147 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

    • Education
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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.

    Ruth Scurr on the Art of Biography

    Ruth Scurr on the Art of Biography

    The most challenging part of being a biographer for Ruth Scurr is finding the best form to tell a life. “You can't go in there with a workmanlike attitude saying, ‘I'm going to do cradle to grave.’ You’ve got to somehow connect and resonate with the life, and then things will develop from that.” Known for her innovative literary portraits of Robespierre and John Aubrey, Scurr’s latest book follows Napoleon’s life through his engagement with the natural world. This approach broadens the usual cast of characters included in Napoleon’s life story, providing new perspectives with which to understand him.
    Ruth joined Tyler to discuss why she considers Danton the hero of the French Revolution, why the Jacobins were so male-obsessed, the wit behind Condorcet's idea of a mechanical king, the influence of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments during and after the Reign of Terror, why 18th-century French thinkers were obsessed with finding forms of government that would fit with emerging market forces, whether Hayek’s critique of French Enlightenment theorists is correct, the relationship between the French Revolution and today’s woke culture, the truth about Napoleon’s diplomatic skills, the poor prospects for pitching biographies to publishers, why Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws would be her desert island read, why Cambridge is a better city than Oxford, why the Times Literary Supplement remains important today, what she loves about Elena Ferrante’s writing, how she stays open as a biographer, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Dan White

    • 51 min
    David Rubenstein on Private Equity, Public Art, and Philanthropy

    David Rubenstein on Private Equity, Public Art, and Philanthropy

    Baltimore native David Rubenstein is a founding figure in private equity, a prolific philanthropist, and author. From leveraged buyouts to his patriotic philanthropy to his leadership roles within institutions like the Smithsonian, Kennedy Center, and the National Gallery of Art, David has spent much of his life evaluating what makes institutions—and people—succeed.
    He joined Tyler to discuss what makes someone good at private equity, why 20 percent performance fees have withstood the test of time, why he passed on a young Mark Zuckerberg, why SPACs probably won’t transform the IPO process, gambling on cryptocurrency, whether the Brooklyn Nets are overrated, what Wall Street and Washington get wrong about each other, why he wasn’t a good lawyer, why the rise of China is the greatest threat to American prosperity, how he would invest in Baltimore, his advice to aging philanthropists, the four standards he uses to evaluate requests for money, why we still need art museums, the unusual habit he and Tyler share, why even now he wants more money, why he’s not worried about an imbalance of ideologies on college campuses, how he prepares to interview someone, what appealed to him about owning the Magna Carta, the change he’d make to the US Constitution, why you shouldn’t obsess about finding a mentor, and more.
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    • 56 min
    David Salle on the Experience of Art

    David Salle on the Experience of Art

    When the audience for visual art expanded from small circles of artists and collectors into broader culture, the way art was experienced shifted from aesthetics to explanation. Art, it became thought, should be about something. But David Salle rebukes this literal-mindedness: according to him, what we think and feel when reacting to a piece of art is more authoritative than what’s written on the label next to it. A painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, David is also the author of How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art, a highly regarded book on artistic criticism.
    David joined Tyler to discuss the fifteen (or so) functions of good art, why it’s easier to write about money than art, what’s gone wrong with art criticism today, how to cultivate good taste, the reasons museum curators tend to be risk-averse, the effect of modern artistic training on contemporary art, the evolution of Cézanne, how the centrality of photography is changing fine art, what makes some artists’ retrospectives more compelling than others, the physical challenges of painting on a large scale, how artists view museums differently, how a painting goes wrong, where his paintings end up, what great collectors have in common, how artists collect art differently, why Frank O’Hara was so important to Alex Katz and himself, what he loves about the films of Preston Sturges, why The Sopranos is a model of artistic expression, how we should change intellectual property law for artists, the disappointing puritanism of the avant-garde, and more.
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    • 46 min
    Stanley McChrystal on the Military, Leadership, and Risk

    Stanley McChrystal on the Military, Leadership, and Risk

    Stan McChrystal has spent a long career considering questions of risk, leadership, and the role of America’s military, having risen through the Army’s ranks ultimately to take command of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a force representing 150,000 troops from 45 countries. Retiring as a four-star general in 2010, he has gone on to lecture at Yale and launched the McChrystal Group, where he taps that experience to help organizations build stronger teams and devise winning strategies. His latest book, which he tells Tyler will be his last, is called Risk: A User’s Guide.
    He joined Tyler to discuss whether we’ve gotten better or worse at analyzing risk, the dangerous urge among policymakers to oversimplify the past, why being a good military commander is about more than winning battlefield victories, why we’re underestimating the risk that China will invade Taiwan, how to maintain a long view of history, what set Henry Kissinger apart, the usefulness of war games, how well we understand China and Russia, why there haven’t been any major attacks on US soil since 9/11, the danger of a “soldier class” in America, his take on wokeness and the military, what’s needed to have women as truly senior commanders in the armed forces, why officers with bad experiences should still be considered for promotion, how to address extremists in the military, why he supports a draft, the most interesting class he took at West Point, how to care for disabled veterans, his advice to enlisted soldiers on writing a will, the most emotionally difficult part and greatest joys of his military career, the prospect of drone assassinations, what he eats for his only meal of the day, why he’s done writing books, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Leading Authorities, Inc.

    • 53 min
    Claudia Goldin on the Economics of Inequality

    Claudia Goldin on the Economics of Inequality

    Harvard professor Claudia Goldin has made a name for herself tackling difficult questions. What was the full economic cost of the American Civil War? Does education increase or lessen income inequality? What causes the gender pay gap—and how do you even measure it? Her approach, which often involves the unearthing of new historical data, has yielded lasting insights in several distinct areas of economics.
    Claudia joined Tyler to discuss the rise of female billionaires in China, why the US gender earnings gap expanded in recent years, what’s behind falling marriage rates for those without a college degree, why the wage gap flips for Black women versus Black men, theoretical approaches for modeling intersectionality, gender ratios in economics, why she’s skeptical about happiness research, how the New York Times wedding announcement page has evolved, the problems with for-profit education, the value of an Ivy League degree, whether a Coasian solution existed to prevent the Civil War, which Americans were most likely to be anti-immigrant in the 1920s, her forthcoming work on Lanham schools, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: BBVA Foundation

    • 49 min
    Amia Srinivasan on Utopian Feminism

    Amia Srinivasan on Utopian Feminism

    What is our right to be desired? How are our sexual desires shaped by the society around us? Is consent sufficient for a sexual relationship? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, public debates about sex work, and the rise in popularity of “incel culture”, philosopher Amia Srinivasan explores these questions and more in her new book of essays, The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century. Amia’s interests lay in how our internal perspectives and desires are shaped by external forces, and the question of how we might alter those forces to achieve a more just, equitable society.
    Amia joined Tyler to discuss the importance of context in her vision of feminism, what social conservatives are right about, why she’s skeptical about extrapolating from the experience of women in Nordic countries, the feminist critique of the role of consent in sex, whether disabled individuals should be given sex vouchers, how to address falling fertility rates, what women learned about egalitarianism during the pandemic, why progress requires regress, her thoughts on Susan Sontag, the stroke of fate that stopped her from pursuing a law degree, the “profound dialectic” in Walt Whitman’s poetry, how Hinduism has shaped her metaphysics, how Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit influenced her, the anarchic strain in her philosophy, why she calls herself a socialist, her next book on genealogy, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Nina Subin

    • 1 hr 5 min

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