ezra klein

Halo, saya Ezra Klein. Selamat datang di “Pertunjukan Ezra Klein.”

[TEMA MUSIK BERMAIN]

Saya tidak pernah yakin bagaimana cara memperkenalkan Tyler Cowen. Pada satu tingkat, itu mudah. Cowen adalah seorang ekonom di Universitas George Mason. Dia salah satu pendiri blog hebat, Revolusi Marginal, yang telah saya baca selama bertahun-tahun. Dia pembawa acara podcast “Conversations with Tyler,” kolumnis untuk Bloomberg Opinion, direktur program hibah Emergent Ventures, penulis banyak buku.

Saya bisa terus berjalan, tetapi dimensi Tyler yang tak terlukiskan adalah bahwa dia adalah bentuk polymath yang benar-benar langka. Dia membaca tentang segalanya, tetapi yang lebih penting untuk memahaminya, dia pergi ke mana-mana. Dia berbicara kepada semua orang. Dia bisa menghargai segala macam hal — pria yang sangat, sangat, sangat berwawasan luas. Ini adalah sesuatu yang kita dapatkan menjelang akhir percakapan, tetapi perbedaan penting antara Tyler dan banyak orang pintar yang saya temui adalah pembelajarannya sangat diwujudkan.

Dia tidak hanya berpikir, dia pergi. Ini memberinya kualitas kebijaksanaan yang, setidaknya menurut pengalaman saya, cukup langka. Ada banyak hal yang tidak kami setujui: Tyler cenderung ke arah spektrum libertarian. Tapi aku selalu belajar darinya, selalu. Tetapi alasan khusus saya ingin berbicara dengan Tyler sekarang adalah karena salah satu ide besarnya akan segera berakhir, menurut pengakuannya sendiri. Beberapa tahun yang lalu, Cowen menulis apa yang bisa dibilang bukunya yang paling berpengaruh, "The Great Stagnation," dengan alasan bahwa kita hidup melalui perlambatan multi-dekade dalam laju perubahan teknologi.

Dan itu berada di balik banyak masalah ekonomi dan sosial yang tampaknya tidak terhubung. Tapi sekarang, itu sudah berakhir. Perubahan telah dipercepat. Kami melihat inovasi yang cepat di seluruh ilmu biomedis, di seluruh teknologi — seperti yang dia katakan, internet telah menjadi inti dari semua yang kami lakukan. Dan dengan perubahan teknologi yang cepat, muncul dislokasi baru, gangguan baru, masalah baru, dan tentu saja peluang baru.

Jadi saya ingin berbicara dengannya tentang momen teknologi yang kita hadapi, tetapi juga tentang bagaimana hal itu berhubungan dengan sesuatu yang lebih dalam dalam cara dia berpikir tentang dunia. Bagi Tyler, pertumbuhan ekonomi adalah keharusan moral utama. Ya, G.D.P. merindukan banyak hal — khususnya, dan kita membicarakan ini, ia merindukan iklim. Tapi G.D.P. juga mengambil lebih dari yang Anda pikirkan. Ini mengambil, terus terang, lebih dari ukuran yang begitu sederhana memiliki hak untuk.

Dan jika Anda yakin masa depan sama pentingnya dengan masa kini, seperti yang dilakukan Tyler, maka pertumbuhan, yang didorong oleh inovasi teknologi, menjadi salah satu kewajiban moral terpenting yang kita miliki, setidaknya selama dilakukan secara berkelanjutan. . Jadi di situlah kita memulai percakapan ini, tetapi Anda akan melihat bahwa itu sama sekali bukan di mana kita mengakhirinya. Seperti biasa, email saya adalah ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com. Selalu tertarik dengan saran tamu Anda, atau hanya rekomendasi. Banyak yang sekarang mengirimi saya email, menyuruh saya memainkan game Disco Elysium.

Dan saya akan mencoba begitu datang ke Switch, tapi ya, ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

Tyler Cowen, selalu menyenangkan.

tyler cowen

Ezra, senang mendengar kabar dari Anda.

ezra klein

Jadi, seperti banyak kaum liberal, saya sangat khawatir tentang perubahan iklim. Saya sangat khawatir tentang kemiskinan. Saya khawatir tentang lebih banyak orang yang memiliki perawatan kesehatan yang baik. Mengapa saya harus khawatir secara langsung tentang pertumbuhan ekonomi?

tyler cowen

Saya menganggap pertumbuhan ekonomi sebagai salah satu cara yang baik untuk mengatasi semua masalah itu. Jadi misalnya, ambil kemiskinan. Masyarakat yang sebagian telah memperbaiki masalah kemiskinannya adalah masyarakat yang mengalami tingkat pertumbuhan ekonomi yang tinggi: Jepang, Korea Selatan, sampai batas tertentu Cina, Singapura, sebelumnya Hong Kong, Amerika Serikat. Tidak ada cara untuk memperbaiki kemiskinan yang tidak berpusat pada pertumbuhan ekonomi.

Jika Anda mengambil perubahan iklim — seperti Anda, saya menyukai pajak karbon, tetapi saya tidak yakin kita akan melakukannya. Jadi kita membutuhkan tingkat inovasi teknologi yang ekstrim. Itu juga bagian dari pertumbuhan ekonomi. Jika kita memikirkan perawatan kesehatan, ancaman terbesar baru-baru ini adalah Covid-19. Untungnya, kami memiliki beberapa vaksin yang cukup bagus. Itu adalah hasil dari inovasi dan pertumbuhan ekonomi. Kita mungkin memiliki vaksin untuk melawan malaria, CRISPR melawan anemia sel sabit — kemajuan yang fantastis.

Dan sekali lagi, pertumbuhan ekonomi sampai batas tertentu berada di balik semua itu.

ezra klein

Namun, contoh perubahan iklim menggigit, karena salah satu alasan saya pikir banyak orang di kiri menjadi lebih kecewa dengan pertumbuhan adalah kita telah hidup melalui periode yang panjang di mana kita memiliki pertumbuhan yang cukup banyak. Dan rasanya pertumbuhan telah mengorbankan iklim yang stabil. Hal itu menimbulkan kecurigaan terhadap — cara kita mengukur pertumbuhan tidak tepat, tetapi juga ke gerakan yang lebih langsung melawan pertumbuhan, orang-orang yang menyebut diri mereka de-pertumbuhan, yang mengatakan bahwa jika kita akan terus memiliki planet yang layak huni , kita sebenarnya perlu melepaskan keyakinan ini bahwa jalan menuju kehidupan yang lebih baik adalah pertumbuhan materi tanpa henti.

tyler cowen

Nah, katakanlah Anda lahir di Cina, kan. China telah menjadi pencemar nomor satu dunia, termasuk untuk emisi karbon. Tapi saya masih berpikir dunia secara keseluruhan jauh lebih baik di sepanjang jalan di mana China pindah dari pendapatan per kapita sekitar $200 per tahun ke, sekarang, status pendapatan menengahnya. Jadi begitu itu terjadi, kita perlu memperbaiki masalahnya. Tapi saya tidak berpikir kita harus menyesali Revolusi Industri atau penggunaan batu bara atau kebangkitan Cina.

Tapi sekarang, kita benar-benar perlu melakukan segala kemungkinan untuk memperbaiki dan membalikkan perubahan iklim.

ezra klein

Apakah G.D.P. metrik yang baik untuk mengukur pertumbuhan?

tyler cowen

Ini adalah barang dan jasa yang dicatat dalam transaksi pasar selama tahun itu. Jadi itu hanya satu bagian dari kehidupan manusia, tetapi jika Anda benar-benar mencoba menghubungkannya, katakanlah, G.D.P., G.D.P. pertumbuhan, dengan ukuran lain dari kesejahteraan manusia, mereka berkorelasi sangat kuat. Jika Anda bertanya, ke mana para migran ingin pindah? Biasanya, katakanlah, negara-negara dengan PDB tinggi. pertumbuhan. Di mana Anda berharap Anda dilahirkan?

Banyak metrik yang berbeda — di mana hak-hak perempuan, biasanya, tidak selalu, tetapi biasanya yang tertinggi, sekali lagi, akan berada di negara-negara kaya. Ketika datang ke lingkungan, saya pikir itu adalah ukuran yang cukup buruk, tetapi saya pikir untuk sebagian besar pertanyaan lain, ini seringkali merupakan ukuran yang cukup bagus dan agak diremehkan. Masalah terbesar lainnya dengan G.D.P. sebagai metrik itu tidak menghitung dengan benar baik produksi rumah tangga atau waktu luang, dan itu adalah masalah nyata.

Kita bisa menyesuaikannya, saya pikir, relatif mudah. Namun jika menyangkut masalah lingkungan, kami tidak pandai menyesuaikannya. Kami hanya tahu mereka sangat besar.

ezra klein

Ada baris Robert F. Kennedy yang terkenal ini, bahwa G.D.P. mengukur segala sesuatu kecuali yang membuat hidup berharga. Dan apa yang dikatakan di sana adalah betapa bersihnya air Anda, bagaimana rasanya menghabiskan akhir pekan bersama cucu-cucu Anda, atau bersama anak-anak Anda, atau makan malam yang menyenangkan di rumah Anda bersama teman-teman. Jadi ada upaya terus-menerus untuk menciptakan ukuran yang akan melacak hal-hal tak berwujud yang kuat dari kehidupan lebih dekat.

Jadi Anda akan melihat indeks kebahagiaan seperti ini. Ekonom terkemuka Joe Stiglitz memimpin sebuah kelompok beberapa tahun yang lalu mencoba menciptakan sekeranjang tindakan yang lebih besar yang akan membahas hal ini lebih dekat. Bagaimana Anda menilai langkah-langkah alternatif ini? Apakah ada di antara mereka yang menarik bagi Anda?

tyler cowen

Saya pikir mereka hebat. Ini pekerjaan yang luar biasa. Tak satu pun dari mereka cukup menangkap kesejahteraan manusia. Tapi ada makalah yang sangat bagus oleh ekonom Stanford Charles Jones, dan mereka berkorelasi dengan G.D.P. lintas negara lebih dari 0,9, jadi mereka bergerak sangat dekat dengan kekayaan. Dan Anda dapat memperdebatkan penyebab mana, tetapi sekali lagi, untuk mempertimbangkan G.D.P. hanya sebagai metrik, itu akan menangkap sejumlah apa yang membuat hidup benar-benar berharga — memiliki kemampuan untuk bersantai, berada di lingkungan stres yang lebih rendah, memiliki perawatan kesehatan yang lebih baik, memiliki sumber daya untuk mengunjungi cucu-cucu Anda, dan sebagainya.

ezra klein

Jadi ini menurut saya menjadi poin penting yang Anda buat tentang G.D.P., yaitu jika Anda melihatnya sebagai ukuran, itu banyak yang hilang. Tetapi untuk alasan apa pun, itu berkorelasi dengan hal-hal lain dengan cukup baik — mengesampingkan masalah lingkungan, yang tidak. Tetapi banyak hal lain yang mungkin Anda inginkan dalam hidup — Anda menyebutkan hak-hak perempuan. Ada banyak hak asasi manusia yang berkorelasi baik dengan G.D.P. untuk alasan apa pun. GDP telah, setidaknya sampai sekarang, menjadi pelacak yang cukup bagus untuk hal-hal yang sebenarnya tidak diukur secara langsung.

tyler cowen

Tentu. Saya juga akan menekankan poinnya: banyak variabel lingkungan berkorelasi positif dengan PDB. Kami tidak memiliki polutan dalam ruangan yang membakar begitu banyak, yang tampaknya menelan jutaan nyawa di seluruh dunia. Jadi emisi karbon tidak, tetapi banyak variabel lingkungan meningkat seiring dengan kekayaan.

ezra klein

Jadi saya ingin beralih ke pentingnya pertumbuhan jangka panjang. Dan ini adalah inti dari buku “Keterikatan Keras Kepala” yang Anda tulis. Dan inti dari argumen itu adalah poin Anda bahwa waktu adalah ilusi moral. Bagaimana apanya?

tyler cowen

Saya tidak berpikir kita harus menghitung acara dengan lebih sedikit hanya karena itu lebih jauh di masa depan. Jadi misalnya, jika kita akan mengubur limbah kimia atau nuklir berbahaya, dan 100 tahun dari sekarang, itu akan membunuh 100 orang, saya pikir kita harus menghitungnya sama dengan membunuh ratusan orang sekarang. Di bawah beberapa pendekatan ekonomi, kami akan mengurangi kematian itu sebesar 3 persen, 5 persen, 7 persen. Dan dengan diskon yang diperparah, jika kematian cukup jauh di masa depan, mereka akan mendekati nol.

Saya pikir itu salah secara moral. Tingkat diskonto yang benar untuk keputusan semacam itu pada dasarnya adalah nol.

ezra klein

Tetapi jika Anda menganggapnya serius, Anda masuk ke tempat di mana kelompok altruis efektif yang menganggap diri mereka sebagai jangka panjang pergi, yaitu, karena Anda dapat membayangkan masa depan yang jauh memiliki begitu banyak puluhan miliar, ratusan miliar, triliunan manusia tersebar di seluruh galaksi, apa pun yang Anda pikir akan menciptakan 0,001 persen dari masa depan yang akan terjadi hanyalah lebih penting daripada apa pun yang dapat Anda lakukan sekarang.

tyler cowen

Yah, saya pikir implikasi intuitif dari berpikir tentang masalah dengan cara itu adalah kita harus menghabiskan lebih banyak sumber daya untuk membatasi apa yang disebut risiko eksistensial: pastikan peradaban kita tidak hilang, lebih memperhatikan, katakanlah, senjata pemusnah massal atau senjata pemusnah massal. kemungkinan asteroid menabrak bumi. Dan saya sepenuhnya menerima kesimpulan itu. Aku akan menggigit peluru itu. Saya ada di kapal. Ayo lakukan.

ezra klein

Anda memiliki argumen yang menyenangkan dalam buku ini, menggunakan Einstein untuk menjelaskan hal ini tentang waktu. Apakah Anda ingin membicarakannya?

tyler cowen

Tentu. Jika kita berpikir tentang teori relativitas umum Einstein, yang tampaknya sangat dikonfirmasi, alam semesta adalah semacam blok ruang-waktu empat dimensi yang beku, yang dapat Anda amati sebagai benda statis jika Anda sendiri entah bagaimana bepergian dengan kecepatan lampu. Dan dari sudut pandang itu, waktu adalah ilusi. Jadi mungkin, secara moral, kita harus lebih terbuka terhadap kemungkinan bahwa waktu adalah ilusi. Menunda kunjungan Anda ke dokter gigi, pada dasarnya, bukanlah hal yang baik secara moral untuk dilakukan.

Anda entah bagaimana membuat rasa sakit Anda kurang dari alam semesta hanya dengan pergi nanti. Dan mungkin sebagai masyarakat, kita terlalu impulsif dan terlalu berorientasi jangka pendek. Dan yang kembali ke perubahan iklim — benar, salah satu masalah dalam memeranginya adalah orang-orang terlalu berorientasi jangka pendek. Mereka tidak menginginkan tagihan gas yang lebih tinggi sekarang, atau tagihan pemanas rumah. Dan kami memiliki masalah ini. Itu bahkan tidak terlalu jauh lagi, tetapi kami tidak cukup mengindahkannya.

ezra klein

Jadi, masalah lainnya, begitu Anda mulai memandang waktu secara khusus, adalah sifat majemuk dari pertumbuhan ekonomi. Dan apa yang terjadi pada pandangan Anda tentang dunia ketika Anda mulai menghargai itu? Ada kalimat lama dari ekonom pemenang Nobel Robert Lucas, di mana dia mengatakan, begitu seseorang mulai berpikir tentang pertumbuhan eksponensial, sulit untuk memikirkan hal lain. Dapatkah Anda mencoba menjelaskan seintuitif mungkin apa artinya berpikir dalam kaitannya dengan pertumbuhan ekonomi yang majemuk?

tyler cowen

Tentu. Berikut adalah contoh sederhana. Jika Anda mengambil periode waktu 1890 hingga 1980, jika ekonomi AS telah tumbuh per tahun satu poin persentase lebih sedikit, yang terdengar seperti sedikit, tetapi kita akan pada tahun 1980 memiliki standar hidup Meksiko, bukan Amerika Serikat. Jadi, bahkan satu poin persentase pertumbuhan yang diperparah dari waktu ke waktu sangat berarti. Ambil contoh negara Denmark — benar, salah satu tempat terbaik untuk tinggal. Sulit untuk menemukan tahun-tahun di mana Denmark tumbuh seperti yang dilakukan China. Sulit untuk menemukan tahun di mana Denmark tumbuh di atas 4 persen, saya pikir, selain tepat setelah masa perang.

Tetapi Denmark adalah petani yang sangat stabil dan mereka memiliki periode pertumbuhan yang panjang. Dan pengembalian majemuk biasanya lebih penting daripada yang dipikirkan orang. Saya pikir itu adalah ilusi kognitif yang juga kita derita selama pandemi. Jadi Covid-19, jika Anda tidak mencoba menghentikannya, tumbuh dengan kecepatan majemuk, tingkat majemuk yang sangat cepat, terutama dengan Delta. Dan kami picik dan kami tidak melihat seberapa buruk yang akan terjadi, dalam hal ini, cukup cepat.

ezra klein

Sehingga kemudian memberikan beban yang luar biasa pada perubahan pertumbuhan yang menurut Anda mungkin bersifat jangka panjang, tetapi itu relatif marjinal. Jadi Anda berbicara tentang poin persentase. Dan kedengarannya kecil, tapi kita sering tumbuh pada dua, tiga, empat poin persentase. Jadi sebenarnya tidak kecil. Maksud saya, itu adalah bagian besar dari pertumbuhan kami. Tapi 2/10 dari poin persentase cukup kecil. Tetapi dalam model ini, yang menurut saya benar, 2/10 poin persentase, jika dipertahankan selama 20 tahun, itu cukup besar.

tyler cowen

Tentu. Dan bertahan lebih dari 100 tahun, itu jauh lebih besar. Jadi saya pikir implikasinya adalah kita harus lebih banyak berinovasi, mencurahkan lebih banyak sumber daya untuk inovasi, lebih banyak untuk investasi, dan warisan terbaik yang dapat kita tinggalkan untuk generasi mendatang biasanya adalah institusi yang sehat.

ezra klein

Apakah menurut Anda ada ketegangan yang tajam antara lebih banyak pertumbuhan dan mengatasi ketidaksetaraan?

tyler cowen

Ketimpangan terbesar adalah ketidaksetaraan global, benar, jadi hanya ada miliaran orang di negara yang cukup miskin. Kabar baiknya adalah ketimpangan global sebenarnya telah menurun selama beberapa dekade terakhir. Tetapi masalah ketidaksetaraan utama adalah menyebarkan inovasi dan institusi yang baik ke Afrika, lebih banyak lagi di Asia Selatan. Dan saya pikir negara-negara kaya menjadi kaya di internet membantu upaya itu. Itu tidak menyakitinya. Jadi saya pikir hanya memikirkan pertumbuhan adalah cara untuk mendapatkan kemajuan maksimal dalam ketimpangan.

ezra klein

Tanpa menyangkal pentingnya moral dari ketidaksetaraan global — dan saya pikir Anda tahu saya setuju dengan Anda tentang itu — saya ingin membuat dua argumen tandingan di sini. Salah satunya adalah bahwa kita masih negara bangsa. Dan meskipun saya berada di sisi globalis dari distribusi politik, saya pikir penting untuk menganggap negara Anda sendiri memiliki nilai dalam hal itu. Dan dua, bahkan jika Anda tidak membelinya, dengan cara yang lebih pragmatis, jika Anda mencapai tingkat ketidaksetaraan yang sangat, sangat tinggi, saya pikir Anda mengacaukan sistem politik di dalam negara.

Dan mereka menjadi, kemudian, lebih nasionalis, lebih berpaling ke dalam. Banyak orang melihat Donald Trump setidaknya sebagian dari fenomena ini. Jadi Anda dapat mengganggu kemampuan untuk berpikir tentang orang-orang di luar perbatasan Anda sendiri, karena orang-orang di dalam perbatasan Anda merasa seperti mereka mendapatkan kesepakatan mentah. Jadi di dalam sebuah negara, di dalam Amerika, apakah Anda melihat ada ketegangan yang tajam antara pertumbuhan dan mengatasi ketidaksetaraan?

tyler cowen

Yah, saya pikir itu argumen yang bagus untuk negara kesejahteraan sosial, bahwa kita seharusnya tidak hanya mengirim semua sumber daya nasional kita ke, katakanlah, Afrika sub-Sahara. Kita harus tetap berada di jalur kita sendiri, sampai batas tertentu. Kami melakukannya dengan wajar, tetapi tidak sepenuhnya baik. Saya pikir itu sebabnya kami melakukannya, sebagian, adalah untuk menjaga stabilitas kami sendiri. Jadi saya setuju dengan itu.

ezra klein

Apakah Anda pikir ada bagian dari negara kesejahteraan sosial kita sekarang yang harus lebih besar?

tyler cowen

Lebih banyak negara bagian harus menyetujui ekspansi Medicaid akan menjadi salah satu contohnya. Saya memiliki perasaan campur aduk tentang prasekolah. Saya masih membaca literatur di sana, tetapi saya mungkin lebih skeptis daripada kebanyakan orang. Transfer tunai, menurut saya, lebih potensial. Kami memberikan terlalu banyak bantuan dalam bentuk barang. Tampaknya cara kita memberikan bantuan telah menanamkan terlalu banyak insentif buruk, terlalu banyak tarif pajak marjinal implisit yang cukup tinggi.

Sekarang, saya tahu itu tidak mudah untuk diperbaiki. Tapi saya merasa itu tidak benar seperti sekarang.

ezra klein

Saya pikir itu benar. Saya pikir pasti ada cara untuk memperbaikinya, dan saya pikir ada banyak hal yang bisa kita lakukan lebih baik melalui uang tunai daripada yang kita lakukan melalui program sekarang. Tunggu sebentar pada skeptisisme Anda terhadap pra-K. Saya skeptis terhadap beberapa klaim yang lebih luas untuk pengembalian jangka panjang, hal-hal yang akan Anda dengar tentang $1 kembali dengan $5, $6, $7 pengembalian. Saya pikir mungkin program terbaik dapat melakukan itu, tetapi Anda jarang mendapatkan tingkat kualitas itu jika Anda meluncurkannya di suatu negara.

Tapi saya pikir itu bagus di internet, dan saya pikir penting bagi orang tua untuk dapat memiliki tempat di mana mereka dapat mengirim anak-anak mereka. Jadi saya cukup pro- pra-K. Saya senang bahwa di California, mereka akan menambah satu tahun sekolah untuk anak berusia empat tahun. Apa yang membuat Anda lebih skeptis?

tyler cowen

Jika kita melihat sejarah dunia yang lebih luas, kita menemukan sejumlah bidang di mana inovasi dan pencapaian benar-benar luar biasa. Dan saya tidak yakin variabel apa yang hilang yang menyebabkannya, tetapi menurut saya tidak ada tempat yang memiliki pra-K. Mungkinkah mereka lebih baik dengan pra-K? Saya tidak tahu. Saya seorang agnostik yang membaca literatur. Tapi menurut saya, pada akhirnya, mungkin salah fokus. Dan ada sesuatu tentang pengelompokan bakat yang jauh lebih penting daripada pra-K.

ezra klein

Tapi itu sepertinya argumen yang aneh bagiku. Jadi saya pikir jika Anda melihat di Amerika sekarang, dan Anda akan mengatakan tempat di mana kita memiliki sekelompok talenta yang mendorong banyak pertumbuhan ekonomi. Anda mungkin mengatakan salah satu tempat di mana saya tinggal, di San Francisco, di Bay Area. Dan jika Anda melihat banyak orang yang mendorong cukup banyak pertumbuhan itu, saya jamin, mereka semua mengirim anak-anak mereka ke pra-K.

tyler cowen

Tetapi apakah itu karena mereka hanya memiliki sarana untuk melakukannya, dan itu nyaman? Atau apakah pra-K yang membuat Lembah Silikon menjadi Lembah Silikon? Saya ragu itu yang terakhir.

ezra klein

Itu, menurut saya, bukan klaim yang dibuat orang untuk pra-K. Tetapi mengapa Anda berpikir bahwa menambahkan pra-K mungkin membuat Lembah Silikon bukan Lembah Silikon?

tyler cowen

Saya tidak berpikir itu akan terjadi. Tapi mari kita begini. Sumber daya langka di masyarakat. Dan jika dampaknya pada anak kecil benar-benar sangat kecil, yang saya duga, saya tidak yakin itu prioritas. Seperti, haruskah kita membelanjakan uang itu secara langsung untuk mendukung inovasi? Mungkin saja lebih ampuh.

ezra klein

Apakah Anda pikir di internet kita menghabiskan terlalu banyak di akhir kehidupan dan terlalu sedikit di awal kehidupan orang?

tyler cowen

Kami menghabiskan terlalu banyak untuk orang tua. Kita harus membelanjakan lebih banyak untuk kaum muda. Tetapi apakah yang sangat, sangat muda adalah tempat untuk menghabiskannya, saya tidak yakin. Tampaknya bagi saya masalah utamanya adalah keluarga yang berantakan, daripada tidak adanya pra-K, per se. Dan saya tidak yakin apa cara terbaik untuk menghabiskan uang untuk membatasi jumlah keluarga yang berantakan, tetapi saya pikir saya akan lebih fokus pada masalah itu. Kami memiliki terlalu banyak keluarga dengan orang tua tunggal.

Dan saya pikir di sebelah kiri, masih ada kebutaan terhadap masalah itu. Sulit untuk mengakui mengingat sisa pandangan dunia mereka.

ezra klein

Saya setuju bahwa ada masalah dalam keluarga yang berantakan. Saya tidak berpikir kita tahu apa yang harus dilakukan untuk menyelesaikannya. Jadi saya cenderung setuju dengan orang-orang di sebelah kiri yang mengatakan bahwa stresor keuangan dan stres perawatan anak adalah cara penting di mana keluarga berakhir di bawah tekanan yang mengerikan. Dan setidaknya merupakan hipotesis yang masuk akal untuk mencoba membantu mereka. Saya tidak berpikir Anda bisa sepenuhnya mengatakan ini kausal. Anda tahu literatur di sini mungkin lebih baik daripada saya.

Tapi satu hal yang sangat jelas di dalamnya adalah keluarga lebih stabil seiring dengan meningkatnya distribusi pendapatan. Dan tentu saja, Anda bisa mengatakan itu karena ada sesuatu yang berbeda tentang distribusi pendapatan orang. Tapi hal lain yang bisa Anda katakan adalah bahwa keluarga dengan distribusi pendapatan memiliki uang untuk dibelanjakan untuk mengurangi stres dalam hidup mereka. Dan itu tampaknya benar secara intuitif bagi saya. Saya tahu lebih sulit bagi saya dan istri saya ketika kami kehilangan penitipan anak selama beberapa minggu karena pandemi atau hal lain. Itu tidak baik untuk hubungan kita.

Jadi saya cenderung berpikir itu setidaknya pendekatan yang masuk akal untuk mencoba memperluas lebih banyak kemudahan itu lebih jauh ke bawah tangga pendapatan.

tyler cowen

Saya akan dengan senang hati membaca makalah yang mencoba menunjukkan hal itu. Saya belum pernah melihat makalah seperti itu berhasil. Mungkin ada di luar sana dan saya tidak mengetahuinya. Saya tidak berpikir itu akan konsisten dengan bukti deret waktu. Dan Anda harus memilah kausalitas. Tetapi tidak jelas bagi saya bahwa, katakanlah, taman kanak-kanak untuk anak-anak akan membantu menjaga keluarga tetap bersama.

ezra klein

Saya tidak berpikir saya perlu membuat argumen besar untuk pra-K pada skor itu, tetapi saya mungkin untuk hal-hal seperti penghasilan dasar. Ini akan menarik untuk dilihat. Maksud saya, Anda bisa — ada argumen yang berlawanan, karena itu memberi orang kebebasan. Dan saya cenderung sedikit lebih agnostik — jika orang ingin mengambil kebebasan itu, maka saya cenderung berpikir mereka tahu sesuatu tentang kehidupan mereka yang tidak saya ketahui, dan pernikahan mereka yang tidak saya ketahui. Tetapi dunia dengan keinginan yang lebih sedikit tampaknya bagi saya seperti dunia yang lebih baik untuk pernikahan, tetapi mungkin saya akan terbukti salah.

tyler cowen

Saya cenderung berpikir bahwa penghasilan dasar akan membagi lebih banyak keluarga — sekali lagi, dalam beberapa kasus, secara optimal. Jadi, jika suami memukuli istri, kan, Anda ingin keluarga berpisah, biasanya. Tetapi saya pikir kita masih membutuhkan cara lain untuk mencapai tujuan dengan berbuat lebih banyak untuk mendorong keluarga dengan orang tua ganda. Dan saya setuju, kita tidak tahu bagaimana melakukannya.

ezra klein

Mari kita kembali ke pendorong pertumbuhan ekonomi. Berbicara tentang hal-hal yang kami tahu berhasil: jika Tyler Cowen memiliki tongkat ajaib dan Anda dapat menerapkan beberapa kebijakan di negara ini yang menurut Anda akan menambah pertumbuhan jangka panjang kami, apa yang akan berada di urutan teratas daftar Anda?

tyler cowen

Nah, meningkatkan cara kita melakukan pendanaan sains akan sangat dekat dengan daftar teratas saya. Saya pikir kita telah melihat selama pandemi bahwa banyak pendanaan sains kita bagus untuk tugas jangka panjang, tetapi cukup sklerotik dan lambat untuk merespons, seperti halnya F.D.A. telah. Jadi jika Anda melihat N.I.H., atau National Science Foundation, mereka seharusnya melakukan repurposisi dana yang jauh lebih cepat untuk memerangi Covid-19, misalnya. Jadi mereka terlalu birokratis, dan saya pikir kita harus mendirikan beberapa agensi baru dan memulai dari awal, seperti yang dilakukan Inggris, dan memiliki model yang lebih dinamis.

Jadi itu akan dekat dengan bagian atas daftar saya.

ezra klein

Apa artinya memiliki lembaga pendanaan yang kurang birokratis? Anda sudah masuk ke dalam nyali ini. Kami akan berbicara tentang hal-hal seperti hibah cepat dan usaha yang muncul di podcast ini, yang telah Anda siapkan untuk mendorong pendanaan ilmiah yang lebih cepat, dan untuk menemukan bakat. Apa yang telah Anda pelajari tentang apa yang salah dengan proses pendanaan ilmiah, yang tidak akan jelas bagi seseorang yang hanya mendengar bahwa itu adalah birokrasi?

tyler cowen

Bahwa bahkan selama keadaan darurat, sebagian besar keputusan tidak dibuat dengan sangat cepat. Percepatan pendanaan dari N.I.H. masih bisa memakan waktu empat hingga lima bulan, dan itu selama pandemi di mana setiap hari penting. Dan lembaga memiliki prosedur mereka. Dan kami telah melihat ini juga dengan C.D.C. Setiap bagian dari pemerintah kita yang telah menanggapi pandemi ini telah berlayar dengan prosedur sebelumnya.

Dan ada sesuatu di beberapa pemerintahan Asia Timur yang Anda miliki — orang-orang di pemerintahan duduk di meja dan menunjukkan kesediaan untuk melakukan sesuatu secara kreatif, kurang lebih secara mendadak. Dan banyak dari pemerintah itu berhasil dengan itu. Dan kami tidak memiliki itu. Pemerintah kita diarahkan untuk tujuan lain. Jadi saya pikir untuk membantu sains, kita perlu, di pinggiran, untuk memperbaikinya.

ezra klein

Saya setuju dengan itu. Tapi izinkan saya menawarkan dorongan, yang merupakan sesuatu yang saya ingin Anda lihat lebih lanjut di sini. Anda telah, untuk sebagian besar hidup Anda, bagian dari gerakan libertarian yang luas. Anda, tentu saja, memiliki kritik Anda di sana. Tapi kamu adalah bagian darinya. Anda berada di Mercatus Center.

Dan satu hal yang saya tahu dari meliput pemerintah adalah itu bagian dari alasan mengapa segala sesuatunya birokratis dan bergerak lambat dan Anda harus mengajukan semuanya dalam rangkap tiga dan semuanya diperiksa berulang-ulang dan itu terlalu berhati-hati, adalah bahwa sudah ada selama beberapa dekade dan beberapa dekade upaya terorganisir dari pihak libertarian dan lembaga sayap kanan untuk mempermalukan pemerintah jika mendanai apa pun yang dapat dibuat terlihat konyol atau yang akhirnya gagal, seperti Solyndra, yang pada akhirnya tampak seperti buang-buang uang bagi orang-orang. .

Dan bagi saya tampaknya jika Anda menginginkan pemerintahan yang lebih cepat, lebih gesit, dan lebih berani mengambil risiko, Anda juga harus menenangkan para pemain ini yang ingin menunjukkan setiap kegagalan, karena terlalu takut akan kegagalan membuat Anda terlalu takut pada proses yang cepat. Saya pikir keuntungan bagi Anda dalam hibah cepat adalah Anda tidak benar-benar khawatir tentang siapa pun yang melihat dari balik bahu Anda dan meneriaki Anda. Jadi, apakah ada sesuatu yang perlu ditanggapi secara serius oleh gerakan libertarian dan hak di sini karena mereka telah menghambat operasi pemerintah?

tyler cowen

Oh, benar-benar. Saya pikir mereka telah mengacaukannya dengan sangat buruk. Dan saya telah berdebat hal yang sama dengan pendanaan seni. Sekarang, saya tidak yakin harus ada pendanaan seni pemerintah federal melalui N.E.A. di negara ini. Tetapi jika Anda ingin memilikinya, Anda ingin mengambil banyak peluang. Dan N.E.A. sebelumnya, sebelum berada di bawah begitu banyak pengawasan, memiliki lebih sedikit uang, lebih sedikit prosedur birokrasi, mungkin melakukan pekerjaan yang lebih baik dalam mendanai seni, memiliki tingkat hit yang lebih tinggi daripada N.E.A.

Dan gagasan bahwa Anda akan mengambil alih mereka untuk mendanai Mapplethorpe atau Andres Serrano saya pikir telah membuatnya jauh lebih buruk, dan lebih birokratis. Dan mereka akhirnya mengirim terlalu banyak uang ke negara bagian. Jadi saya sepenuhnya setuju dengan kritik itu, dan saya pikir itu berlaku untuk area lain juga. Kita perlu memiliki toleransi yang lebih besar terhadap kegagalan. Dan kritikus sayap kanan dan libertarian pemerintah saya pikir telah melewatkan poin itu untuk waktu yang lama.

ezra klein

Bagaimana kamu memperbaiki ini? Karena mudah untuk melihat dari perspektif sayap kanan dan libertarian bahwa jika Anda ingin mendorong agenda pemerintah yang lebih kecil, atau Anda ingin memenangkan pemilihan, maka, tentu saja, Anda ingin menunjukkan hal-hal yang tidak dilakukan oleh pemerintah. kerja. Dan Anda juga bisa mengatakan dari sudut pandang teori politik ideal, Anda menginginkan kritik terhadap pemerintah agar pemerintah tidak membuat keputusan yang buruk.

Namun ketika Anda menjalankannya secara kumulatif di seluruh proses, Anda akhirnya mendapatkan paradoks ini — semua orang tidak senang dengan pemerintah, karena tidak mengambil risiko yang cukup, itu terlalu birokratis. Dan secara bersamaan, itu selalu di bawah api. Jadi bagaimana mengubah budaya kritik pemerintah, bukan supaya hilang, tapi jadi lebih sehat, mengkritik hal yang benar.

tyler cowen

Sebagian besar adalah masalah cakrawala waktu, untuk kembali ke diskusi kita sebelumnya. Jadi Anda dapat memenangkan beberapa poin dalam jangka pendek dengan mengkritik kesalahan pemerintah, tetapi masih benar bahwa jika pemerintah kita merespons pandemi secara lebih dinamis, kita akan memiliki pemerintahan yang jauh lebih kecil di Amerika ke depan. Kami tidak akan membutuhkan banyak uang dalam bentuk stimulus atau intervensi. Dan libertarian, konservatif pemerintah kecil akan lebih dekat untuk mendapatkan apa yang mereka inginkan jika mereka tidak banyak mengeluh di beberapa titik waktu sebelumnya.

Jadi saya pikir ini adalah perusahaan yang merugikan diri sendiri. Saya tidak yakin saya memiliki cara yang efektif untuk membujuk orang. Saya mencoba melakukannya dengan memberi contoh, atau bersedia mengatakan apa yang sebenarnya saya pikirkan. Tapi saya tidak berpura-pura bahwa pandangan saya menang.

ezra klein

Ketika Anda menempatkan pendanaan ilmiah di puncak agenda pertumbuhan, apakah adil bagi saya untuk menarik dari pemikiran Anda bahwa pendorong fundamental pertumbuhan ekonomi, setidaknya di negara seperti Amerika pada saat ini, adalah inovasi teknologi?

tyler cowen

Itu mungkin hanya menyatakan kembali kesimpulannya. Saya pikir pada margin, apa yang kita butuhkan untuk menjadi lebih baik adalah menemukan dan mengidentifikasi bakat. Dan itu sebenarnya subjek buku saya berikutnya. Tapi saya tidak berpikir modal, dalam banyak kasus, adalah kendala yang mengikat. Ada banyak modal ventura di luar sana, tetapi mengidentifikasi, menemukan, memotivasi, dan memobilisasi orang-orang yang akan berbuat lebih banyak membuat saya merasa gagal. Dan Anda dapat menganggap itu sebagai sisi lain dari apa yang Anda sebut ketimpangan pendapatan sebelumnya, kan.

Jika menurut Anda ketimpangan pendapatan terlalu tinggi, Anda pasti berpikir kami tidak melakukan pekerjaan dengan baik dalam menemukan bakat.

ezra klein

Saya akan kembali ke bakat sebentar lagi. Tetapi sebelum kita sepenuhnya meninggalkan topik pemerintah dan peraturan pemerintah, saya mendorong Anda ke tempat di mana saya pikir libertarian dan konservatif kehilangan bahaya yang mereka lakukan. Dorong saya ke tempat di mana kaum liberal melakukannya. Apa yang perlu disadari oleh kaum liberal, atau lebih serius, tentang cara pemerintah dapat mempercepat inovasi dan pertumbuhan, tetapi kita menghalanginya untuk melakukannya?

tyler cowen

Saya tidak yakin liberal adalah kata yang tepat. Saya menganggap diri saya sebagai orang liberal — saya akan memasukkan Anda ke dalamnya, untuk lebih jelasnya. Tapi saya pikir garis patahan sekarang terletak di tempat yang berbeda. Tapi selain itu, saya pikir perlu diakui bahwa tidak ada proses yang benar-benar adil. Dan keluhan tentang ketidakadilan harus ditanggapi dengan sangat serius. Tetapi mereka diterapkan dengan sangat selektif, dan sebagai senjata ideologis yang tumpul. Dan proses yang Anda lihat di sebelah kiri, menurut saya, tidak lebih adil daripada yang di sebelah kanan.

Dan untuk menyadari betapa itu menjadi seperti alat dari elit kekuatan baru yang condong ke kiri, pesisir, dan berpendidikan tinggi untuk memohon keadilan untuk menjatuhkan orang, gerakan, ide-ide yang tidak disukai oleh elit itu.

ezra klein

Saya melihat ke mana Anda akan pergi pada beberapa masalah budaya yang lebih luas, tetapi beri saya contoh dalam percakapan sains yang kita bicarakan beberapa saat yang lalu.

tyler cowen

Nah, banyak orang di dunia akademis telah dibatalkan, kan. Itu akan menjadi contoh ekstrim. Saya menduga kerugian yang lebih besar adalah mereka yang tidak akan pernah dibatalkan dan hanya mengambil lebih sedikit peluang. Tidak semua orang yang dibatalkan adalah ilmuwan. But I see it within universities, where I live, that there’s a fundamental shift in terms of practical, de facto freedom of speech. It’s much lower than it used to be.

And it’s fine to say, well, you shouldn’t have the freedom of speech to say whatever offensive thing. But the long- run result of that is there’s simply less free expression and exchange of ideas. And you have a bureaucratized culture of trying to push a whole agenda, which even if you think role models are very important, in essence has bureaucratized and paralyzed the universities in this country and made them less effective.

[THEME MUSIC PLAYING]

ezra klein

I want to talk about what happens when the rate of technological innovation does slow down. Tell me the thesis of your 2011 book, “The Great Stagnation.”

tyler cowen

“The Great Stagnation” argued that the rate of productivity growth in the United States had declined since 1973. When that came out, it was considered radical. I think it’s now the conventional wisdom. But I actually think probably at this very moment, we’re getting out of the Great Stagnation, most of all in biomedical areas, which I see as extremely promising, and most concretely represented by mRNA vaccines.

So since I did the work for that book, it seemed to me the priority to get a higher rate of economic growth was to figure out what are the binding constraints, why we’re not innovating more, and do more in those directions. And I’ve actually tried to do that in my life with writings, but also with actual concrete projects, like Emergent Ventures and Fast Grants.

ezra klein

Tell me more about your view that the Great Stagnation is ending. I think that people can look out over the landscape in technology and see that a lot of things appear to be emerging all at once: mRNA vaccines, cryptocurrencies, A.I. If you simply read the headlines, you see a lot of this. But why? What is different? Is this just things that were there 10 years ago finally coming to fruition? Is it a different constellation of political forces? What do you think is the driver behind a sense that technologies that were ideas are becoming realities?

tyler cowen

What I said in 2011, in the book “The Great Stagnation,” I still think is broadly correct, that the turning point really was the internet. But it takes longer to put the internet to good use than you might think, and that we had been overrating how much the internet already was doing for us and underrating what it will do for us in the future. So just having greater exchange of ideas, a broader, more global, more diverse scientific community, more rapid exchange of ideas, nearly universal access to computing power through, say, cloud computing — all that has mattered a great deal.

And I think you see, with vaccines in particular — you mentioned the role of women. Women have played a remarkably significant set of roles in the development of those vaccines. Katalin Karikó, originally from Hungary, being the number one example — but, like, the lab for the Novavax vaccine, which probably is still coming out, that’s been mainly women. So better mobilization of talent and really putting the internet to use.

ezra klein

And I’d add to that, if you look at CRISPR, which is one of the really hyped spaces in biomedical research, I mean that’s coming out of a lab from Jennifer Doudna, from Emmanuelle Charpentier. Separately, and there’s, of course, a lot of tension between these labs, but from Feng Zhang. And you so you see there too quite a big value from the fact that we’re expanding whose talent can be seen and nurtured and used in the sciences.

tyler cowen

And this may intersect with the internet. So if you have a Jennifer Doudna or a Katalin Karikó, women all across the world know about them in a very vivid way because of the internet, so fame is less local. It’s easier to find role models with the internet, whether it be based on gender, personality type, how tall you are, whatever it might be. So that’s possibly an underappreciated benefit of online life.

ezra klein

What technologies that you think will come to fruition in the next, let’s call it, 20 years, are you most excited about right now?

tyler cowen

Well, we’ve now seen quite a few years with green energy — solar and wind power — of consistent cost declines. And it was not obvious 10 to 15 years ago that those cost declines would be so consistent. So there are still big issues with integrating those technologies into an infrastructure where power needs to be continuous. But I think we’re way ahead of schedule relative to what had been expected.

Electric cars are, way ahead of schedule, partly because of Tesla, but not only, relative to what people thought even five years ago. Right, look at the Tesla share price then compared to now. So I think green energy is another area. I wouldn’t quite say the execution is there completely. And you need it to be fairly complete to win that battle. But again, we’re ahead of schedule.

ezra klein

I want to talk about a few of the technologies that are coming and get your thoughts. I don’t want to do you do on your show, overrated and underrated, but just your impressions of where we are, and particularly what maybe people aren’t thinking about in these spaces. But let’s start with artificial intelligence.

tyler cowen

I don’t think artificial intelligence is a single thing. It’s a bunch of highly diverse systems that you build that have some common properties. We use it now, it works already. I think the consensus view on A.I. is more or less correct. I don’t think A.I. is going to destroy or take over the world. I do think it will bring a lot of social problems and unfairnesses, but in the longer run, it’s likely to be a very, very good thing.

ezra klein

A very good thing for what? What is one problem you think we have right now that A.I. could solve?

tyler cowen

A lot of jobs are meaningless or repetitive or frustrating, and A.I. will take over more of those jobs. And in the longer run. But again, with serious transition issues, the quality of jobs will be better. And many tasks will be performed for us. If I want to put something on my calendar, which I still do myself, the amount of time I spent writing on that is pretty awful. And pretty soon, there’ll be a Siri- like device where I can just talk to it and it will be done. And that will make my life clearly better.

ezra klein

It has struck me for years that it is testament to how pessimistic our political imagination is that when we talk about A.I. automating a lot of jobs that are repetitive, a lot of jobs that are dangerous, a lot of jobs that are frustrating, what we see in that is mass unemployment and loss of human dignity, as opposed to moving closer to a post- crappy job utopia.

tyler cowen

Well, look at the Industrial Revolution. So it depends when you date its start, but under some plausible datings, it takes several decades before it really leads to higher real wages in Britain. So it’s easy enough to imagine that A.I. could give us the same result in North America, maybe even likely. And ultimately, you have to decide, do you want to stick at your current standard of living, which in fact will decline if you don’t grow due to people chipping away, taking rents — right, bickering with each other.

Do you want a declining standard of living, or are you willing to move forward? And A.I. is going to be done anyway. If you imagine a world where China has incredible A.I. and we have stuck with sending emails to each other, to me, that is going to become a very ugly world. Right, we’re not just holding steady.

ezra klein

I agree with all that. And I actually agree with the more pessimistic take on how it will probably play out, with a long transition time. But the point I want to make here is that there’s nothing inevitable about that. It could be that we have — particularly once A.I. begins throwing off a fair amount of money — there are a lot of ways you can imagine, if we had a fast form of politics, that could use that to make people much better off.

And you see some of these ideas out there thrown around now. I’m not a big fan of universal basic income as an answer for A.I., but I think there are a lot of ways you could change the tax structure, change redistribution, et cetera. But it strikes me that one of the tensions in our technological conversation is that we don’t believe our politics will — and we’re probably right in not believing this — but we don’t believe our politics will adapt to new technologies quickly enough to make the transition smooth.

tyler cowen

I fully agree. We should and we probably won’t.

ezra klein

Geothermal power.

tyler cowen

I read a long piece by my former student, Eli Dourado, on geothermal power. It struck me as intriguing, consistent with political economy in the sense that the people who now make money on energy could be the ones who make money from geothermal power. And they might support a lot of activity in the area. That might be important. I don’t feel I have the expertise to judge its feasibility. And I’m not sure anyone can.

We know geothermal power works in places where it’s easy to access, like Iceland, right. That’s a no brainer. But could it be more universal? I think we don’t know yet. I would say probably undervalued, but highly speculative.

ezra klein

Fourth generation nuclear, these smaller nuclear reactors that can be spread much more widely.

tyler cowen

I tend to think those will work. They will probably be most important in parts of the world such as Africa or maybe Vietnam. I do worry about security issues connected with them. Once you have so many of them, and they’re small — you know, they’re not expensive enough to really protect them very well. But I think it will probably happen, and it will be very green, and on net, probably a good thing.

ezra klein

Virtual reality.

tyler cowen

You know, I don’t like virtual reality myself. It makes me dizzy. I don’t like the way I have to hold my neck. I feel I’m too fidgety and too restless. I’m not the person for it. That’s probably a misleading bias. I would give it a 50 percent chance of the metaverse taking off and Mark Zuckerberg being right. But I just have to say, at an intuitive level, I rebel against it. I want to go to my Beethoven concert and read my book and fidget, not do virtual reality.

ezra klein

This is one of those technologies that seems to me like it will feel like it is underperforming forever, until all of a sudden the correct generation and application and computing power come together, and we end up in the virtual reality world. And I think people like you and probably me are just going to be too old for it.

tyler cowen

Absolutely. I fully agree. So I give it a good chance, but I know it’s not for me.

ezra klein

Yeah, it is frustrating watching the technologies that are going to make me look and feel out of touch happen.

tyler cowen

For the first time, we have them. I’ve made it to age 59 where I can do every new thing that comes along, and that’s pathetic in a way, right? Oh, I learned how to drive a car in the 1970s. I drive a car today. I haven’t had to learn anything new at all — pathetic. But that’s finally going to be different. I will feel obsolete at some point. And I will applaud and be smiling the whole time.

ezra klein

Well, speaking of feeling obsolete: crypto technologies, blockchains, the whole world of an internet built on more verifiable forms of ownership and identity.

tyler cowen

Well, I had been a skeptic for quite a few years. But I am slowly being converted. And I would say most intelligent people outside of crypto still underrate them, because they don’t get it. It’s clear to me now it’s not a bubble. It is consistently attracting talent. Even with advances in normal payments technologies, the interest — extreme interest — in somehow using blockchain and crypto to make financial transacting and also borrowing and lending better, there’s just so much force behind it.

To me, it just looks very much like something that is going to succeed and be significant. So I think too many people have the Paul Krugman attitude, like it’s all a scam, it’s a bubble. But I think it’s past that stage. It looks like it’s for real.

ezra klein

I want to double click on something you said there, which I think is interesting as a heuristic, and has been one of mine on crypto, too, which is using the clustering of talent in an area as evidence of whether or not it is going to succeed. Not just through the idea of — maybe that area is attractive to talent, but through the idea that where talent clusters, they will figure out a way to make it succeed. Can you talk about watching talent as a way of forecasting?

tyler cowen

Crypto talent comes from all over the world, which I think is phenomenal. Crypto talent is often so positive and so creative. I think Vitalik Buterin in particular is just one of the most important thinkers today.

ezra klein

Vitalik Buterin, being a co-founder and the leader of Ethereum.

tyler cowen

Ethereum, yes. When you’re in on crypto conversations, they have an excitement, a positivity, that you just don’t really get elsewhere. And a focus on building things, doing things — and I’ve just seen that now so consistently. That’s what’s converted me. The “can you fully articulate the actual use case?” Maybe I’d get a B- or a C+. But I’m bullish on it. Moving to using more crypto will involve big disruptions to our financial institutions.

We won’t be ready for it. We’ll do it poorly, just like with many of these other breakthroughs in world history, but I think it’s going to happen and probably should happen.

ezra klein

Let me ask you about my point of skepticism on crypto. I am not skeptical. And I wrote a big piece for the Times about this recently, that the underlying technology is going to be quite important as the internet continues to evolve. What I am skeptical about is that it will remain in any real way decentralized. I think the tendency online is for technologies that start out as, apparently, a great boon for decentralization, to centralize. People like things that are convenient. They like having a lot of things in one place.

I suspect that crypto is going have a — if it matures in the way people want it to, once again, a huge number of centralizing middlemen-y big companies that end up being the winners. Do you think I’m being pessimistic on that?

tyler cowen

I don’t know if that’s pessimistic or optimistic. I think there will be both centralized and decentralized crypto. I’m not sure in what ratio. I suspect centralized crypto will be considerably larger, but decentralized crypto, if only as an alternative, could still be incredibly significant, because it will limit and constrain what centralized crypto can do, right, in terms of sort of implicitly taxing your users or customers.

ezra klein

You talked about biomedical advances as a place where you’re particularly optimistic right now. What are some of the technologies in there? If you were breaking down the things you are specifically watching or seeing in the applications that come to you, where would you direct our attention?

tyler cowen

Well, I would start with this point that the energy and talent I see in the area is to me more persuasive than any particular theory I hold about biomedical technologies. But I think vaccines already are obviously much better than they were two years ago. Possibly, some people overrate CRISPR. I don’t know, I hear different back and forth on this. But I think just the dedicated notion that the world is full of these public health problems — we’ve made incredible progress in the last 20 years just distributing things we already had, say, to Africa. And that’s in the numbers. That’s, like, a fact. And we can just keep on doing it. And we’ll do it with new things. The amount of dedication, resources, organization, talent devoted to that absolutely sways me. And I see those as the biggest advances likely to come in the next 20 years. And malaria and dengue are two major culprits there, and I think those will crack. HIV/AIDS, harder for me to say.

Longevity research, I think, now should be taken seriously. The world has woken up, that maybe we can boost life expectancy at a rate higher than what usually has been the case. And again, you just see things coming together. And computing power being brought to bear on biomedicine in a very significant way, I think, is the difference maker.

ezra klein

I’m going to frame this as a technology — the Chinese system of government.

tyler cowen

It is a technology. And I think that’s a very insightful way of putting it. I think up until recently, it has worked remarkably well. And it should be considered a major technological innovation, like an oppressive kind of autocracy but combined with extreme public opinion polling and only very selective crackdowns. But we always wondered if it was stable, right. And now we see much more centralization of power in China.

And possibly, it’s flying off the rails. We’re not sure yet. But this is one thing I watch very closely. It may be a self-destructive technology.

ezra klein

How about liberal democracy?

tyler cowen

I’m a huge fan of liberal democracy. I worry it’s in more danger now than it has been, but people I see on Twitter I think exaggerate this danger. Most of its history, it’s looked and felt ugly. If you go back to, say, the late 19th century, it was just all mud slinging and lies and misinformation. And we may be returning to an era like that, but souped up with the internet. It makes me nervous, but ultimately, I think it’s more robust than what you hear on Twitter, but probably about as robust as what the average American thinks, which is that they in fact believe in it.

ezra klein

And I’ll add this one in too, and I don’t want to frame it as the Indian system of government, because it doesn’t quite seem to be that to me. But something within the Indian set of cultural and educational and immigrant network layer of their society seems to be quite important. And so I’m curious how you’d put that.

tyler cowen

Indian-Americans, I believe, have by quite an amount the highest per capita income in this country. Indians in Canada, highly successful. I think this is underrated. We’re on the blossoming of a new era of Indian artistic, economic, scientific — all sorts of creativity. I’ve even set up a separate part of Emergent Ventures called Emergent Ventures India that is just considering applications from India. And it’s run by Shruti, who works with me. She is herself from India.

And I would go very long on Indian talent. I’m not sure I’m bullish on India, like as a stock market or nation or polity. I would say I have mixed feelings there. But again, I think India today is like Germany or central Europe in the late 19th or early 20th century, just amazing things will come of it.

ezra klein

A point you’ve made to me — and I think you’ve made this on your blog — is that the success Indian-Americans have had navigating the highest level of America’s corporate culture, and at this point, with Kamala Harris, the highest level of its political culture too, is quite unusual. And that there is something that is allowing a very high level of cultural fluency and cultural passing back and forth from India to America. What do you think it is?

tyler cowen

One can think about the level, or one can think about the change. If I think about the level, you could say, well, Indian metaphysics, the influence of Hinduism, the influence of Buddhism much earlier in Indian history, have enabled this kind of conceptual flexibility in Indian cultural matrices, even for Indians who are, say, not themselves Hindu. That broadly makes sense to me.

But when you look at the change, like, well, India was all that in 1970, but we didn’t see a comparable outpouring of talent. So maybe it’s some kind of multiplicative model, where seven or eight things all have to go right at the same time. And now, they’re all going right at the same time: the internet, greater value for English language, a sense of aspiration, India having enough wealth, India having good enough internet connections. It’s probably that connected to all these broader, earlier synthesizing Indian cultural influences.

ezra klein

It’s easy to look at technologies, both physical and digital, and think about their positive application. But I want to talk about the negative version of this, too. We are on the cusp of a world in which much more destructive weaponry becomes much more widely available. And I’m thinking here in particular to A.I. drones and drone swarms, to synthetic bioweapons, where you’re going to be able to create it seems to me very, very dangerous kinds of bugs at pretty low cost.

What does that do to stability and survivability in the world?

tyler cowen

I don’t think we know. I mean, historically long run predictions about warfare, no one has made good ones. But it’s by far my biggest worry. But my biggest worry is still nuclear weapons as owned and operated by actual governments. We’ve come close in the past to having nuclear accidents. As nuclear weapons spread, their new owners may or may not have good procedures or good data at hand as to whether or not it’s a flock of birds or an attack from some other country.

And it’s simply by far my biggest worry for the world that we’ll have a nuclear war and set ourselves back a very long period of time, and possibly not even quite recover from it. In terms of what we should do, helping immature nations with nuclear capabilities have secure data systems — I would give those away for free, and help them if they will accept that help.

ezra klein

There are, at this point, a wide range of imaginative dystopias to choose from. You have movies recently like “Ready Player One,” which is a virtual reality dystopia. You have all kinds of discussion of A.I. dystopias or nuclear dystopias, “Brave New World” dystopias where we’re all on designer drugs that basically narcotize us. What form of dystopia strikes you as likeliest in the next 100 years?

tyler cowen

That geopolitical order will erode and you will have more parts of the world becoming like, say, Ethiopia and Nigeria seem to be becoming now. And the number of manageable nation states will shrink. And more of the world will live in a very painful kind of chaos.

ezra klein

When you say, like, Ethiopia, Nigeria seem to be becoming now, what are you saying there?

tyler cowen

Well, there’s a civil war in Ethiopia, right. Now, I don’t know how that’s going to play itself out. But that’s a big deal. And keep in mind, what, two years ago, the president won a Nobel Peace Prize — Prime Minister, rather. And everyone was touting Ethiopia, 10 percent growth, model of industrial policy. I was myself optimistic. And look at it now. Nigeria, the extent to which kidnapping has gone up and the central government does not really control much of the territory of the country is disturbing.

You see this in weaker form in Mexico. Haiti seems literally not governable at this point. It almost doesn’t have a government at all. And the notion that that could spread to more countries — say, Brazil, would be another possible example where it could spread — strikes me as the biggest danger.

ezra klein

We talked very briefly about existential risk earlier. What do you think is the probability that humanity has effectively destroyed civilization, or quite a bit of it, within, let’s call it 200 years.

tyler cowen

It’s higher than people think. So my best estimate would be we have, I don’t know, another 700 or 800 years ahead of us. And then there will be some kind of very significant destruction. It might even come from outside: solar flares, asteroids. It’s striking to me that it’s not obvious aliens have visited us, though possibly they have, right. The skies are not full of alien spaceships. So it must be really hard to just keep your civilization going. So that means we probably won’t either.

[THEME MUSIC PLAYING]

ezra klein

I want to move back to more prosaic questions of the U.S. government. And something I’ve definitely noticed in your writing and thinking since the Biden administration took hold is a frustration with parts of it. What worries you most in progressive economic thinking right now?

tyler cowen

I wouldn’t say this is an economic issue. But look, if you take the progressive left, all of them believe firmly in democracy. And I’m fully convinced this is 110 percent sincere, right. But yet, they hold a view that the party that wins half the time is so vile, or so corrupt, or so evil, or so wanting to control women’s bodies, or so racist, or fill in the blank — that it’s just completely morally intolerable. And I don’t think those two views together are stable.

So the right wing has a bad set of views. But in a funny way, they’re consistent. So they think it’s awful if the left wins, but they’re skeptical about democracy, anyway, a lot of them. So it sort of, like, fits together as one whole. So to really believe in two- party competition and think that different points of view reflect different values — and you may not agree with the other values, but the people you disagree with are not some long list of very negative adjectives — I see that as the major problem for the left.

They only believe in a democracy where they are winning all the time, and morally cannot stomach any other notion. And that to me is very concerning. So I worry about that more than, like, the government spending too much money, though I think they have spent too much money. But that, to me, is really my main concern.

ezra klein

It’s funny. Two things occur to me about that. One is that you keep telling me that polarization is over, and it’s overrated. But then when I ask you what’s going on in economic thought, you give me an answer that is a very high level of concern about what would get called affective polarization.

tyler cowen

Well, I think the progressive left is not the majority. It’s not the majority within the Democratic Party, as we see from Biden, of course, being president. I think most Americans and voters are, broadly speaking, pretty centrist and agree about a lot. And we see that in the stability of policy, including across Trump and Biden. But a lot of particular institutions, like academia, like a lot of newsrooms, I absolutely think they are becoming more polarized.

And the progressive left, as a splinter group, it’s still significant. And it’s a significant generator of ideas. And I think it’s generating ideas that don’t let us be comfortable with democracy where both parties win. The right is equally bad on this, just to be clear. The right is often anti-democratic. That might even be worse, but it’s certainly equally bad. So I don’t mean to let them off the hook at all.

ezra klein

Well, when you say equally bad, we have some pretty big examples in recent years just of — I mean, I would say the Trump administration was different in its quality towards government and in its basic sentiment towards the foundational norms you need for liberal democracy then the Biden administration. There was violence after the election. I think —

tyler cowen

Absolutely. Worse than usual.

ezra klein

Yes, so I do think equally bad is understating it.

tyler cowen

But I think if you take the right and the left as a whole, they’re better understood as an interacting system rather than, like, one versus the other. And I think the dynamic right now is fairly negative in some parts of society. But again, the average American, I’m not sure it’s so terrible at all.

ezra klein

So that’s I want to pull you back to economic policy, because what I’ve noticed from you is a pretty deep frustration not just with the amount of money being spent, but particularly some of the ideas that have not just taken hold on the real left, but within the Biden administration, like antitrust, where they’ve broken pretty radically from recent administrations. They’ve appointed into key positions really important thinkers in the new, much more skeptical model of progressive, antitrust thought.

And I think you’ve been pretty concerned about where this will go. So when they worry about bigness, what do you think they’re missing?

tyler cowen

Well, I think the F.T.C. for instance, has been a trainwreck under the current leadership. To be clear, I work and write for Facebook, just to issue that disclaimer. But I thought this before I did, they put up a very poorly argued antitrust suit against Facebook. A Democratic judge threw it out, basically indicated it was not to be taken seriously. I think there’s a kind of grudge there. But it gets back to my broader worry about the progressive left.

If you think you’re living in a democracy where half the time an unacceptable party is winning, you need some other theory of what has gone wrong. So it used to be, like, campaign finance was what was broken. But you don’t hear about that anymore at all, because now it actually helps the Democrats. So one of the new theories about what is broken is it’s, like, misinformation. It’s big tech. It is the information ecosystem.

I don’t think there’s really great evidence behind that either, but I think the economic views are being shaped by this, like, obsession that the other side is so terrible. There must be something deeply wrong with what’s going on. And people will look at different sources of what is wrong. And right now, big tech is the villain.

ezra klein

So that’s interesting, because I don’t take tech’s influence on politics as the core of the antitrust case. You mentioned the F.T.C. — the new head of the F.T.C. is Lina Khan. Lina Khan came to prominence by writing about Amazon, and whether or not Amazon should be broken up. Whatever you want to say about Amazon, they are not at the center of the left’s view about how big tech is influencing politics. The views about Amazon are much more economic.

And I also take that to be a likelier place you’re going to see action. Similarly, on Facebook, I think that if anything were to happen, it would be more like preventing Facebook from acquiring things like Instagram in the future. Now, you’re somebody who’s written a book that — I think it was subtitled “A Love Letter to An American Anti-Hero,” a book all about how great big business is. So I would have thought you’d be more worried about a left that has lost, in your view, an appreciation for the benefits of big firms and what they can bring to economic growth.

tyler cowen

Oh, absolutely. And you could say the same about the right wing. The right wing is often more anti-big tech than the left is these days. They’re suspicious of companies that have so many left wing workers. I would just say, suck it up. If you don’t like it, start your own social media network. I think there’s part of the Democratic Party, you see it, say, in Elizabeth Warren’s Twitter feed. It’s marketing a kind of red meat to the left, which really flies only because there’s this very general sense of just, big tech is bad.

And it’s fed to people also through media outlets which are often competitors with big tech, and often losing. I don’t think it’s going to finally stop what has happened in the world of tech, but I think it’s a sign of a kind of underlying rot in the world of ideas on both the left and the right. That the right could spend decades saying, well, markets are contestable, or if you don’t like it, do your own thing, or go somewhere else.

And now, it’s all about market power, and monopsony, and they kick you off YouTube. And what about this? And where can I talk about ivermectin? To me, it’s a sign of an intellectual corruption.

ezra klein

One thing that strikes me about this argument as somewhat circular is that — to your underlying point, that many of the people most engaged in politics have, and I may be more sympathetic to this view, but nevertheless have developed a more apocalyptic, existential, high stakes view of political competition, and a much more dire view of their opponents. While I don’t believe disinformation is as big a political or even social media problem as some others do, I do believe that dynamic is a pretty big social media problem.

And it is, to some degree, the centrality of things like Facebook, of particularly Twitter, in elite political discourse, and those then feeding into cable news and the rest of the media, that have both perceptually and then through that, in reality, increased the stakes and the heat of competition in American politics.

tyler cowen

I agree, that concerns me. But I do still see that most American voters agree on most issues. And that’s a bedrock core of stability. And putting aside style, and the fact that Trump was racist and encouraged insurrection, and all these like terrible, terrible things, like, past two sigma event terrible — actual policy, when people say, you know, Biden is Trump’s second term, it is not entirely crazy.

Trump spent $2 trillion on stimulus. Biden spent $1.9 trillion, basically the same. Trump started withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden did it. Whatever you think of those things, you can find many areas where they’re doing broadly similar policies. Again, that the rhetoric is different matters greatly. And I get there’s a whole bunch of issues, especially on social welfare, safety nets, where the Biden people are different.

But it is in many ways more similar than different, I would say.

ezra klein

Well, one thing to add to that hypothesis — and I would not do the strong version of this argument, but I’ve definitely toyed with the weak version of it — is one, Donald Trump did pretend to be much more progressive on social insurance. He did say he’d give health care to everybody. He did say he’d raise taxes on people like him.

And then similarly, he followed through a little bit more on trade, but if you think about his broader Buy American agenda, you really could look at Trump as having tried to co-opt certain ideas from the left, particularly the more labor liberal left, proved unable or uninterested in actually turning them into policy. And Biden came, took a bunch of that back, and also added China into this.

And both because of the nature of his coalition and because his administration is interested in turning ideas into policy, is doing a lot more, at least on those levels, than what Trump did.

tyler cowen

And Biden on China policy, which, like, might end up being the most important policy period, seems pretty close to Trump. He hasn’t gotten rid of the tariffs, right. There’s differences, but the idea of turning a focus to China, less with the Middle East and Afghanistan. He’s kept the Abraham agreements that Trump managed to get through. Again, a lot of continuities, some good, some bad.

ezra klein

So tell me, then, why you believe polarization is past its prime as a political problem, because I would say in this conversation, you’re feeling to me more worried about polarization in certain cases than I am.

tyler cowen

I’m not sure our views are so different. What you call polarization, I re-describe as weirdness. So I think discourse in most ways has become more weird. There are more radical views out there in every direction. This has good sides and bad sides. The good sides are we are more innovative and much more able to think about futures very different from the past. The bad side is we’ll have to manage with futures that are very different from the past.

So I think there’s just going to be a lot more volatility. And volatility is a way forward, as it has been in the past. But again the transitions can be hell to live through. That’s, like, my basic prognosis. When I use the word polarization, I think of something like 2011, where, like, there’s Obama, those forces want more government. There’s the Tea Party, they at least claim they want less government. And everything is a kind of full- on scrimmage, with one set of linemen pushing against the other.

And someone wins or someone loses, but it’s always the same battle again and again and again. And I think we’re out of that world. I think we’re into the weird world, which maybe worries me more. But it’s not polarization, per se, like, like a right wing or left winger could have any view on Afghanistan right now. And it’s actually not that easy to predict.

ezra klein

Let me take the other side of this for a minute, because I think that I would disagree that our world has gotten weirder legislatively. So what I describe as polarization in this respect is a set of forces, an ecosystem of forces, that when an idea comes to the fore in politics, when it becomes like the idea that we are dealing with in politics, it tends to push disagreement, even where that disagreement might not otherwise exist. Now, the good part — and I always want to say there is a good part — is it allows disagreements that do exist to come to the fore, which otherwise can get very suppressed, as we saw, for quite a long time in American politics. But one of the places where I think you underrate these forces is that you note often that there seems to be substantial overlap within the public on policy matters. And I think that’s true.

And what I would note is it has become very, very hard to bring policies that the public might even agree on in the first place into the political system and maintain that agreement. So there are places where you can do it by ricocheting back and forth. But it was fascinating, I would say — to what you’re saying about Biden and Trump, there is a little bit more continuity between them than you might imagine, but that also, nevertheless, allowed levels of discord that were quite dramatic.

And if you look at how the political establishment is relating to Afghanistan, as you say, that was something begun by Donald Trump. But sure enough, you’re not seeing a lot of Republican support for Joe Biden biting the bullet and continuing through with that policy. So I’m always interested in the ways that polarization can act as a pressure to push disagreement, where there actually could have been a space for agreement.

Whereas at other times, when there’s less polarization, I think if you’re looking at what happens in Congress, there was more space for weird coalitions, and for the parties to do things that were unexpected. If they could find zones of agreement, then they could start doing a lot of positive sum transactionalism within that zone of agreement, and come up with something which maybe isn’t what I would have done, but would have been creative nevertheless.

tyler cowen

Sure, but our politics now, it’s more radical, it’s more creative. It’s more volatile. We’ve had a lot of policy change happen, and the losing side ex post will complain even if they’re completely flip flopping. But just when I think how to model the world, I don’t see polarization as the starting point for my model. For me, its weirdness in the realm of ideas intersecting with rule of the median voter in the realm of actual policy.

Which is maybe somewhat different from yours, but I think part of the difference is just use of words.

ezra klein

Well, I think also part of the difference is — if you’re looking at the realm of ideas versus the realm of Congress — so I think I agree with you, that the realm of ideas has become a lot weirder. And I guess I’d ask you why. Why do you think the realm of ideas has become weirder?

tyler cowen

People like to say social media. But I wonder, what I see is America since 9/11, something here fundamentally has changed. And it was set off by being attacked in such a brutal, unexpected and unprecedented way, that struck at the very heart of our systems of governance. And I think psychologically, in part as a nation, we’re still recovering from that. And we had this era of several decades of remarkable calm and normalcy, and everything felt great.

And we all thought that would just continue and get better. And the rest of the world would be end of history. And learning that’s all wrong, I think, threw us for a major loop. And we’re just processing that. And we don’t have the intellectual tools to process it very well. And then, also, social media comes along. So we’re going to try out every possible means of processing that and generate immense weirdness. And everyone puts together their favored mini coalition.

I guess I think that’s where we’re at, that it started somewhat before social media. Social media now carries and intensifies it. That would be my model.

ezra klein

Something that you are particularly good at is taking good advantage of a weird realm of ideas, rather than getting too wrapped up in any one of them. So I guess I’d ask your advice for people in benefiting from the weirdness of the idea space right now, as opposed to finding it either overwhelming or an invitation into a kind of conflict where you lose the ability to learn from the other weird ideas in competition with the one that you just came to like.

tyler cowen

Well, I would say, have friends from all sorts of different idea groups, even if you really don’t like those ideas. And if you have a list of, oh, I won’t have a friend, you know, who’s a Nazi — like, fine. I don’t have a friend who’s a Nazi. But starting to make that list is actually, I think, a bad thing to do. Have diverse friends. And try yourself, to write. When you write out ideas, you realize the imperfections in your own thinking.

And be open to critical feedback. And just never stop writing. And even, if you have the time, write out views you don’t agree with. Try to steel man them. Just do that very often and very regularly. And visit different cultures. Travel a lot. Try to understand them. Try not to complain too much about the complaining, as I put it. So it’s hard to complain about the complaining about the complaining without yourself complaining.

But spend your time building things, doing things, meeting people, going places. Don’t get too much into the complaining, about the right, about the left. Like, whatever you’re going to complain about, a lot of it will be correct. But it’s making you less productive and I would say stupider to be too much into the complaining, if I may complain about the complainers.

ezra klein

In general, I think you’re a very good appreciator of things. It’s an unusual strength you have. And I want to try to model something that I think you just gestured at, but I want to see if it’s correct. For a long time, I used to chuckle to myself a little bit when you would come back from a place you would just visited and write out your seven rules for finding the best food in a place you had just been for six days, or the way to find the best art.

It struck me at the time sometimes as quite intense pronouncement. And then over time, I came to think it was a habit you had for trying to figure out how to appreciate things, that you were creating kind of on the fly little models about how to find the good in something where you could just complain that it was hard to find the good food, or hard to get where you were going. Is that part of it? Is that part of your writing, that you’re trying to figure out little models for how to ask how to appreciate a thing that might otherwise be intimidating?

tyler cowen

Absolutely. And I call it cracking cultural codes. And cracking cultural codes is one of the best things you can do to spot talent in people who are not just exactly like you, or you went to high school with them, or you have the same worldview.

ezra klein

So give me a sense of how to do it. And I’ll give you one that has been on my list forever. I just have an extremely weak appreciation for classical music. And this one should be easy, because there are a lot of resources. It’s not like I’m going into something where you can’t find any literature. But at the same time, I’m intimidated by it. It doesn’t naturally connect to me. But I want to have an appreciation for classical music. I’m a literate person, and I feel it’s important. Where would you tell me to start if I’m trying to crack the code of classical music?

tyler cowen

Especially once the pandemic has receded — but to go see some concerts. Where you live, the San Francisco area, is a wonderful place to be. Concerts of different kinds, also recitals, not just the Symphony Orchestra. But I think people typically learn things really well through either mentors or small groups of peers trying to do the same thing. So you may or may not have time for that. But if you can do it, it’s the best way.

But there’s also a lot to be said for repeatedly hitting your head against the wall. I spent 20 years trying to figure out Indian classical music. And I feel finally, I got it. And now, to see an Indian classical music concert is the thing I want to do most of all. And I didn’t have a mentor. It was just — I kept on trying, really, not just for three or four years, but for well over a decade. And maybe by year 17 or 18, I came about it by listening to contemporary classical music that had Indian-like influences, by listening to microtonal music, by listening to Sonic Youth.

I tried everything possible. And, like, finally, it all clicked. And there’s some things, whether it’s Shakespeare or Beethoven, like, you know it’s pretty good, right. So I would just say never give up.

ezra klein

Something that struck me in that answer is you’re known as a pretty omnivorous reader, but you didn’t say go read a book. You said go to the concert. You said, go find other people. You said earlier, go travel. You’re a pretty experiential learner, actually.

tyler cowen

I try to be, right. It’s hard, because you can’t be everywhere all at once.

ezra klein

But what is the difference between putting yourself in the place of the thing happening, and simply trying to access it cerebrally?

tyler cowen

I mean, in a funny way, books are overrated, right. They can be vivid, but often they’re vivid in the same kind of way. And what you remember the most, or shifts your world view the most, often, it’s events, right, or people you’ve known. So a lot of very smart people maybe overinvest in books, under invest in travel. And just, like, putting your body out there in some sense, that we as humans are creatures of the body, and to take that very literally and very seriously.

What can I do with my body, with respect to this question, is always worth asking.

ezra klein

That’s a wonderful question. And so then I’m not going to end by asking you for three books, after you just said books are overrated. But I will ask you for three pieces of classical music I should listen to.

tyler cowen

Well, for me, I think Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas are a kind of peak of the classical canon. Literally every one of them is wonderful. There are just so many fantastic recordings of them. You can’t go wrong on Spotify. And just to learn each and every one and compare different versions, Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. And then a bit more difficult would be the last five string quartets. Quartet Italiano is my favorite version. There are fewer amazing recordings of those, but Opus 132 in particular.

And then most of the famous classic music by Bach and the best known operas of Mozart, I think — some of humanity’s great creations and you can never exhaust them. But also go see them in concert. If you can, visit where they came from. Befriend people who love them, not just sit there with your earbuds on. Make this a thing of the body.

ezra klein

And then one more on a thing of the body, you’re a voracious traveler. Obviously, it’s hard to travel right now, but when people can again, where are three places they should go that they don’t think of, that most of us don’t think of.

tyler cowen

It’s not hard to travel right now. I was recently, two weeks in Mexico, which is easy to get into and out of. I was a week in Oaxaca and a week in Monterrey. I’d never been to Monterrey. I loved the place. It was physically beautiful, Mexico’s most business oriented city. I’m flying tonight to London, and from London will go places. We’ll see where those places will be, probably southern Ireland, where I haven’t been before.

Now, is a great time to travel, if, of course, you’re vaccinated, and yes, do get your tests and so on. But you can see things now that you will never have a chance to see in your life, often in bad ways, to be clear, but sometimes in wonderful ways, like St. Mark’s Plaza in Venice, but more or less empty of tourists. So I would say the imperative to travel has never been stronger — again, conditional on absolute, 100 percent precautions being taken.

ezra klein

But give me your three places that you think people should travel to that they don’t rate highly enough?

tyler cowen

Mexico, Mexico, and Mexico. First, you can go from just about any country. Second, it is inexhaustible. Third, it is affordable. Fourth, most of it is actually easily safe enough, even though the terrible stories you hear are true, but they’re usually geographically concentrated. I think I’ve done 31 trips to Mexico in my life. I’m never bored when I go there. And just think about, like, where are you now? Where can you go? At the very least, you can go to Mexico and just keep on going.

Try to learn some Spanish. The food is amazing. People are very warm. There’s an incredible sense of the dramatic and the tragic there. And my goodness, you will never stop thinking about Mexico once you start going. And I mean, not just in Cancun.

ezra klein

Well, you can listen to Tyler’s podcast, “Conversations with Tyler,” while you’re on the plane. Tyler, always great to have our conversations. Thank you.

tyler cowen

Thank you, Ezra. [THEME MUSIC PLAYING]

ezra klein

“The Ezra Klein Show” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It is produced by Jeff Geld, Roge Karma and Annie Galvin. It is fact checked by Michelle Harris, and original music by Isaac Jones. Mixing by Jeff Geld.

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