Russell Roberts

John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow
Biography: 

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 EconTalk.org 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

Thomas Piketty on Inequality and Capital in the 21st Century

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, September 22, 2014

Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century talks to Econtalk host Russ Roberts about the book. The conversation covers some of the key empirical findings of the book along with a discussion of their significance.

Analysis and Commentary

Paul Pfleiderer on the Misuse of Economic Models

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, September 8, 2014

Paul Pfleiderer, C.O.G. Miller Distinguished Professor of Finance at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his recent paper critiquing what Pfleiderer calls "Chameleon Models," economic models that are thought to explain the real world with little analysis of the accuracy of their assumptions. Also discussed are Akerlof's market for lemons model, Friedman's idea that assumptions do not have to be reasonable as long as the model predicts what happens in the real world, and the dangers of leaping from a model's results to making policy recommendations.

Analysis and Commentary

The Disrupters

by Russell Robertsvia Politico
Friday, September 5, 2014

I’m hardly the first person to extol the virtues of the sharing economy—the latest iteration of which comes in the form of smartphone apps like Airbnb or Uber that connect people who want somewhere to stay or a ride with people willing to provide it.

Analysis and Commentary

Nathan Blecharczyk on Airbnb and the Sharing Economy

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, September 1, 2014

Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief technology officer of Airbnb, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Airbnb, one of the earliest companies to use technology to allow individuals to share underused resources, and in the case of Airbnb, housing. Blecharczyk and Roberts discuss how a design conference and the Democratic National Convention got Airbnb started, how the company aligns incentives to overcome the trust problem of house-sharing, and the rise of technology and online social networks to make a new business model possible. Along the way, Blecharczyk gives his take on the role of luck vs. skill in entrepreneurial success and how Airbnb plans to expand its product offerings in the future.

Analysis and Commentary

Daphne Koller on Education, Coursera, and MOOCs

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, August 25, 2014

Daphne Koller of Coursera talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about online educational website Coursera and the future of education both online and via bricks-and-mortar. Koller, co-founder of Coursera with Andrew Ng, explains how Coursera partners with universities, how they try to create community and interaction, and the likely impact of widespread digital education on universities and those who want to learn. The conversation includes a discussion of why Koller left a chaired position in computer science at Stanford University to run a for-profit start-up in a crowded field.

Analysis and Commentary

Terry Anderson on the Environment and Property Rights

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, August 18, 2014

Terry Anderson, Distinguished Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about free-market environmentalism, the dynamics of the Yellowstone ecosystem, and how property rights can protect natural resources.

EconTalk
In the News

Barry Weingast on Law

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, August 11, 2014

Barry Weingast, professor of political science at Stanford University and senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the nature of law. Weingast takes issue with some of the standard views of law, and proposes a better way to understand law. The two discuss the fundamental principles of law, how it can emerge in a decentralized way to resolve disputes over property and other commercial and social interactions. Examples include Iceland, Ancient Greece, and California during the gold rush. Also considered are how laws coordinate expectations and the way that social pressure can be used to enforce law in a decentralized fashion.

EconTalk
Analysis and Commentary

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha on LinkedIn and The Alliance

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, August 4, 2014

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of professional networking site LinkedIn, and Ben Casnocha, former Chief-of-Staff of LinkedIn, talk to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about LinkedIn and their book The Alliance. Hoffman and Casnocha discuss the founding and vision of LinkedIn along with their ideas in The Alliance on how to improve employee/employer relations when turnover is high and loyalty on each side is low.

EconTalk
In the News

Sam Altman on Start-ups, Venture Capital, and the Y Combinator

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, July 28, 2014

Sam Altman, president of startup accelerating firm Y Combinator, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about Y Combinator's innovative strategy for discovering, funding, and coaching groundbreaking startups, what the company looks for in a potential startup, and Silicon Valley's attitude toward entrenched firms. The two also discuss Altman's thoughts on sectors of the economy that are ripe for innovation and how new firms are revolutionizing operations in these industries.

In the News

Chris Blattman on Cash, Poverty, and Development

by Russell Robertsvia EconTalk
Monday, July 21, 2014

Chris Blattman of Columbia University talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a radical approach to fighting poverty in desperately poor countries: giving cash to aid recipients and allowing them to spend it as they please. Blattman shares his research and cautious optimism about giving cash and discusses how infusions of cash affect growth, educational outcomes, and political behavior (including violence). The conversation concludes with a discussion of the limits of aid and the some of the moral issues facing aid activists and researchers.

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