137 episodes

Economics Detective Radio is a podcast about markets, ideas, institutions, and all things related to the field of economics. Episodes consist of long-form interviews, and are generally released on Fridays. Topics include economic theory, economic history, the history of thought, money, banking, finance, macroeconomics, public choice, Austrian economics, business cycles, health care, education, international trade, and anything else of interest to economists, students, and serious amateurs interested in the science of human action. For additional content and links related to each episode, visit economicsdetective.com.

Economics Detective Radio Garrett M. Petersen

    • Social Sciences

Economics Detective Radio is a podcast about markets, ideas, institutions, and all things related to the field of economics. Episodes consist of long-form interviews, and are generally released on Fridays. Topics include economic theory, economic history, the history of thought, money, banking, finance, macroeconomics, public choice, Austrian economics, business cycles, health care, education, international trade, and anything else of interest to economists, students, and serious amateurs interested in the science of human action. For additional content and links related to each episode, visit economicsdetective.com.

    The Age of Mass Migration and the 1920 Border Closure with Leah Boustan

    The Age of Mass Migration and the 1920 Border Closure with Leah Boustan

    Today's guest is Leah Boustan of Princeton University. Our discussion centers around her recent working paper, "The Effects of Immigration on the Economy: Lessons from the 1920s Border Closure."
    In the 1920s, the United States substantially reduced immigrant entry by imposing country-specific quotas. We compare local labor markets with more or less exposure to the national quotas due to differences in initial immigrant settlement. A puzzle emerges: the earnings of existing US-born workers declined after the border closure, despite the loss of immigrant labor supply. We find that more skilled US-born workers – along with unrestricted immigrants from Mexico and Canada – moved into affected urban areas, completely replacing European immigrants. By contrast, the loss of immigrant workers encouraged farmers to shift toward capital-intensive agriculture and discouraged entry from unrestricted workers. We also discuss her broader body of work on the age of mass migration. At the peak of this era, the United States had a foreign-born population of 15%. Today, after a century of restricted immigration, the United States foreign-born population has only just returned to 15%.
    It's a fascinating discussion with special relevance to today's debates about immigration.

    • 52 min
    Emissions Cheating, Air Pollution, and Health with Hannes Schwandt

    Emissions Cheating, Air Pollution, and Health with Hannes Schwandt

    Today on Economics Detective Radio, I discuss health economics with Hannes Schwandt of Northwestern University. Hannes is the co-author, along with Diane Alexander, of "The Impact of Car Pollution on Infant and Child Health: Evidence from Emissions Cheating."
    Car exhaust is a major source of air pollution, but little is known about its impacts on population health. We exploit the dispersion of emissions-cheating diesel cars which secretly polluted up to 150 times as much as gasoline cars across the United States from 2008-2015 as a natural experiment to measure the health impact of car pollution. Using the universe of vehicle registrations, we demonstrate that a 10 percent cheating-induced increase in car exhaust increases rates of low birth weight and acute asthma attacks among children by 1.9 and 8.0 percent, respectively. These health impacts occur at all pollution levels and across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. We also discuss his work on the health impacts of the 9/11 dust cloud.

    • 40 min
    Open Borders with Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

    Open Borders with Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith

    Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith both return to the podcast to discuss their new, non-fiction graphic novel, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.
    American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more restrictive laws argue the need to protect native citizens.
    But economist Bryan Caplan adds a new, compelling perspective to the immigration debate: He argues that opening all borders could eliminate absolute poverty worldwide and usher in a booming worldwide economy—greatly benefiting humanity.
    With a clear and conversational tone, exhaustive research, and vibrant illustrations by Zach Weinersmith, Open Borders makes the case for unrestricted immigration easy to follow and hard to deny.
    Related episodes:
    Emerging technologies with Zach and Kelly Weinersmith
    The case against education with Bryan Caplan
    Refugee waves, mass immigration, and Jordan with Alex Nowrasteh and Andrew Forrester
    Social media, elections, and gender with Fabio Rojas
    Sociology and social science with Fabio Rojas
     

    • 57 min
    The American Civil War with Jeffrey Hummel

    The American Civil War with Jeffrey Hummel

    Today's guest is Jeffrey Rogers Hummel of San Jose State University. He is the author of Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.
    This book combines a sweeping narrative of the Civil War with a bold new look at the war’s significance for American society. Professor Hummel sees the Civil War as America’s turning point: simultaneously the culmination and repudiation of the American revolution. Links:
    The Curious Task from the Institute for Liberal Studies; mentioned in the outro.

    • 57 min
    Cotton, Slavery, and the New History of Capitalism with Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode

    Cotton, Slavery, and the New History of Capitalism with Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode

    Today's guests are economic historians Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode. Both of them have research related to the slave economy of the Antebellum South. Our main topic is a paper they co-authored, Cotton, slavery, and the new history of capitalism.
    The "New History of Capitalism" grounds the rise of industrial capitalism on the production of raw cotton by American slaves. Recent works include Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton, Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams, and Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told. All three authors mishandle historical evidence and mis-characterize important events in ways that affect their major interpretations on the nature of slavery, the workings of plantations, the importance of cotton and slavery in the broader economy, and the sources of the Industrial Revolution and world development. We discuss the problems with the New History of Capitalism literature and some alternative hypotheses suggested by the economic history literature. In their previous work on the subject, Olmstead and Rhode show "that a succession of new cotton varieties helped propel the rise in labor productivity and southern growth" (p. 7). Ed Baptist dubiously attributes this rise in productivity to torture.

    • 51 min
    Slavery and Capitalism with Phil Magness

    Slavery and Capitalism with Phil Magness

    Phil Magness returns to the show to discuss his work on slavery and capitalism, particularly as it relates to the New History of Capitalism (NHC) and the New York Times' 1619 project. Phil recently wrote an article entitled, "How the 1619 Project Rehabilitates the 'King Cotton' Thesis." In it, he argues that the NHC has unwittingly adopted the same untenable economic arguments made by slaveowners in the antebellum South: that slave-picked cotton was "king" in the sense of being absolutely indispensable for the global economy during the industrial revolution.
    [T]he economic reasoning behind King Cotton has undergone a surprising — perhaps unwitting — rehabilitation through a modern genre of scholarly works known as the new history of capitalism (NHC). While NHC historians reject the pro-slavery thrust of Wigfall and Hammond’s bluster, they recast slave-produced cotton as "not just as an integral part of American capitalism, but . . . its very essence," to quote Harvard’s Sven Beckert. Cornell historian Ed Baptist goes even further, describing slavery as the indispensable causal driver behind America’s wealth today. Cotton production, he contends, was "absolutely necessary" for the Western world to break the "10,000-year Malthusian cycle of agriculture."
    And this same NHC literature provides the scholarly foundation of the ballyhooed New York Times' 1619 Project — specifically, its foray into the economics of slavery. Guided by this rehabilitated version of King Cotton, Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond enlists the horrors of the plantation system to launch a blistering attack on modern American capitalism.
    Desmond projects slavery's legacy onto a litany of tropes about rising inequality, the decline of labor-union power, environmental destruction, and the 2008 financial crisis. The intended message is clear: Modern capitalism carries with it the stain of slavery, and its putative excesses are proof of its continued brutality. It follows that only by abandoning the free market and embracing political redistribution will we ever atone for this tainted inheritance.

    • 54 min

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