This episode was a rare treat. Our EconTalk host Russ Roberts delivered a monologue based on an essay he posted on Medium. In both, he gives his take on why political discourse has gotten so much angrier today. The growth in outrage and intolerance troubles Roberts, and he casts a great deal of the blame for it on the changing nature of the news media in the digital age.  But why should we care what others are watching on the Internet? If you want to watch cat videos and I want to watch Shakespeare, what’s the problem?

Roberts has given us a lot to think about… And perhaps most importantly, to talk about. So we hope you’ll help us continue this conversation, at your dinner table, in your classroom, or your next social outing.

1- Roberts likens politics today to a bloodsport. But politics has always been contentious, some would argue. What, to Roberts, has changed, and why does he believe, “things are different?”

2- Roberts is concerned that “the Internet lets people get their news and information about the way the world works–fit, comfort, style.” What does he mean by this? In this vein he also poses a challenge worth repeating… How many news stories have you heard that have turned out to be wrong, and how did you find out they were wrong?

3- Perhaps the most disturbing question Roberts poses in the entire monologue is, “What if people don’t care about what’s true?” How would you respond to this question. What can be done to make the “return” to truth higher?

4- What are your thoughts on the five suggestions Roberts offers to make the sphere of political discussion a more hospitable place? Is he too optimistic? What else would you add by way of suggestion. What are some things you do to promote civility?

5- How might market institutions “create a set of objective, civilized news sources?” What role is there for markets generally in the creating and/or maintaining of cultural norms- particularly norms of civility?