Category Archives: Podcast

The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Otto Lehto.


Petersen: You’re listening to Economics Detective Radio. My guest today is Otto Lehto of King’s College London. He is formerly the chair of Finland’s Basic Income Network. Otto, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Lehto: Oh it’s my pleasure to be here.

Petersen: So our topic for today is the basic income guarantee. Otto, you approach this idea from the perspective of political philosophy, so let’s start by discussing that. How about we start by talking about two of the major figures in political philosophy: John Rawls and Robert Nozick. What do each of them have to say about the welfare state and where do your views diverge from theirs?

Lehto: That is a good point to start indeed, although it is I think a bit lamentable that we have to start from those two figures because they have dominated the discussion so much during the last 50 years. In fact, it’s very hard to have a conversation outside the boundaries set by those two figures, but they’re both geniuses. They set the stage for the discussion, certainly in philosophy but also in public policy in many respects. Continue reading The Basic Income Guarantee, Freedom, and the Welfare State with Otto Lehto

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Supersonic Flight, Technology, and the Overland Ban with Sam Hammond

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Sam Hammond.


Petersen: My guest today is Sam Hammond. He’s a policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. Sam, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Hammond: Hi!

Petersen: Our topic today is supersonic air travel.

Sam has written an article titled “Make America Boom Again” along with co-author Eli Dourado which revisits the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on supersonic flight over the United States. So Sam let’s start at the very start. Let’s start by talking about the history of flight. How do we get from the Wright brothers to supersonic flight?

Hammond: Well I think the most notable thing about the early history of aviation is how quickly and how rapidly we innovated. So the Wright brothers flew their initial voyage, their milestone flight in 1903 at seven miles per hour and within forty years we were already breaking the speed of sound. And actually very shortly after that not only were we breaking the speed of sound within military jets but we were on the cusp of commercializing it through the Concorde. Continue reading Supersonic Flight, Technology, and the Overland Ban with Sam Hammond

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The Second Ehrlich-Simon Wager with Joanna Szurmak

Today’s interview features Joanna Szurmak of the University of Toronto. Our topic for today is the second proposed bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon. Joanna has written a paper titled “Care to Wager Again? An Appraisal of Paul Ehrlich’s Counter-Bet Offer to Julian Simon” along with coauthors Vincent Geloso and Pierre Desrochers, both former guests of this show. We mentioned the original Simon-Ehrlich bet briefly in my conversation with Steve Horwitz, but in this episode we talk about it in more detail.

Julian Simon had a cornucopian vision of development and humanity. In his view, things are getting better as we develop new ideas for improving our lives and our world. Paul Ehrlich has precisely the opposite vision. He has been predicting environmental catastrophe since the 1960s. Continue reading The Second Ehrlich-Simon Wager with Joanna Szurmak

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The Upside of Inequality with Ed Conard

My guest today is Ed Conard, here to discuss his recent book, The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class. He is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former managing director at Bain Capital.

His 2012 book, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong was a New York Times bestseller. Because his business partner Mitt Romney was running for President at the time, many people expected the book to be a defense of the one percent. It wasn’t, but this new book is!

We had a wide-ranging discussion that touched on inequality, immigration, entrepreneurship, finance, and housing.
Download this episode.

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Space Debris, Governance, and the Economics of Space with Alex Salter

What follows is an edited transcript of my interview with Alex Salter about the economics of space. The first half deals primarily with the issue of space debris, while the second half deals with the possibility of private governance in space. There’s something in this episode for everyone to enjoy, so I hope you’ll listen, read, and share it with your friends.


Petersen: My guest today is Alex Salter of Texas Tech University. Alex, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Salter: Thanks very much for having me.

Petersen: Our topic today is the economics of space. Alex has written two papers on the subject. The first is entitled, “Space Debris: A Law and Economics Analysis of the Orbital Commons.” The second is, “Ordering the Cosmos: Private Law and Celestial Property Rights.”

So Alex, let’s start by talking about space debris. What is it and why does it matter?

Salter: So space debris is basically junk in space that no longer serves any useful purpose. So as you can imagine, since the first piece of space debris launched up in 1957—which was the rocket body from Sputnik I—a lot of orbits around the Earth, especially low Earth orbit, have become kind of cluttered with space junk. And the reason it gets cluttered is because no one has an incentive to clean it up. Continue reading Space Debris, Governance, and the Economics of Space with Alex Salter

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Re-thinking the U-Curve of Inequality with Vincent Geloso

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Vincent Geloso.


Petersen: My guest today is Vincent Geloso of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. Vincent, welcome to Economics Detective Radio.

Geloso: It’s a pleasure to be here.

Petersen: So the paper we’ll be discussing today is titled “A U-curve of Inequality? Measuring Inequality in the Interwar Period” which Vincent has co-authored with John Moore and Phillips Schlosser. The paper casts doubt on the claim from, most notably, Thomas Piketty and others that inequality fell from the 1920s to the 1960s and rose thereafter. So, Vincent let’s start by discussing the inequality literature prior to this paper. What is this U-curve and where did it come from?

Geloso: The U-curve is probably the most important stylized fact we have now in the debate over inequality and the idea is that, if you look at the twentieth century, there’s a high point of inequality in the 1910s, 1920s and then from the 1930s onwards up to 1970s, it falls dramatically to very low levels and re-increases thereafter, returning to 1920s-like levels of inequality. So the U-curve is the story of inequality in the twentieth century. It’s mostly a U.S. story because for other countries it looks less like the U-curve than an inverted J. So it’s higher in the 1920s, it still falls like in the U.S. but really increases much more modestly than the United States in places like Sweden, or France, or Canada. But the general story is that there was a high level of inequality at the beginning of the century well up to the mid-second-half of the twentieth century and it re-increased in the latter years and then we have been on a surge since then. Continue reading Re-thinking the U-Curve of Inequality with Vincent Geloso

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How Land Use Restrictions Make Housing Unaffordable with Emily Hamilton

What follows is an edited transcript of my conversation with Emily Hamilton about land use regulations’ effects on affordable housing.


Petersen: My guest today is Emily Hamilton. She is a researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Emily, thanks for being on Economics Detective Radio.

Hamilton: Thanks a lot for having me.

Petersen: So, Emily recently wrote a paper titled “How Land Use Regulation Undermines Affordable Housing” along with her co-author Sanford Ikeda. The paper is a review of many studies looking at land use restrictions and it identifies four of the most common types of land use restrictions. Those are: minimum lots sizes, minimum parking requirements, inclusionary zoning, and urban growth boundaries. So Emily, could you tell us what each of those restrictions entail?

Hamilton: Sure. So, starting off with the first, minimum lots sizes. This is probably what people most commonly associate with zoning. It’s the type of Euclidian zoning that separates residential areas from businesses and then within residential areas limits the number of units that can be on any certain size of land. And this is the most common tool that makes up what is sometimes referred to as Snob Zoning, where residents lobby for larger minimum lots sizes and larger house sizes to ensure that their neighbors are people who can afford only that minimum size of housing. Continue reading How Land Use Restrictions Make Housing Unaffordable with Emily Hamilton

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Writing and Thinking Less Badly with Mike Munger

In this episode, I discuss the process of writing and being successful with Mike Munger. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.


Petersen: My guest today is Mike Munger of Duke University. Mike, welcome to Economics Detective Radio!

Munger: It’s a pleasure to be on your show!

Petersen: So first I stole EconTalk’s format and now I have stolen Mike Munger as well, so if Russ Roberts sends me a cease and desist letter, I’ll completely understand why.

Munger: Russ and I have an open relationship. We both date other people.

Petersen: Oh good, good. I have many jokes I could make about that, but I won’t!

Munger: Thank you for not.

Petersen: So, our topic today is going to be writing and thinking. Let’s say that because, as we’ll go through, the two are intimately related. So Mike wrote a piece titled “Ten Tips on How to Write Less Badly.” Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Hey I thought this was an economics podcast! What does writing have to do with economics?” Continue reading Writing and Thinking Less Badly with Mike Munger

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New York Urbanism with Stephen Smith

Today’s guest is Stephen Smith, he is an analyst for a New York real estate firm.

Stephen did some research showing that at least 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built under today’s zoning regulations. In fact, the number is probably significantly higher. Classic landmarks like the Empire State Building, with its floor-area ratio of 30, wouldn’t fly today. Continue reading New York Urbanism with Stephen Smith

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Democracy Versus Epistocracy with Jason Brennan

My guest today is Jason Brennan of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He is the author of Against Democracy, which is our topic for this episode. The first chapter is available on the publisher’s website.

John Stuart Mill believed that getting more people involved in politics would make them smarter, more concerned for the common good, better educated, and nobler. In the intervening century and a half, we’ve gathered much more data on Mill’s hypothesis, and the results don’t look good:

The test results are now in. They are, I will hold, largely negative. I think Mill would agree. Most common forms of political engagement not only fail to educate or ennoble us but also tend to stultify and corrupt us. (p. 2)

Continue reading Democracy Versus Epistocracy with Jason Brennan

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