Systemic racism. Cancel culture. Police brutality. Tumbling statues. We hear about these everywhere and all the time today. Should this make us optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes economist and author Glenn Loury to discuss race and inequality in America today.

This lively conversation covers these issues and more. We are eager to continue the conversation with you, our loyal listeners. Please use the prompts below to join our discussion here at EconTalk, or use them to start a conversation of your own offline. These matters could not be more significant today.



1- The conversation begins with Roberts asking Loury if the “persisting subordinate position of blacks” in America is attributable to systemic racism. How does Loury respond, and what do you find most notable about his response?


2- Roberts and Loury have a fascinating conversation comparing police and public school teachers as public servants. How do they compare the “progressive” views about each? What role do the unions for each profession play in perpetuating discrimination and inequality?


3- The conversation turns to the drug war and mass incarceration, and their disproportionate effects on blacks. What does Loury mean when he talks about endogenous penalties? What is the relationship between the middle and lower classes in the market for drugs, according to Loury?


4- On the trend of tearing down statutes believed to represent racism, Roberts says, “I understand that urge to destroy those things. But they are symbols of more than racism. So, what do we do about that?” How does Loury respond? How would you respond?


5- Loury bemoans that universities today are “footloose and fancy free” compared to when he was an undergraduate in the 1970s. How is that a bad thing? Why does Loury say he doesn’t believe in identity politics, and to what extent do you thinks he’s right? How should universities respond to the challenge of systemic racism?