Russell Roberts

John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow
Biography: 

Russell Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Roberts hosts the weekly podcast EconTalk--hour-long conversations with authors, economists, and business leaders. Past guests include Milton Friedman, Nassim Taleb, Christopher Hitchens, Marc Andreessen, Joseph Stiglitz, and John Bogle. EconTalk was named podcast of the year in the 2008 Weblog Awards. Over 425 episodes are available at EconTalk.org and on iTunes at no charge.

His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, created with filmmaker John Papola, have had more than seven million views on YouTube, been subtitled in eleven languages, and are used in high school and college classrooms around the world. 

His latest book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness (Portfolio/Penguin 2014). It takes the lessons from Adam Smith's little-known masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and applies them to modern life.  

He is also the author of three economic novels teaching economic lessons and ideas through fiction. The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008) tells the story of wealth creation and the unseen forces around us creating and sustaining economic opportunity. The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance (MIT Press, 2002) looks at corporate responsibility and a wide array of policy issues including anti-poverty programs, consumer protection, and the morality of the marketplace. His first book, The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism (Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2006) is on international trade policy and the human consequences of international trade. It was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books of 1994 by the Financial Times.

A three-time teacher of the year, Roberts has taught at George Mason University, Washington University in St. Louis (where he was the founding director of what is now the Center for Experiential Learning), the University of Rochester, Stanford University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a national fellow and visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution from 1985 to 1987. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and received his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Other Media

Alex Tabarrok on Private Cities

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, January 26, 2015

Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a recent paper Tabarrok co-authored with Shruti Rajagopalan on Gurgaon, a city in India that until recently had little or no municipal government. The two discuss the successes and failures of this private city, the tendency to romanticize the outcomes of market and government action, and the potential for private cities to meet growing demand for urban living in India and China.

Blogs

I Thought It Doesn’t Matter What You Spend The Money On

by Russell Robertsvia Cafe Hayek
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Maybe Keynesianism doesn’t work if the country you try it in has “H” as its first letter.

Featured Commentary

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Precautionary Principle and Genetically Modified Organisms

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, January 19, 2015

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile, Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a recent co-authored paper on the risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of the Precautionary Principle. Taleb contrasts harm with ruin and explains how the differences imply different rules of behavior when dealing with the risk of each. Taleb argues that when considering the riskiness of GMOs, the right understanding of statistics is more valuable than expertise in biology or genetics. The central issue that pervades the conversation is how to cope with a small non-negligible risk of catastrophe.

Other Media

Greg Page on Food, Agriculture, and Cargill

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, January 12, 2015

Greg Page, former CEO of Cargill, the largest privately-held company in America, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the global food supply and the challenges of running a company with employees and activity all over the world. Page talks about the role of prices in global food markets in signaling information and prompting changes in response to those signals. Other topics include government's role in agriculture, the locavore movement and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Other Media

Joshua Greene on Moral Tribes, Moral Dilemmas, and Utilitarianism

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, January 5, 2015

Joshua Greene, of Harvard University and author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about morality and the challenges we face when our morality conflicts with that of others. Topics discussed include the difference between what Greene calls automatic thinking and manual thinking, the moral dilemma known as "the trolley problem," and the difficulties of identifying and solving problems in a society that has a plurality of values. Greene defends utilitarianism as a way of adjudicating moral differences.

Featured Commentary

James Tooley on Private Schools for the Poor and the Beautiful Tree

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, December 29, 2014

James Tooley, Professor of Education at Newcastle University, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about low-cost for-profit private schools in the slums and rural areas of poor countries. Tooley shows how surprisingly widespread private schools are for the poor and how effective they are relative to public schools where teacher attendance and performance can be very disappointing. The conversation closes with whether public schooling should remain the ideal in poor countries.

Other Media

Continuing Conversation... Joshua Angrist on Econometrics and Causation

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts explored his skepticism about econometrics and causation with MIT's Joshua Angrist. Did Angrist convince Roberts about the value of empirical methods today? Are you convinced?

Other Media

Gary Marcus on the Future of Artificial Intelligence and the Brain

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, December 15, 2014

Gary Marcus of New York University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). While Marcus is concerned about how advances in AI might hurt human flourishing, he argues that truly transformative smart machines are still a long way away and that to date, the exponential improvements in technology have been in hardware, not software. Marcus proposes ways to raise standards in programming to reduce mistakes that would have catastrophic effects if advanced AI does come to fruition. The two also discuss "big data's" emphasis on correlations, and how that leaves much to be desired.

Other Media

James Otteson on the End Of Socialism

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, December 8, 2014

James Otteson of Wake Forest University talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his new book, The End of Socialism. Otteson argues that socialism (including what he calls the "socialist inclination") is morally and practically inferior to capitalism. Otteson contrasts socialism and capitalism through the views of G. A. Cohen and Adam Smith. Otteson emphasizes the importance of moral agency and respect for the individual in his defense of capitalism. The conversation also includes a discussion of the deep appeal of the tenets of socialism such as equality and the impulse for top-down planning.

Blogs

The Adam Smith Problem

by Russell Robertsvia Cafe Hayek
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Anthony Annett of the IMF has a thoughtful review of my Adam Smith book in the IMF publication, Finance and Development. He likes my overall summary of The Theory of Moral Sentiments but he is not so enamored of my explanation for the so-called Adam Smith problem:

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