By Russ Roberts
Here’s my postmortem on the Christy/Emanuel episode. The original episode can be found here.For a regular EconTalk episode, I prepare a list of questions for the guest that I hope and expect will take about an hour to answer. But I don’t just go through the questions. We get into side issues, I ask for clarification, I challenge a claim, and the next thing I know, some subset of the questions are moot–we covered them in passing, they don’t fit in with the thread of the conversation and so on.
While the guest is talking, a bunch of stuff is going though my head. I’m looking at the clock–it is time to move on to a new topic? Should I challenge that claim? Did that answer make sense–maybe I should get more explanation. Did I just say something stupid? Do I need to clarify what I said?
When there are two guests and it’s live, it get more complicated. I want to be fair to both guests. I also want interaction between the guests. So in addition to thinking about follow-up questions, I have to think about whether to get the other quest to respond.
Bottom line is that this format, the one I used for Christy and Emanuel, is harder than a “regular” episode. I expect I’ll get better at it. This one was OK. But there were moments where I missed opportunities and at least once when I flubbed a joke.
The joke was supposed to be: how do you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor. Answer–they use decimal points. I mis-told it and I knew I did when no one laughed. It’s not exactly a knee-slapper but it usually gets a nice chuckle after a short delay to let people get the humor. This time, nothing. I realized I’d butchered it. That’s life.
The other mistakes I made were not to push for more clarification. I wish we’d spent more time on what the models actually are about. Emanuel got in a nice jab when he claimed that in his field, they know the equations. But evidently, they don’t know how they go together because their predictions are not very precise. If he had been the only guest, we would have delved into that more deeply. Maybe in another episode down the rode.
What I loved about this episode was not just the civility–which is nice–but the willingness to agree and disagree and the nature of those interactions. I’m hoping to do another climate change one down the road with a different pair of scientists. It will be interesting to see if it comes down to the same issues.