#104: Back To The Future — Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen is an economist and public intellectual par excellence.

Show notes

Selected links

Topics discussed

  • If God is dead, life is absurd and there are no rules, why shouldn’t we just commit suicide?
  • Why should we care about the distant future?
  • Does rule utilitarianism collapse into act utilitarianism?
  • How can we make decisions at all without succumbing to moral paralysis and total uncertainty?
  • Why isn’t the epistemic critique fatal to consequentialism?
  • Why didn’t Tyler donate the proceeds of Stubborn Attachments to an effective charity?
  • What is the Great Stagnation?
  • Why was 1973 the breakpoint in western productivity growth?
  • Is the Great Stagnation overdetermined?
  • What metric would Tyler look at to determine whether the Great Stagnation had ended?
  • When did Tyler first become cognisant of the Great Stagnation?
  • Does science come before technology or does technology come before science?
  • Are ideas getting harder to find?
  • The Great Stagnation and zero- or negative-sum thinking.
  • Should we be loyal to Earth?
  • What kind of governance system would Tyler establish for a hypothetical Mars colony?
  • Is the Fermi paradox closer to being resolved now that the Pentagon has released videos of UFOs?
  • What does Tyler make of Dietrich Vollrath’s argument that stagnation is a sign of our success?
  • How has the US Government’s handling of the pandemic affected Tyler’s Great Stagnation thesis?
  • Why aren’t the US and UK doing more testing?
  • Have WEIRD societies handled the pandemic worse than their non-WIERD counterparts?
  • Should we view the dwindling prestige of the Nobel Prize as a symptom of stagnation?
  • What did people in the past do better in terms of cultural practices?
  • What does Tyler make of Larry Summers’ revival of the secular stagnation hypothesis?
  • Is the demand-side story correct but for other reasons, like growing household debt?
  • Is the Great Stagnation the deep cause of the US housing bubble and financial crisis?
  • If it was an anti-bubble of panic that caused the housing crash, what caused the panic?
  • Should central banks “lean against the wind” or “clean up after”?
  • Bubbles and autism.
  • Can people who aren’t on the spectrum hack their way into non-conformity?
  • How should radical uncertainty make us less confident in our own tribe’s policy prescriptions?
  • What’s something that John Maynard Keynes got really right?
  • What’s something that Friedrich Hayek got very wrong?
  • Which one of Hayek’s works would Tyler recommend?
  • What are Tyler’s private feedback loops as a writer?
  • Why might Peter Thiel be the smartest person Tyler knows?
  • What should you infer about someone from their email response time?
  • Does Tyler take notes while reading books?
  • Should public intellectuals give more credit to their peers?
  • Why should people abstain from alcohol?
  • Why is Tom Stoppard one of the smartest people alive?
  • Why is The Odyssey superior to The Iliad?
  • Who does Tyler think will win the US presidential election – and who does he want to win?
  • What one thing would Tyler change about the US electoral system?
  • Does the US need more Girardian scapegoats?
  • Why does America need more religion?
  • What does America need most right now?

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