Russell Roberts

John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow
Biography: 

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, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Piketty, Christopher Hitchens, Bill James, Nassim Taleb, Michael Lewis, and Mariana Mazzucato. All 675+ episodes remain available free of charge at EconTalk.org and reach an audience of over 100,000 listeners around the world.

His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, created with filmmaker John Papola, have had more than 10 million YouTube views, have 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” (wonderfulloaf.org) is an ode to emergent order. His series on the challenge of using data to establish truth, The Numbers Game, can be found at PolicyEd.org. 

His latest book is Gambling with Other People's Money: How Perverse Incentives Caused the Financial Crisis (Hoover Institution Press, 2019). His book How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness takes the lessons from Adam Smith's little-known masterpiece The Theory of Moral Sentiments and applies them to modern life.

Roberts is the author of three novels teaching lessons and ideas through fiction—The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and ProsperityThe Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance,and The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism, which was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books of the year by the Financial Times

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

Gerd Gigerenzer On Gut Feelings

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, December 2, 2019

Psychologist and author Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development talks about his book Gut Feelings with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Gigerenzer argues for the power of simple heuristics--rules of thumb--over more complex models when making real-world decisions. He argues that many results in behavioral economics that appear irrational can be understood as sensible ways of coping with complexity.

Analysis and Commentary

Susan Mayer On What Money Can't Buy

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, November 25, 2019

Sociologist Susan Mayer of the University of Chicago talks about her book What Money Can't Buy with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Mayer reports on her research which found that giving poor parents money had little measured effect on improving the lives of their children. She emphasizes the importance of accurately understanding the challenges facing children in poverty if the goal is to actually help them. 

Analysis and Commentary

Keith Smith On Free Market Health Care

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, November 18, 2019

Entrepreneur and Anesthesiologist Keith Smith of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma talks with host Russ Roberts about what it's like to run a surgery center that posts prices on the internet and that does not take insurance. Along the way, he discusses the distortions in the market for health care and how a real market for health care might function if government took a smaller role.

Analysis and Commentary

Rory Sutherland On Alchemy

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, November 11, 2019

Author and Advertising Executive Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy talks about his book Alchemy with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Sutherland makes the case for the magic (yes, magic!) of advertising and branding in helping markets work well.

Analysis and Commentary

Venkatesh Rao On Waldenponding

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, November 4, 2019

Writer and management consultant Venkatesh Rao talks about Waldenponding with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Rao coined the term Waldenponding to describe various levels of retreating from technology akin to how Thoreau extolled the virtues of retreating from social contact and leading a quieter life at Walden Pond. Rao argues that the value of Waldenponding is overrated and that extreme Waldenponding is even somewhat immoral. Rao sees online intellectual life as a form of supercomputer, an intellectual ecosystem that produces new knowledge and intellectual discourse. He encourages all of us to contribute to that intellectual ecosystem even when it can mean losing credit for some of our ideas and potentially some of our uniqueness.

In the News

Why The Middle Class Is Better Off Than You Think

featuring Russell Robertsvia Reason
Thursday, October 31, 2019

The consensus view that the American middle class "is dead, dying, hollowed out" is based on an "incomplete reading of the data," says economist Russ Roberts.

Analysis and Commentary

Michele Gelfand On Rule Makers, Rule Breakers

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 28, 2019

Psychologist Michele Gelfand talks about her book, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Gelfand distinguishes between loose cultures and tight cultures--the degree to which culture and regulation restrict behavior or leave it alone. Gelfand explores the causes of why some cultures are tighter than others and the challenges societies face when culture is too tight or too loose. She also applies these ideas of cultural tightness and looseness to corporate mergers and family life.

Analysis and Commentary

Susan Houseman On Manufacturing

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 21, 2019

Economist Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research talks about the manufacturing sector with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Houseman argues that the data surrounding both manufacturing output and employment have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In particular, she argues that conclusions about the growth of manufacturing are driven overwhelmingly by computer production while the rest of manufacturing has been stagnant. She also argues that productivity has a small role in reducing manufacturing employment. Trade has been the main cause of employment reductions. These claims go against the standard narratives most economists have been telling for the last 20 years.

Policy InsightsFeaturedPolitics

Political And Electoral Instability

featuring David Brady, Morris P. Fiorina, Russell Roberts, Bill Whalen, Tom Churchvia PolicyEd
Thursday, October 17, 2019

American politics feels more divided than ever. Are we at an unprecedented point in history? Are there lessons to be learned from prior periods in American politics?

Analysis and Commentary

Andrew McAfee On More From Less

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, October 14, 2019

Andrew McAfee of MIT's Sloan School of Management talks about his book, More from Less, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. McAfee argues that technology is helping developed nations use fewer resources in producing higher levels of economic output. The improvement is not just a reduction in energy per dollar of GDP but less energy in total as economic growth progresses. This "dematerialization" portends a future that was unimaginable to the economists and pundits of the past. McAfee discusses the potential for dealing with climate change in a dematerialized world, the non-material aspects of economic progress, and the political repercussions of the current distribution of economic progress.

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