Monday, 6 August 2012

EconTalk .... for four weeks

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his recent book, The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz argues that the American economy is dysfunctional, benefitting only those at the very top while the bulk of the workforce sees little or no gain in their standard of living over recent decades. Stiglitz blames this result on deregulation and the political power of the financial sector and others at the top. He wants an increase in regulation and the role of government in the economy and a more transparent Federal Reserve Bank that he blames for coddling the financial sector. The conversation also includes a discussion of the Keynesian multiplier.
Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about why we get fat and the nature of evidence in a complex system. The current mainstream view is that we get fat because we eat too much and don't exercise enough. Taubes challenges this seemingly uncontroversial argument with a number of empirical observations, arguing instead that excessive carbohydrate consumption causes obesity. In this conversation he explains how your body reacts to carbohydrates and explains why the mainstream argument of "calories in/calories out" is inadequate for explaining obesity. He also discusses the history of the idea of carbohydrates' importance tracing it back to German and Austrian nutritionists whose work was ignored after WWII. Roberts ties the discussion to other emergent, complex phenomena such as the economy. The conversation closes with a discussion of the risks of confirmation bias and cherry-picking data to suit one's pet hypotheses.
David Brady, Professor of Political Science and the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the November elections in the United States. Brady argues that while the economy favors the challenger, Mitt Romney, current polling data gives a slight edge to President Obama in both the popular vote and the electoral college. The data all suggest that House will stay Republican and the Senate will either go slightly Republican or be tied. Brady also discusses why this may change over the next few months, the importance of the independent vote, and Romney's strategy in choosing a running mate.
Scott Atlas, Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and author of In Excellent Health, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the U.S. health care system. Atlas argues that the U.S. health care system is top-notch relative to other countries and that data that show otherwise rely on including factors unrelated to health care or on spurious definitions. For example, life expectancy in the United States is unexceptional. When you take out suicides and fatal car accidents, factors that Atlas argues are unrelated to the health care system, the United States has the longest life expectancy in the world. A similar change occurs when measuring infant mortality--foreign data do not include as many at-risk births as in the United States and the measure of a birth is not comparable. In a number of other areas including cancer survival rates, access to hip replacement surgery and waiting times to see a physician, Atlas argues that the United States is also at or near the top. The discussion concludes with a discussion of access to health care for the poor and the failure of Medicaid.

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