95 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.

    Reid Hoffman on Systems, Levers, and Quixotic Quests

    Reid Hoffman on Systems, Levers, and Quixotic Quests

    When Reid Hoffman creates a handle for some new network or system, his usual choice is “Quixotic.” At an early age, his love of tabletop games inspired him to think of life as a heroic journey, where people come together in order to accomplish lofty things. This framing also prompted him to consider the rules and systems that guide society—and how you might improve them by identifying key points of leverage. 


    At first, he thought he’d become an academic and work with ideas as one of those Archimedean levers. But he ended up focusing on technology instead, helping to build PayPal, LinkedIn, and now many other ventures as an investor at Greylock Partners. But he still thinks ideas are important and tries to employ a “full toolset” when trying to shift systems.


    Reid joined Tyler to talk about all these leverage points and more, including the Silicon Valley cultural meme he most disagrees with, how Wittgenstein influenced the design of LinkedIn, mystical atheism, what it was like being on Firing Line, why he’s never said anything outrageous, how he and Peter Thiel interpret The Tempest differently, the most misunderstood thing about friendship, how to improve talent certification, what’s needed from science fiction, and his three new ideas for board games.


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

    Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos


    Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu
    Follow Reid on Twitter

    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    Facebook
    Newsletter

    • 1 hr
    Slavoj Žižek on His Stubborn Attachment to Communism

    Slavoj Žižek on His Stubborn Attachment to Communism

    This bonus episode features audio from the Holberg Debate in Bergen, Norway between Tyler and Slavoj Žižek held on December 7, 2019. They discuss the reasons Slavoj (still) considers himself a Communist, why he calls The Handmaid’s Tale “nostalgia for the present,” what he likes about Greta Thunberg, what Marx got right about the commodification of beliefs, his concerns about ecology and surveillance in communist states like China today, the reasons academia should maintain its ‘useless character,’ his beginnings as a Heideggerian, why he is distrustful of liberal optimism, the “Fukuyama dilemma” we face, the importance of “empty manners,” and more.

    Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos


    Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu

    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    Facebook
    Newsletter

    • 1 hr 26 min
    Abhijit Banerjee on Theory, Practice, and India

    Abhijit Banerjee on Theory, Practice, and India

    Want to support future conversations? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate.
    Long before Abhijit Banerjee won the 2019 economics Nobel with Michael Kremer and Esther Duflo, he was a fellow graduate student at Harvard with Tyler. For Tyler, Abhijit is one of the brightest economic minds he’s ever met, and “a brilliant theorist who decided the future was with empirical work.” But according to Abhijit, theory and practice go hand in hand: the real benefit of a randomized control trial isn’t getting unbiased estimates, he says, but in testing hypotheses borne out of theory.


    Abhijit joined Tyler to discuss his unique approach to economics, including thoughts on premature deindustrialization, the intrinsic weakness of any charter city, where the best classical Indian music is being made today, why he prefers making Indian sweets to French sweets, the influence of English intellectual life in India, the history behind Bengali leftism, the best Indian regional cuisine, why experimental economics is underrated, the reforms he’d make to traditional graduate economics training, how his mother’s passion inspires his research, how many consumer loyalty programs he’s joined, and more.


    Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos


    Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu

    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    Facebook
    Newsletter

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Tyler Looks Back on 2019 (BONUS)

    Tyler Looks Back on 2019 (BONUS)

    Want to support future conversations? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate.
    For this special retrospective episode, producer Jeff Holmes sat down with Tyler to discuss the past year in conversations and more, including who was most challenging guest to prep for, the most popular—and the most underrated—conversation, a test of Tyler’s knowledge called “Name That Production Function,” listener questions from Twitter, how Tyler has boosted his productivity in the past year, and whether his book and movie picks from 2009 still hold up.  

    Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos


    Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu

    Follow Jeff on Twitter

    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    Facebook
    Email

    • 52 min
    Esther Duflo on Management, Growth, and Research in Action

    Esther Duflo on Management, Growth, and Research in Action

    Want to support future conversations? Visit conversationswithtyler.com/donate.


    Esther Duflo’s advice to students? Spend time in the field. “It's only through this exposure that you can learn how wrong most of your intuitions are and preconceptions are,” she explains. For Duflo, it was time spent in the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse. While there she saw how Jeff Sachs used the tools of economics to advise policymakers on matters of crucial importance. To her it seemed like the best job in the world—and she began to pursue it in earnest. Now it is she who is advising governments on how best to reduce poverty, having co-founded one of the leading policy research centers in the world. That work, together with that of frequent collaborators Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer, has now been honored with the Nobel Prize. 


    She joined Tyler to discuss that work, including how coaching increases the effectiveness of cash transfers, why she cautions against falling in love with growth rates, what France gets right about child-rearing, the management philosophy behind her success building J-PAL, how she briefly became the face of an anti-Soviet revolution, the under-looked reasons behind the decline of geographic mobility in the United States, what rock climbing can teach us about being a good empirical economist, her daily musical move from Bach to Bob Dylan, and more. 


    Follow us on Twitter and IG: @cowenconvos


    Email: cowenconvos@mercatus.gmu.edu


    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Instagram
    Email

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Daron Acemoglu on the Struggle Between State and Society

    Daron Acemoglu on the Struggle Between State and Society

    What determines the economic, social, and political trajectories of nations? Why were settlers in colonies like Jamestown and Australia able to escape the extractive systems desired by their British masters, while colonial subjects in Barbados and Jamaica were not? In his latest book, Daron Acemoglu elevates the power of institutions over theories centering on human capital, culture, or geography. Institutions help strike the balance of power in the constant struggle between state and society, creating a ‘narrow corridor’ through which liberty and prosperity is achieved.
    Daron joined Tyler for a conversation about drivers of economic growth, the economic causes and effects of democratization, how Germanic tribes introduced “bottom-up politics” to the Roman empire, the institutional reasons that China’s state capacity and control has increased with its wealth, his predictions for the future of liberty in his birth country of Turkey, the biggest challenges currently facing the Middle East, what we can learn from the example of Lagos, why publishing in the “top five” is overrated, tips on motivating graduate students, and more.
    Follow Daron on Twitter
    Follow Tyler on Twitter
    More CWT goodness:
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Instagram
    Email

    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

DWL1984 ,

Great guests and intelligent discussions

I just listened to the year-in-review episode where the podcast’s producer opined that the interviews with Emily Wilson (a classicist and translator of the Odyssey) and Karl Ove Knausgard (a Norwegian novelist) were the most underrated shows of the year. I agree. Gems like those interviews make a great addition to Tyler’s more typical fare of economists, academics, public intellectuals, and businesspeople. I love this podcast and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Stepan F ,

Provide references in details

Credit is where credit is due, Tyler is a apt interviewer and his often provocative questions poke at some of the most interesting parts of what his guests study or are experts at. However, some conversations can be essentially incomprehensible (see the Zizek dialogue), or seem like they are provocative for provocation’s sake and not for the sake of furthering an intellectual discussion. Most importantly, whenever Tyler or the guests mention some resource (academic paper, book, etc.), it is very hard to track down the reference afterwards as it will be mentioned by e.g. the last name of one of the authors. It is standard practice in podcasting to provide references to important sources mentioned during the discussion: that way anyone can track down that obscure (to non-specialists at least) economics paper on human capital, or whatever or may be, and form their own opinion on it, comparing with that is said in the interview and becoming part of the conversation.

Dubda ,

Best questions

Tyler asks the best questions. When interviewing I think “I wish he would just ask X” and Tyler always does me one better. He gets the best out of people in a direct yet non antagonizing way.

Includes a very deep library of interviews that keeps listening.

Top Podcasts In Self-Improvement

Listeners Also Subscribed To