Russell Roberts

John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow

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 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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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

Chris Arnade On The Mexican Crisis, TARP, And American Poverty

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 17, 2016

Chris Arnade, former Wall Street trader turned photographer and social chronicler, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what he learned from the front lines of the financial industry in the 1990s and 2000s when everything slowly and then very quickly began to fall apart.

Analysis and Commentary

Wanting To Want What We Want

by Russell Robertsvia Medium
Thursday, October 13, 2016

I have been thinking about consciousness recently. What is the source of human consciousness? Is it merely physical? Can it be uploaded? Duplicated via artificial intelligence? Will machines get conscious enough to feel and to care the way we do?

Analysis and Commentary

Angus Deaton On Inequality, Trade, And The Robin Hood Principle

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 10, 2016

Nobel Laureate in Economics Angus Deaton of Princeton University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the economics of trade and aid. Deaton wonders if economists should re-think the widely-held view that redistribution from rich nations to poor nations makes the world a better place. 

Analysis and Commentary

Cathy O'Neil On Weapons Of Math Destruction

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 3, 2016

Cathy O'Neil, data scientist and author of Weapons of Math Destruction talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in her book. O'Neil argues that the commercial application of big data often harms individuals in unknown ways.


John Cochrane On Economic Growth And Changing The Policy Debate

by Russell Robertsinterview with John H. Cochrane via EconTalk
Monday, September 26, 2016

How are those in favor of bigger government and those who want smaller government like a couple stuck in a bad marriage? Economist John Cochrane of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how to take a different approach to the standard policy arguments.


Eric Wakin On Archiving, Preservation, And History

by Russell Roberts, Eric Wakinvia EconTalk
Monday, September 19, 2016

What does an x-ray of Hitler's skull have in common with a jar of Ronald Reagan's jelly beans? They are both part of the Hoover Institution archives. Eric Wakin, Director of the Library and Archives of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what it's like to be an archivist.

Analysis and Commentary

The Morality Of Surge Pricing

by Russell Robertsvia Medium
Sunday, September 18, 2016

When Uber puts surge pricing in place on a Saturday night, say, two things happen. The first is that some drivers who otherwise might sit at home enjoying life now find it worthwhile to spend time picking up people and taking them where they want to go.

Analysis and Commentary

What Were The Most Important Lessons Learned From The Financial Crisis?

by Russell Robertsvia Quora
Friday, September 16, 2016

I learned way too much. Like many economists, I hadn’t paid enough attention to the financial sector and how it can affect the rest of the economy.

Analysis and Commentary

Susan Athey On Machine Learning, Big Data, And Causation

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, September 12, 2016

Can machine learning improve the use of data and evidence for understanding economics and public policy? Susan Athey of Stanford University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how machine learning can be used in conjunction with traditional econometric techniques to measure the impact of say, the minimum wage or the effectiveness of a new drug. The last part of the conversation looks at the experimental techniques being used by firms like Google and Amazon.


Terry Moe On The Constitution, The Presidency, And Relic

by Russell Robertsfeaturing Terry M. Moevia EconTalk
Monday, September 5, 2016

Are there many Americans today who wish the President of the United States had more power relative to the other branches of Congress? Terry Moe is one of them.