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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.

Conversations with Tyler Mercatus Center at George Mason University

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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.

    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 Parfitt 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

    • 1h 5 min
    David Cutler and Ed Glaeser on the Health and Wealth of Cities

    David Cutler and Ed Glaeser on the Health and Wealth of Cities

    With remote work becoming more common and cities competing for businesses it’s become easier than ever before for educated Americans to relocate, leaving cities more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. In their new book, Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, economists David Cutler and Ed Glaeser examine the factors that will allow some cities to succeed despite these challenges, while others fail. 
    They joined Tyler for a special joint episode to discuss why healthcare outcomes are so correlated with education, whether the health value of Google is positive or negative, why hospital price transparency is so difficult to achieve, how insurance coding systems reimburse sickness over health improvement, why the U.S. quit smoking before Europe, the best place in America to get sick, the risks that come from over-treatment, the possible upsides of more businesses moving out of cities, whether productivity gains from remote work will remain high, why the older parts of cities always seem to be more beautiful, whether urban schools will ever improve, why we shouldn’t view Rio de Janeiro’s favelas as a failure, how 19th century fights to deal with contagious diseases became a turning point for governance, Miami's prospects as the next tech hub, what David and Ed disagree on, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Briana Moore

    • 1h 19 min
    Zeynep Tufekci on the Sociology of The Moment (Live)

    Zeynep Tufekci on the Sociology of The Moment (Live)

    When Zeynep Tufekci penned a New York Times op-ed at the onset of the pandemic challenging the prevailing public health guidance that ordinary people should not wear masks, she thought it was the end of her public writing career. Instead, it helped provoke the CDC to reverse its guidance a few weeks later, and medical professionals privately thanked her for writing it. While relieved by the reception, she also saw it as a sign of a deeper dysfunction in the scientific establishment: why should she, a programmer and sociologist by training, have been the one to speak out rather than a credentialed expert? And yet realizing her outsider status and academic tenure allowed her to speak more freely than others, she continued writing and has become one of the leading public intellectuals covering the response to COVID-19.
    Zeynep joined Tyler to discuss problems with the media and the scientific establishment, what made the lab-leak hypothesis unacceptable to talk about, how her background in sociology was key to getting so many things right about the pandemic, the pitfalls of academic contrarianism, what Max Weber understood about public health crises, the underrated aspects of Kemel Mustapha’s regime, how Game of Thrones interested her as a sociologist (until the final season), what Americans get wrong about Turkey, why internet-fueled movements like the Gezi protests fizzle out, whether Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Turkey, how she’d try to persuade a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, whether public health authorities should ever lie for the greater good, why she thinks America is actually less racist than Europe, how her background as a programmer affects her work as a sociologist, the subject of her next book, and more.
    Note: This conversation was recorded on July 14, 2021, before the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
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    Thumbnail photo credit:
    Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

    • 1h 5 min
    Andrew Sullivan on Braving New Intellectual Journeys

    Andrew Sullivan on Braving New Intellectual Journeys

    Upon learning he was HIV positive in 1993, Andrew Sullivan began writing more than he ever had before. Believing that he didn’t have long to live, he wanted to leave behind a book detailing his best argument for refocusing the gay rights movement on marriage equality and military service. Three decades later and Sullivan has not only lived to see the book published, but also seen the ideas in it gain legal and cultural acceptance. This, along with the fact that the pace and influence of his writing has continued apace, qualifies him in Tyler’s estimation as the most influential public intellectual of his generation.
    Andrew joined Tyler to discuss the role of the AIDs epidemic in achieving marriage equality, the difficulty of devoutness in everyday life, why public intellectuals often lack courage, how being a gay man helps him access perspectives he otherwise wouldn’t, how drugs influence his ideas, the reasons why he’s a passionate defender of SATs and IQ tests, what Niall Ferguson and Boris Johnson were like as fellow undergraduates, what Americans get wrong about British politics, why so few people share his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, why Bowie was so special, why Airplane! is his favorite movie, what Oakeshottian conservatism offers us today, whether wokeism has a positive influence globally, why he someday hopes to glower at the sea from in the west of Ireland, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Chad Norman

    • 55 min
    Niall Ferguson on Why We Study History

    Niall Ferguson on Why We Study History

    While the modern historical ethos can be obsessed with condescending to the past based on our current value system, Scottish-born historian Niall Ferguson has aimed to set himself apart with his willingness to examine the past in its own context. The result is some wildly unpopular opinions such as “The British Empire was good, actually” and several wildly popular books, such as his latest Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe.
    Niall joined Tyler to discuss the difference between English and Scottish pessimism, his surprise encounter with Sean Connery, what James Bond and Doctor Who have in common, how religion fosters the cultural imagination to produce doomsday scenarios, which side of the Glorious Revolution he would have been on, the extraordinary historical trajectory of Scotland from the 17th century through the 18th century, why historians seem to have an excessive occupation with leadership, what he learned from R.G. Collingwood and A.J.P. Taylor, why American bands could never quite get punk music right, Tocqueville’s insights on liberalism, the unfortunate iconoclasm of John Maynard Keynes, the dystopian novel he finds most plausible, what he learned about right and left populism on his latest trip to Latin America, the importance of intellectual succession and building institutions, what he’ll do next, and more.
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    Thumbnail photo credit: Zoe Law

    • 54 min
    Alexander the Grate on Life as an NFA

    Alexander the Grate on Life as an NFA

    Alexander the Grate has spent 40 years – more than half of his life – living on the streets (and heating grates) of Washington, DC. He prefers the label NFA (No Fixed Address) rather than “homeless,” since in his view we’re all a little bit homeless: even millionaires are just one catastrophe away from losing their mansions. It’s a life that certainly comes with many challenges, but that hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the immense cultural riches of the capital: he and his friends have probably attended more lectures, foreign films, concerts, talks, and tours at local museums than many of its wealthiest denizens. The result is a perspective as unique as the city itself.
    Alexander joined Tyler to discuss the little-recognized issue of “toilet insecurity,” how COVID-19 affected his lifestyle, the hierarchy of local shelters, the origins of the cootie game, the difference between being NFA in DC versus other cities, how networking helped him navigate life as a new NFA, how the Capitol Hill Freebie Finders Fellowship got started, why he loves school field trip season, his most memorable freebie food experience, the reason he isn’t enthusiastic about a Universal Basic Income, the economic sword of Damocles he sees hanging over America, how local development is changing DC, his design for a better community shelter, and more.
    Special thanks to James Deutsch for helping to arrange this interview. Read his profile of Alexander the Grate here.
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    • 44 min

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