As much as we think we might know about Russ Roberts as listeners of his long-running EconTalk podcast, a great interviewer can unearth new gems. Paul Millerd does this in his Pathless Path podcast , Russ Roberts Is Reinventing Himself (Again).  A self-proclaimed long time fan of Roberts’ podcasts and books, Millerd is clearly cut from the same cloth. These two curious thinkers converge on many topics and demonstrate the art of conversation. Topics of risk, reward, change, mortality, and what it means to live a good life are peppered with anecdotes, insights, and illustrative memories.

You can watch the episode here:

Listen to Russ and Paul build a genuine bond. We would love to hear your reaction and hope that these questions might generate more conversation about this demonstrated art of conversation. 



1- As Russ Roberts answers the questions about his childhood influences, he attributes his father with forming his habits of mind. He wonders how much was genetic and how much was from growing up in his household. What are your thoughts about the nature versus nurture debate in shaping our minds? Which do you credit more in your own life?


2- Millerd recalls Russ’s example about the complexity of income inequality and how longitudinal data can’t be compared due to household structure. While true, it is not widely believed. Why not? A younger Russ held the belief that truth would prevail. Has he become cynical or realistic? Explain.


3- Russ contends that the prosperity that comes in the wake of market forces captures the “what’s in it for me” cost-benefit analysis of acquiring material goods. Many of our exchanges can encompass our dreams, aspirations, personal responsibility and duties, providing great meaning in our lives. He suggests that this is left out of most classroom economic theory, but could be addressed. How might we go about this? Besides the choice to stay married or to divorce, what other “wild problem” examples fit this description?


4- The question about modern economic teaching segues nicely into Millerd’s praise of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. How does Russ capture the confusion  many readers take away from Smith’s depiction of self-interest. How is his point different from the often assumed “what’s in it for me” rational choice theory?


5- “Conversation is like a work of art that takes on a life of its own. You give up some control and in return the heart opens up.” How do you evaluate your conversational skills regarding use of pauses, ums, no talking with eye contact, listening, and putting words into the Ether? Russ learned something new about his relationship with his father as he answered Millerd’s question.  When was the last time you learned something about yourself through conversation?