Russell Roberts

John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow

Russ Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He founded the award-winning weekly podcast EconTalk in 2006. Past guests include Milton Friedman, Thomas Piketty, Christopher Hitchens, Bill James, Nassim Taleb, Michael Lewis, and Marc Andreessen. All 600+ episodes remain available free of charge at

His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, created with filmmaker John Papola, have had more than 10 million YouTube views, been subtitled in 11 languages, and are used in high school and college classrooms around the world. His poem and animated video “It’s a Wonderful Loaf” is his ode to emergent order. His series on the challenge of using data to establish truth, The Numbers Game, can be found at

He is the author of three novels teaching lessons and ideas through fiction. The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity tells the story of wealth creation and the unseen forces around us creating and sustaining economic opportunity. The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance 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, was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books by the Financial Times.

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

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 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

What Protects Us From Exploitation?

by Russell Robertsvia Medium
Thursday, March 22, 2018

A great piece of advice for living is to leave money on the table: don’t try to get the maximum benefit from every deal leaving as little as possible for the party on the other side of the transaction. So when you sell a house, buy a house, negotiate a job offer as either the employer or the employee, don’t try to wring every penny out of the deal for yourself. Leave something for the person on the other side. This doesn’t mean be a sucker; it means don’t be grasping— don’t be the kind of person who always looks for not just an edge, but the maximum edge every time.

Analysis and Commentary

Beth Redbird On Licensing

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, March 19, 2018

Economists often oppose the expansion of licensing in America in recent years because it makes it harder for people with low skills to get access to opportunity. Sociologist Beth Redbird of Northwestern University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a different perspective. Redbird finds that licensing expands opportunity for women and minorities and has little impact on wages.

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Restoring Civility In A Hostile World

by Russell Robertsvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, March 15, 2018

The polarized state of America is alarming. But what can ordinary citizens do?

Analysis and Commentary

Arnold Kling On Economics For The 21st Century

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, March 12, 2018

Economist, blogger, and author Arnold Kling talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the state of economics in the 21st century. Kling argues that economics would be more useful if it took account of intangibles like culture, incorporated the role of financial intermediation in the economy, and modeled some of the the subtleties of the labor market--how wages are set and the role of team production.


Office Hours: Russ Roberts On The Middle Class

by Russell Robertsvia
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Hoover Institution Research Fellow Russ Roberts responds to your questions on how the middle class is doing.
Analysis and Commentary

Nassim Nicholas Taleb On Rationality, Risk, And Skin In The Game

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, March 5, 2018

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Skin in the Game, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in the book. This is the third episode of EconTalk with Taleb related to the general topic of skin in the game and how it affects decision-making and policy in an uncertain world. This episode focuses on rationality, religion, and the challenge of thinking about probability and risk correctly in a dynamic world.

Analysis and Commentary

Elizabeth Anderson On Worker Rights And Private Government

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, February 26, 2018

Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson of the University of Michigan and author of Private Government talks about her book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Anderson argues that employers have excessive power over employees that we would never accept from government authority. Topics discussed include the role of competition in potentially mitigating employer control, whether some worker rights should be inviolate, potential measures for empowering employees, and the costs and benefits over time of a relatively unregulated labor market.


Jordan Peterson On 12 Rules For Life

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, February 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life, talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Topics covered include parenting, conversation, the role of literature in everyday life, and the relationship between sacrificial rites and trade.

Analysis and Commentary

My Twelve Rules For Life

by Russell Robertsvia Medium
Monday, February 12, 2018

This list is inspired by Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Some of these rules show up in passing in How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. These are my 12 rules today.

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Analysis and Commentary

Bryan Caplan On The Case Against Education

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, February 12, 2018

Bryan Caplan of George Mason University and the author of The Case Against Education talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Caplan argues that very little learning takes place in formal education and that very little of the return to college comes from skills or knowledge that is acquired in the classroom.