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

Alain Bertaud On Cities, Planning, And Order Without Design

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, June 3, 2019

Urbanist and author Alain Bertaud of NYU talks about his book Order without Design with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bertaud explores the role of zoning and planning alongside the emergent factors that affect the growth of cities. He emphasizes the importance of cities as places for people to work and looks at how preferences and choices shape cities. Bertaud also reflects upon the differing perspectives of urban planners and economists.

Chess pieces
Analysis and Commentary

David Epstein On Mastery, Specialization, And Range

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, May 27, 2019

Journalist and author David Epstein talks about his book Range with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Epstein explores the costs of specialization and the value of breadth in helping to create mastery in our careers and in life. What are the best backgrounds for solving problems?

Analysis and Commentary

Mary Hirschfeld On Economics, Culture, And Aquinas And The Market

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, May 20, 2019

Author, economist, and theologian Mary Hirschfeld of Villanova University talks about her book, Aquinas and the Market, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Hirschfeld looks at the nature of our economic activity as buyers and sellers and whether our pursuit of economic growth and material well-being comes at a cost. She encourages a skeptical stance about the ability of more stuff to produce true happiness and/or satisfaction. The conversation includes a critique of economic theory and the aspect of human satisfaction outside the domain of economists.

Analysis and Commentary

Robert Burton On Being Certain

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, May 13, 2019

Neurologist and author Robert Burton talks about his book, On Being Certain, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Burton explores our need for certainty and the challenge of being skeptical about what our brain tells us must be true. 

The Numbers GameFeatured

Do The Rich Get All The Gains?

by Russell Robertsvia PolicyEd
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Has economic progress in America been shared widely or captured by only the rich? The standard story of stagnating wages takes snapshots of one set of people in the past and compares them to an entirely different set of people in the present. But when you follow the same people over time, it becomes clear that the poor and the middle class are prospering, often gaining more than the richest Americans.

Analysis and Commentary

Mauricio Miller On Poverty, Social Work, And The Alternative

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, May 6, 2019

Poverty activist, social entrepreneur and author, Mauricio Miller, talks about his book The Alternative with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Miller, a MacArthur genius grant recipient, argues that we have made poverty tolerable when we should be trying to make it more escapable. This is possible, he argues, if we invest in the poor and encourage them to leverage their skills and social networks. Miller emphasizes the importance of self-determination and self-respect as keys to helping the poor improve their own lives.

Analysis and Commentary

Emily Oster On Cribsheet

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, April 29, 2019

Economist and author Emily Oster of Brown University talks about her book Cribsheet with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Oster explores what the data and evidence can tell us about parenting in areas such as breastfeeding, sleep habits, discipline, vaccination, and food allergies. Oster often finds that commonly held views on some of these topics are not well supported by the evidence while on others, the evidence appears decisive. 

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Loners and Lost Tribes

by Russell Robertsvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

In war or in peace, who has your back? Author Sebastian Junger explores the tension between freedom and the ancient longing for community.

Policy InsightsFeatured

Education

featuring Eric Hanushek, Margaret (Macke) Raymond, Russell Roberts, Paul E. Peterson, Chester E. Finn Jr., Tom Churchvia PolicyEd
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Education policy is complicated in the United States because of our federalist system. The federal government’s role in education is more advisory than operational. It provides a lot of guidance on the standards and goals for students, but allows states and local governments the flexibility to achieve them with varying methods. The federal government is in a position to know what we need in order to be competitive internationally. It can also be valuable in compensating students who need extra help. 

Analysis and Commentary

Paul Romer On Growth, Cities, And The State Of Economics

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, April 22, 2019

Nobel Laureate Paul Romer of New York University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of growth, the role of cities in the economy, and the state of economics. Romer also reflects on his time at the World Bank and why he left his position there as Chief Economist.

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