increasingly unattractive institution. How did white Southerners' attitudes change over time? And how are we to feel about emergent orders with ugly consequences?

As I mentioned earlier this week over at EconLog, this episode is a tough listen. But I learned a lot, and it's really made me think. How about you? As always, we love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts with us in the Comments.

1. There's a lot of discussion of the role of incentives in perpetuating slavery. Roberts argues that incentives are not destiny. What does he mean? Don't economists believe that incentives explain behavior? To what extent do the financial incentives of slavery contribute to our understanding?

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Podcast episode Munger on Slavery and Racism

EconTalk Episode with Mike Munger
Hosted by Russ Roberts

slave%20cabin.jpg Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how attitudes in the American South toward slavery evolved over time and what we can learn from that evolution about the role culture plays in our lives.

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