The Doyen Of Economics Podcasting On Death, Lockdown, And The Art Of Socratic Dialogue
By Alice Temnick
This episode of The Jolly Swagman Podcast, hosted by Joseph Noel Walker took place on April 3, 2020, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts as guest. Though recorded early into the pandemic, their conversation remains relevant today. Walker and Roberts converse freely, often about what constitutes meaningful conversation and their shared craft of podcasting. Enjoy this meandering dialogue and the nuggets shared about influential books, facing death, probability, economics, meditation, Adam Smith, and more.
1- What does Roberts reveal about the art of podcasting, the success of EconTalk and about “scratching his own itches” regarding topics covered?
2- Why does Russ feel strongly that understanding randomness and numbers is worth the difficult effort? Do you believe we can learn epistemological humility (being aware of our limitations and the uncertainties about what we know)?
3- If “we are patent-seeking story telling animals – spinning narratives to each other that fit our world view”, is learning best stimulated by multiple stories or when presented in multiple ways from different people? What has worked best for you?
4- The Precautionary Principle (better safe than sorry!) suggests avoiding a risk of widespread and irreversible harm. How do you square this with the lockdown versus virus impact dilemma? How would you answer Roberts’ question, ‘could the Precautionary Principle cease to apply’? (The most recent EconTalk with Taleb may also be useful here.)
5- “To philosophize is to learn how to die.” “Why do we care about what will happen after we die”? Roberts and Walker both jest that the death part of this conversation and consideration of Montaigne’s essay likely turned a lot of listeners off. How did you react and what are your thoughts about discomfort in facing mortality?
6- What characteristics differentiate favorite or memorable podcast episodes to you as a listener? Is there anything additional you would share with Walker or Roberts from the listener perspective?
7- Roberts admits to resisting the urge to be loud and angry. How might Adam Smith’s wisdom, great storytelling and reminder of “man’s desire to be loved and lovely” help us all resist this urge?