The Long Run Blog

Critical Thinking on Money, Finance, and Economics

My Favorite EconTalk podcasts

Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk, occasionally makes the point economics is referred to as the “dismal science“. Those who refer to economics that way have never listened to Russ’ podcast. Listening to EconTalk always leaves me feeling a little bit better about the world.

The media and politicians like to spin economics in a way that makes you scared and favorable to whatever solution they happen to offer. Russ in his podcast frequently examines these claims and exposes them either as false or highly misleading. For example, Russ many times points out it’s a myth America doesn’t make anything anymore, that its manufacturing base is being hollowed out. America is the world’s largest manufacturer. America just becomes increasingly efficient over time. America can make more with less people. When your economy can make more with fewer resources (be it iron or human resources) that’s actually a good thing for your economy.

Another one Russ tackles is the notion economies should strive to be self reliant. Historically, self reliant economies are subsistence economies (consider, North Korea).

Another is the notion that someone’s economic gain is another person’s loss. If taking a slice of the pie actually makes the pie bigger, no one loses.

In skepticism, you quickly learn that just because something seems to make sense, it might not actually be the case. The Monty Hall “paradox” is a great example. Russ is best when he’s taking on topics that tackle topics where reality is actually counter intuitive.

Anyway, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite EconTalk podcasts. If you’ve never heard Russ’ podcast, these are some great ones to start with:

Graham on Start-ups, Innovation, and Creativity: An interesting podcast with a venture capitalist (who claims he’s not really a VC) how technology has changed the risks involved in starting up a new company.

Eric Raymond on Hacking, Open Source, and the Cathedral and the Bazaar
: One of the originators of the open source concept stops in to talk about different incentives people have to do stuff.

Lipstein on Hospitals: A real eye opener on how people with good, private health insurance end up subsidizing the rest of healthcare.

Munger on Middlemen: Anything with guest Mike Munger is a joy to listen to. This one is doubly good. They examines the role of the middle man in business. The middle man has acquired a reputation for being a parasite but middle men perform highly valuable roles in modern economies.

Cole on the Market for New Cars: Russ actually gets a real car salesguy he bought a car from and they talk about how cars are priced.

Nye on Wine, War and Trade: Another interesting episode where Russ and the guest challenge your assumptions. Was Britain historically the free trader or was France actually a bigger free trader?

Munger on Subsidies and Externalities: Munger again. Who knew he was also a farmer? Are those massive subsidies the government pays to farmers a good thing?

Don Boudreaux on Globalization and Trade Deficits: A great intro to global trade. Is it a bad thing to send dollars abroad? Does the money really ever come back?

Munger on Fair Trade and Free Trade: Munger has some interesting insights into so called “fair trade” coffee. This show offers a great thought experiment about putting a tip jar at Wal-Mart and how that might be a bad thing.

McCraw on Schumpeter, Innovation, and Creative Destruction: A good primer on an economic concept called “creative destruction”.

Shlaes on the Great Depression: Russ and guest bust some of the myths about the Great Depression.

Boudreaux on the Economics of “Buy Local”: Is buying local really a positive? What is local? Does it stop being local when you cross an arbitrary border?

Legislators vs. Wal-Mart: Russ and guest examine everyone’s favorite whipping post.

— Karl Mamer

September 21, 2009 - Posted by | Economics, Quote, Lore, Wisdom


  1. One of my favorite podcasts next to yours. I’m listening to the Theory of Moral Sentiments read-along right now. Very thought provocative.

    Comment by Julio | September 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. I love this show too. I put together my own updated list, and some of the people working in industry came tops on my list.

    Comment by Kevin Morrill | December 24, 2012 | Reply

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