101 episodes

Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Conversations with Tyler Mercatus Center at George Mason University

    • Self-Improvement

Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

    Ross Douthat on Decadence and Dynamism

    Ross Douthat on Decadence and Dynamism

    For Ross Douthat, decadence isn’t necessarily a moral judgement, but a technical label for a state that societies tend to enter—and one that is perhaps much more normal than the dynamism Americans have come to take for granted. In his new book, he outlines the cultural, economic, political, and demographic trends that threaten to leave us to wallow in a state of civilizational stagnation for years to come, and fuel further discontent and derangement with it.
    On his second appearance on Conversations with Tyler, Ross joined Tyler to discuss why he sees Kanye as a force for anti-decadence, the innovative antiquarianism of the late Sir Roger Scruton, the mediocrity of modern architecture, why it’s no coincidence that Michel Houellebecq comes from France, his predictions for the future trajectory of American decadence – and what could throw us off of it, the question of men’s role in modernity, why he feels Christianity must embrace a kind of futurist optimism, what he sees as the influence of the “Thielian ethos” on conservatism, the plausibility of ghosts and alien UFOs, and more.
    Note: This conversation was recorded on February 25, 2020.
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    • 1 hr 7 min
    Russ Roberts and Tyler on COVID-19

    Russ Roberts and Tyler on COVID-19

    Tyler and Russ Roberts joined forces for a special livestreamed conversation on COVID-19, including how both are adjusting to social isolation, private versus public responses to the pandemic, the challenge of reforming scrambled organization capital, the implications for Trump’s reelection, appropriate fiscal and monetary responses, bailouts, innovation prizes, and more.
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    • 1 hr 19 min
    John McWhorter on Linguistics, Music, and Race (Live at Mason)

    John McWhorter on Linguistics, Music, and Race (Live at Mason)

    Who can you ask about the Great American Songbook, the finer Jell-O flavors, and peculiar languages like Saramaccan all while expecting the same kind of fast, thoughtful, and energetic response? Listeners of Lexicon Valley might hazard a guess: John McWhorter. A prominent academic linguist, he’s also highly regarded for his podcast and popular writings across countless books and articles where often displays a deep knowledge in topics beyond his academic training.
    John joined Tyler to discuss why he thinks that colloquial Indonesian should be the world's universal language, the barbaric circumstances that gave rise to Creole languages, the reason Mandarin won't overtake English as the lingua franca, how the Vikings shaped modern English, the racial politics of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, the decline of American regional accents, why Shakespeare needs an English translation, Harold Arlen vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber, whether reparations for African-Americans is a good idea, how living in Jackson Heights shapes his worldview, what he learned from his mother and father, why good linguistics students enjoy both Russian and Chinese, and more.
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    • 1 hr 18 min
    Garett Jones on Democracy (More or Less)

    Garett Jones on Democracy (More or Less)

    Why is Garett Jones willing to write books about risky topics like the case for reducing democratic accountability? Is it the iconoclastic Mason econ culture? Supportive colleagues like Tyler? Those help, but what ultimately gives Garett peace of mind is that he’ll never have to go hungry because he has a broad and deep knowledge of econometric tools. It’s a skillset he recommends to all research economists precisely so they can take bigger risks in their careers—or at least be well-prepared to shape policy in an unelected position at a central bank. 

    Garett joined Tyler to discuss his book 10% Less Democracy, including why America shouldn’t be run by bondholders, what single reform would most effectively achieve more limited democracy, how markets shape cognitive skills, the three important P’s of the repeated prisoner’s dilemma, why French cuisine is still underrated, Buchanan vs. Tullock, Larry David vs. Seinfeld, the biggest mistake in Twitter macroeconomics, the biggest challenges facing the Mormon church, what studying to be a sommelier taught him about economics, the Garett Jones vision of America, and more.

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    • 56 min
    Tim Harford on Persuasion and Popular Economics

    Tim Harford on Persuasion and Popular Economics

    To Tim Harford, mistakes are fascinating. “We often only understand how something works when it breaks,” he says, explaining why there’s such an emphasis on errors throughout his work. They also tend to make great stories, which can stoke the curiosity necessary to change minds. A former persuasive speaking champion, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire “for services to improving economic understanding,” which he’s achieved through appearances on the BBC, columns for the Financial Times, several TED Talks and books, and now his latest podcast series Cautionary Tales. 
    Tim joined Tyler to discuss the role of popular economics in a politicized world, the puzzling polarization behind Brexit, why good feedback is necessary (and rare), the limits of fact-checking, the “tremendously British” encouragement he received from Prince Charles, playing poker with Steve Levitt, messiness in music, the underrated aspect of formal debate, whether introverts are better at public speaking, the three things he can’t live without, and more.

    Note: This conversation was recorded in November 2019 and thus took place before the UK’s general election in December, which secured Boris Johnson a Conservative majority and ensured the passage of his Brexit deal in January 2020.

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    • 59 min
    Ezra Klein on Why We’re Polarized

    Ezra Klein on Why We’re Polarized

    In his new book, Ezra Klein argues that polarization in America has become centered on partisan political identities, which has subsumed virtually every form of identity, be it where we live, what team we root for, the church we attend, or any other. This stacked form of polarization thus carries much more weight and is activated by a wider range of conflicts than before.


    But is polarization really such a pressing concern? If it’s all merged into one form of identity politics then aren’t we just polarizing more efficiently? Over what percentage of GDP are we more polarized today versus in the past?   


    Tyler posed these questions to Ezra and more, including thoughts on Silicon Valley’s intellectual culture, his disagreement with Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory, the limits of telecommuting, how becoming a father made him less conservative, his post-kid production function, why Manhattan is overrated, the “cosmic embarrassment” of California’s governance, why he loved Marriage Story, the future of the BBC and PBS, what he learned in Pakistan, and more.


    In DC on Feb 17? Register for our next live show with John McWhorter here.

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    • 1 hr 10 min

Customer Reviews

neil castles ,

Provides knowledge and understanding for us all.

Tyler’s podcasts should be essential listening to us all as without doubt our knowledge and appreciation will only grow. Each podcast is thought provoking. In addition, it has surprised me how humble these great thought leaders are as well as their ability to communicate in a way that almost everyone understands.

Ben in Mordy ,

Brilliant show

Tyler has interesting guests and interesting questions for them. It’s great to have some insight into how he thinks.

613770 ,

Excellent conversation with Claire Lehman

1. Major props to both Claire and Tyler, framed by Australian frankness and American curiosity.

2. Minor quibble: it sounds as if there's considerable editing out of gaps and ums and ers, as if Claire is responding to a script of prepared questions. I think this is a good thing, from a listener perspective, but it detracts from the idea of an open conversation.

3. Overall evaluation: worth every minute.

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