A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals (Tyler Cowen Full Interview)



joining me today is a professor of economics at George Mason University the host of conversations with tyler podcast and the author of stubborn attachments a vision for a society of free prosperous and responsible individuals Tyler Cowen welcome to the Rubin report my pleasure now I did your podcast once and I believe that the first question you asked me was do I like being on the interviewing side or in the interview side so I'm gonna start with the same exact question I spent the first half of my life being interviewed the last fifth of my life being the interviewer for 58 segments and now I'm being interviewed so for me so we come full circle and then around halfway around together there's less preparation when you're being interviewed yeah that's easier yeah all right so I'm thrilled that you're here I wanted to have you on for quite some time you are sort of for so many of the people that have influenced me you have influenced them so I think there's a there's a certain beauty this and we're gonna do a lot on economics and and and all sorts of stuff here but I always like to start with sort of a little bit of background just sort of where you're from and history before we get into the meat so tell me a little bit about Tyler Cowen I was born in northern New Jersey I was a nerd growing up I played chess it was then economics and philosophy now I teach at George Mason live in Virginia travel a lot and I'm a kind of information omnivore yeah and you're you're a big basketball fan we just did a whole basketball and being angry is a big difference yes so me too I'm not a huge college man or my it's not good enough so why not watch the best right there's enough of the NBA especially with the internet in YouTube and it's a way of thinking about talent evaluation rules of the game technical innovations conceptual breakthroughs how to get a group of people to cooperate it's a kind of economics in a way it's like a new laboratory yeah so when did you get interested in economics in economics I was 13 and my father brought home like some magazines and periodicals I started reading them I then went to the public library never stopped yeah yeah you went to the library never stopped and were you always interested in sort of more Liberty leaning economics or do you read everything and then kind of figure out where you Fowler I read everything but early on I read Hayek I read Milton Friedman some 'vine Rand Henry Hazlitt that made a big impression on me yeah and I was you know then 13/14 yeah was that a weird thing for a thirteen or fourteen you ought to be into or I guess I think it was this was pre-internet right so people were not exposed and I just went crazy and I read all of Plato's dialogues and I just thought I'm gonna do this for the rest of my life how can I find a way of always being reading writing talking to people yeah what do you like more doing the academic side of things teaching or do you like podcasting more public speaking I don't think they're so different podcasting is the new education right so think of it as an educational innovation and you reach more people the discussions are often smarter than in the classic classroom so I view it as one in the same really kind of integration yeah so okay so let's just talk about your economic beliefs in general so basically basically you're a libertarian right is that small a libertarian what does that mean because people say that all the time let's I like defining terms specifically when you say you're small-l libertarian I believe in freer markets social liberalism and I'm often sceptical of foreign policy abroad that said some libertarian simply refused to admit that government can never do good I don't think that's the case anti-smoking campaign would be one good example of something that did people a lot of good it was led by government so empirics come first look at the evidence but I think overall right now people in our society under a business and over ate the government yeah so is there any difference any meaningful difference between a small L libertarian and a classical liberal when people say classical liberal I think it confuses the listener there's the word liberal in there what is classical mean it reminds people of the 19th century I don't like any of these words I feel I've written and done so much online people can you search and see what I think on any issue if I'll still go with small a libertarian I won't deny I'm a classical liberal so I should probably be saying small L libertarian by your definition I agree it's gotten confusing I'm trying to clean up the word liberal so so deeply that it becomes hard to do that because people have such just associating with word if I could just call myself liberal as you can in some European countries that would be my preferred approach yeah but here it just won't work right that's the problem yeah well this is listened to all over the world so in English I'm a liberal you're a liberal yes that's nice so light touch a government how do you figure out where the right spot for government to do some things it's because I'm sure there's libertarians that maybe our vehicle libertarians that are going all right well even if the anti smoking thing worked it's not the purview of government to do such things I believe in the power of economic growth the significance of just compounding returns over time an economy that grows at 3% over time becomes much much wealthier than an economy growing at 2% so we need to ask like what are genuine public goods the government should provide I think support for basic science a basic social welfare state or safety net obviously foreign policy then there are particular instances where governments have done good but the presumption should be in favor of Liberty people do have individual rights you just can't take all their money from them we way over regulate most of our economy we could be far more dynamic we've had wage stagnation in this country for decades and we are complacent about all that that's my basic take on America today yeah and I think you know I'm I'm pretty much on board of all that are you shocked at the amount of individual liberty that people sort of want to outsource to the government as you said they want to trust government more than then markets right now on social issues I'm fairly heartened I don't think people should ever go to jail for smoking pot say and we're moving in that direction I never expected that say 15 years ago gay rights gay marriage again it wasn't clear a while ago that would happen that's great yeah in those areas people have been very protective and fought hard for good changes but when it comes to economics I see too much resentment and too much shrillness and just a belief that most say billionaires out there and somehow didn't earn their wealth and it's our job to take it from you which is becoming a huge theme right now right I mean Elizabeth Warren just in the last week she wants the billionaire's tax and she's upset but who's the guy that got the the yacht oh I forget yeah he got a yacht and she doesn't seem to understand that a lot of people were employed to build that yacht at all the resources that went into that yacht but she thinks she has a moral right that seems to be coming out of the left a lot these days Cortes is doing this that there's a moral right to take people's money who have too much I think a lot of it is just competition for the voters so everyone wants either the nomination or more publicity so they put forward crazy ideas to get traction on social media the net result is to help Donald Trump actually I call it the donald trump reelection campaign the more democrats talk about taxes it's ultimately a winning issue for Republicans no matter what Democrats say voters will never trust them more on taxes it's like health care no matter what your view is when that's the topic Democrats are more popular taxes it's Republicans so it's this weird paradox Democrats pursuing their own individual interest in hurting their party do you think that like when Elizabeth Warren or one of these people that always want to tax more and more and more do you think they actually believe it's the right thing to do or that they believe it's cold calculating political move even though your argument is that it doesn't make sense politically like I don't imagine them doing things that are against what they believe will work politically I think you're probably right that it doesn't work but it's hard to know if they they know that it doesn't work it's a cold calculating political move in my view they don't quite think it's a disaster they just think we need to move the debate in this direction about taxing rich people more talking about this for them will work in that way so they have a broader notion of work than what an academic might have and more or less coincides with making a stink about it now yeah does he drive you crazy when politicians talk about economics no I mean newer to that I'm fairly detached as a personality type yeah I don't like it but at the end of the day if it drove me crazy I would be less effective indicating myself so who would you say in the political sense is talking about economics in a way that is roughly within a framework that you like is there anybody it's hard to think so I'm proud Gration but with limits that's a pretty centrist position but the center is pretty empty right now okay but lay it out for me and I'll see if we can figure out somebody here the liberal Republicans of an earlier time perhaps so private immigration definitely Pro free trade which is running against a lot of the Republicans right now other than say climate change issues I would deregulate most of our economy I would have much more freedom to build in San Francisco or Manhattan I would have radical reforms to K through 12 education with much greater choice just a lot more experimentation I would never send people to jail for doing drugs unless they're selling drugs to minors I'm not sure all drugs should be totally legal but just kind of in a safe space off to the side and I would welcome a not so polarized America where there's tolerance and a very strong Center and some real belief about the importance of America's role in the world but more about building alliances than being aggressive that mean that those are my views yeah I mean I'm there on everything you just say yeah and I do think that empty Center that you just referenced he's actually starting to get filled up with people that have had it with both sides which is I guess heartening but we we've got our work cut out yes yeah I don't know who the candidate is really yeah that you know I write for Bloomberg so I'm reluctant to say Mike Bloomberg of the Democrats but he is in fact my favorite with the caveat that I write for Bloomberg's yeah appreciate the caveat otherwise the YouTube commenters would have went bananas yeah if you don't want to deal with their wrath wrath what do you think about the just the two-party duopoly that we have right now know how hard it would be for say a more centrist candidate like even now just in the last couple days Howard Schultz of Starbucks is saying he may jump in as an independent and he it sounds like he'd be a little bit more of a centrist Democrat say than the the really far left progressives but futile endeavor I believe in working through the parties yeah there's much about Donald Trump I disagree with but he was effective because he decided not doing the reform party bid from the late 90s but he would work through one of the two major parties yeah so on most of the issues that you talked about in terms of regulation and the economy and things like that you've got to be pretty pleased with drunk on regulation the administration has slowed the pace but on carbon and environmental issues I disagree with deregulation I think we actually need to be tougher yeah so even there that's a mixed record Trump hasn't rolled back that much regulation this is story to do but the pace has been slowed I'm happy about that yeah is there a way because our system is so huge and our federal government is so big is there really a way to do a lot of this I think people sort of hear the idea of let's rollback regulation let's you know drain the swamp all of these phrases that that sound good but then they get in office and they realize that this this giant federal monster that is just sucking money and employing all sorts of people that probably it shouldn't and all this but it just doesn't change it's just the system is sort of corroded our best bet is to invent new sectors more quickly than they can be regulated so let's say for instance the virtual-reality were to really work and people would take to it you could have schools with in virtual reality they would be unregulated not out of any government tolerances just no laws set up to really regulate virtual reality in any direct way so parts of the tech sector have had a light hand of regulation not through anyone's wisdom they just started doing things no one had been expecting and so there's a kind of race so do you believe so you basically believe them that self-regulation within certain parameters does just happen it just sort of happens itself I'm glad we let Facebook and uber happen and that no one had to ask permission do this company sometimes make mistakes yes are they perfect no are we better off having them absolutely so if uber had had to ask permission imagine that oh like ten years from now we'll do a pilot plan we're like maybe a fifth of the drivers in Seattle do ride-sharing in most cities say no and they just did it I'm all for that right and it always becomes a giant government boondoggle anyway if you look at our New York City taxis with you used to cost about a million bucks just to get one of those medallions and then it's like there's no competition so I'm worried ride-sharing will turn into that but then there's always the new thing and again it's this kind of race or innovation to outpace regulation the nice thing about government regulators is they're a bit slow right the very formalistic it takes some time right innovators can be very quick so is that the silver lining more than anything else that you think reliably aren't that great right they're mostly conscientious I mean they do the job they're told to do there are countries with much worse regulation than the United States we should appreciate what we have but that said if you look at say occupational licensing for barbers or beauticians or interior designers in my opinion none of that should exist it should all simply disappear tomorrow so what would you say to the person who would say well wait a minute what if I go to get my hair cut and this person hasn't been licensed by the state now they stab me in the head with the scissor well murders against the law but I'm not sure the licensing stops that the more competition not just the license that's stopping people from stabbing people with scissors is that there should be laws against teaser stabbing yeah in my humble opinions yeah so okay so you talked a little bit about the the tech side of this why is it that it seems to me that the people that I know that are up in Silicon Valley and the tech world in general is very very privately libertarian these people want to innovate they want competition they want to do exactly what you're saying stay ahead of the regulators and figure out new ways to do all sorts of things but outwardly these companies seem extremely left and extremely controlling and centralized many tech companies are in California a lot of highly educated California employees are very left-wing those employees pressure their companies also a lot of tech companies have big contracts with the government which puts them in somewhat of an awkward position and the ideal stance for many companies tech or not is just not to be in politics and I think most people in business would rather compete as a business or get a favor from the government but the tech company is one of the miraculous things about them is defense contracting aside their core model has been to supply better products to users and not to curry favor with the state and to me that's highly admirable but are we entering an odd place where they clearly do have relationships with the government at this point are we entering a phase where and this is where this is the great debate right now in my world as a guy that's doing this on YouTube is have these companies gotten so out of control that there is now a threat actually to the First Amendment because basically there is government involvement related to policing speech and are they platforms or publishers that sort of thing if I look at YouTube or if I look at Twitter I think they have supported far more freedom of speech than they have hindered and if you even ask like which set of views have been helped the most by YouTube and Twitter I suspect on average it's a mix of like the right and some part of the radical left but I don't think overall right wing ideas and that's not even the correct way to put it but I don't think they've been harmed by these media quite the contrary yeah so I'm not as worked up about that issue as some of my friends are yeah but but either way you would even if you saw more of a threat there you would there's no is there any situation where you ever believe the government should jump in and do something any it's a tricky word but I feel at current margins I would rather the government not regulate tech companies more yeah so just free them up and just keep so you believe in human ingenuity more than anything else I mean I think that that seems to be the sure enforce rule of law I think the notion that a platform is not liable say for everything that platform is used for as we set out in law in the 1990s was a fantastic idea it helped the internet grow as quickly as it did that equity capital could fund a new ventures without being obsessed with liability issues no one even knew at the time what a smart thing that was to do so genius of American government finally we did it kind of unintentionally usually the good things are done unintentionally I think yeah but you know tech companies are vulnerable so people think Facebook has a lock and young people don't necessarily want to be on Facebook and there's always competition so myspace was once considered you know untouchable they would rule social media forever an American history is littered with the corpses of corporate giants that seemed untouchable and basically went under so if David can beat Goliath then Dave can be Google yes yes all right I've got my work cut out for me so I was on your website this morning marginal revolution which I first off I love the name but the day I want to get the tagline totally right here's small steps towards a much better world I thought that actually is pretty perfect for a way of looking at the world that we need to fix things perhaps in the West with some small steps with some marginal things on the outside but it seems like there's a movement right now where people just want to rip up everything as if as if nothing good has come out of the 200 plus years of freedom that we've had here was that a little bit of why absolutely came up with tagline in the first place we need to start with where we are it's not about designing society from scratch and the West has the best heritage the best ideas most effective religion that I think our world has seen ever and we should embrace and cherish those things and yes modify them when appropriate but the American Constitution is one of the great works of genius of mankind yeah so how do we then so what let's say you're Bloomberg or somebody that's your guy let's say well there's no one who's my but somebody somebody who roughly holds these ideas is in office tomorrow now I know you don't want to give too much power to the executive obviously because you're into the Constitution and all that well what does this look like well I think the presidency of Trump shows how little influence a president has Trump is in most ways a weak president most of his policy agenda has not happened the courts have overruled him our Congress won't act now the Democrats control the house so for me the key is for ideas in broader society to change to try to be like a personal role model for what you believe in and just to have like your guy as president you're a woman as president there's no such thing and if I were very happy about an election up I just wouldn't feel that good about it I don't think it would matter that much it's more about the broad sweep of history yeah so then is the key to that that we have to stop I don't want people to become uninformed obviously we need to be informed but that the key might be stopped this sort of endless obsession with politics right now does that strike you it strikes me as dangerous that we've turned politics into the national past it's a bloodsport now and it's the way you take people down and Sault people so this the simple rule of how you would treat people to their face or talk to them to their face that politics should be done by all those same URLs and just being genteel I get that doesn't solve our national problems but it stops some things from getting worse and that's slipping away right now yeah what can we do so you think it's just just be nicer sort of at least well different people have different roles right so maybe some people it is their role to be a kind of Paul Revere of sorts but other people you know are role models and they should conduct civil intelligent conversations and that is catching I see that on the Internet so if you look at the best material on the Internet how smart it is including a lot of podcasts and YouTube shows compared to what people like thought was possible in the age of network television it's just astonishing the intellectual level so I see right now even sort of within my crew love of intellectual dark web people whatever this thing is that there's sort of a split happening where there's a certain amount of people that think we have to the institutions are changing say academia and the media and New York Times every dose that they're going through these massive changes and we're watching all sorts of layoffs so all over journalism right now and there's a split where it's like some people are just like let it burn it deserves to burn it's time for it to burn and then there's another version that's like well if we don't prompt these things up you know who the hell knows what's gonna come on the other side I would go back to this idea small steps toward a much better world like what can I do so I can write on the internet I can have my podcast series and I don't have some big mega plan for what to do with the New York Times or The Washington Post I'm genuinely not sure those outlets will have to evolve with competitive pressures in any case I'm not like wishing for the death of anything in particular and I think the same set of people under different circumstances can do a much better or much worse job yeah so like I root for institutions to succeed and not for their death but again I focus on that what's my comparative advantage what do I see is missing at the margin and really hone in on that like a laser yeah I mean I like that I think it's what I've tried so what you're doing I think to build here it's that I believe that usually the things that I'm talking about here are the right set of ideas and I don't mind having you know difference of opinion obviously with guests but trying to keep it relatively civil and worse at it on Twitter than I am in here and hopefully people can start thinking for themselves so what if I asked you like a day you know what should we do with the rotary club in Houston I mean you don't know right not specifically yeah tell me okay I don't know either that's an interesting point what do you what do you make of that that everyone feels they have to have an opinion on and everything yeah the second something happens everyone knows everything about the nuclear deal in Iran everyone knows everything about what's going on in North Korea and everyone knows everything about you know tax margins and everything else it's crazy actually you know one of the themes in my book stubborn attachments is on most issues yes you should do what you think is best but the chance that you are exactly right it's actually pretty low yeah and act and talk with that in mind so the the first I want to get the first sentence right the first sentence these growth is good economic growth yeah personal growth too but yeah well it since you were talking about economics but in a way you are talking about personal growth sure when we talk about growth so what is what does that mean beyond okay you can say the the economy grew an extra percent this year that sort of thing like can you put that into some sort of more layman's terms for the average person that isn't particularly interested in economics why growth is is the important thing that led off your book if you take a time period of like about a hundred years and you had the American economy grow one percentage point lower over that time period we would today have the national wealth of Mexico not the United States so in any given year a percentage point of growth like maybe it's not that big a deal but over time as it compounds it's the difference between riches and poverty the ability to have a job where you're somewhat in control the ability to have more scope for creative action in your life then your certainty your children will not die when they're very young to take care of your parents better to have access to the best medicines to be able to travel the world all of these things and people want different things but wealthier societies do a much better job at giving us those things including sustaining democracy so economic growth in my view is centrally important why do you think so many people believe that that has not occurred here or something like people don't want to accept I see this at colleges all the time when I go to talk to colleges and these kids think that they're oppressed and that something horrible is happening in the United States right now and the only way that I've been able to break through to them I always ask the same question and I've had nobody argue with me I save does anyone in this room have it worse than their grandparents and it has yet to happen where someone raises their hand yes and now I'm sure it has happened where somebody's grandparents were super wealthy and lost it but that would also be an argument sort of against leftist economics because it would show that you can lose a lot of wealth which they would want because they don't want wealth to be accumulated but why do you think this idea that somehow things haven't gotten consistently so much better which there is so much empirical evidence of why do you think that hasn't taken root say with younger people some of it is myopia some of it of course is that younger people have not been on this earth for very long some of it is we have taught too much a Galit arianism some of it is I think our society perhaps you can you explain what you mean by that a Galit arianism is the notion that if one person has something and the other doesn't that maybe that's automatically wrong even if the other person is pretty well-off or well-off by world historical standards and I think that's very often a harmful ideology I would do more to teach like win-win plus economic growth types of thinking that America is a more secular society I think it just creates a vacuum I'm not myself religious but I think religion plays an important role in giving us a framework and when that framework is taken away a lot of ideas enter the vacuum that can be harmful do you see that happening right now I do quickly yeah I definitely see that and I say that as someone that's not particularly really and especially on the left which is less religious than the right so is that what's happening that they've sort of traded religious thought or an unmoved mover or some sort of beginning of this whole thing they've traded it in for a series of ideas that are just about I mean it sounds cliche but how they feel now not enough about a higher purpose of some kind and one can have a purely secular vision of that higher purpose which is how I see myself that religion is a very easy persuasive way for many people to get there and we are secularizing finally in this country that's one of my greatest concerns is that funny for you as a secular person absolutely because I've never been religious my parents we're not religious but when I look at the actual data and also religious people tend to have more children I believe in you know a populous America that is not like a tiny country compared to India and China and it's one reason why I would like to make immigration work better and take in more immigrants I think we should be a strong country of five hundred million six hundred million if China and India are going to be over a billion so I had a couple weeks ago I had Heather McDonald in here who you're probably familiar with she talks about being a secular conservative now I know you're a small L libertarian right if we're going with labels but do you think there is room on the right for a secular movement to grow cuz I think that would be pretty powerful and I see some seeds of it actually happening right now I know libertarians generally don't care what your belief I tend to be secular yes yeah I think there will have to be right in a secular society so I think there's right now more intellectual ferment on the right it strikes me especially on Twitter but not only how much left wingers attack each other you know people who support different candidates this person's terrible this one is evil Joe Biden did this I think that's much worse on the left now than on the right and it's partly because they have fewer ideas to talk about and I find to bring up an unusual idea you will get further on the right currently than on the left and that's actually a positive sign so what do you make of that positive sign because if you I mean I think you know I know you know you know a bit about my political evolution I mean right would have asked me five years ago that most of the people that I agree with would be libertarians and conservatives or at the very least even though I'm still pro-choice and I know some of them thrilled with with gay marriage and I'm against the death penalty and a whole bunch of other things that these people would be extremely opening open to always sitting down with me and on the other side there's there's almost nothing left it's a reason to be optimistic if you look say at the 1960s 70s people on the right I think we're more open or maybe even more talented than on the left and they were at that time losing but you then have 80s and 90s were some of the classical liberal ideas become much more powerful communism Falls and then I think at some point in the 90s there's actually a lot more talent and openness on the left and the right stultified well we beat communism what do we do now well that's when they went after video games right yes well that was a big mistake the Republican is attacking video game Akane and they embrace too many politicians who are intolerant or telling lies or just being irresponsible and a lot of the right is still in that rut but I think if you look at intellectual discourse it's better on the right that may well again be a historical leading indicator of change maybe not soon but 20 years from now I think they'll be a payoff yeah well I think it's happening I actually do think it's happening right now but in ugly twisted painful ways right it's never easy or pleasant yeah do you sense we're sort of in the death throes of something right now that between the institutions kind of wavering and with all the free speech stuff on campus and just so much tension you've mentioned social media a couple of times that there's so many things happening at once the way this is all speeding up faster and faster and where were you organizing discourse around the Internet which is a good thing and will be a very good thing but it's extremely painful for many people I think that's one of the big changes going on I actually think America is depolarizing I'm not saying that's a pleasant process but if you go to someone in Congress like what do you think about free trade and you hear their opinion right now you can't necessarily tell if they're a Republican or a Democrat or someone who wants to increase you know social security government spending they could be a Republican or a Democrat and that wasn't the case and you know 2011 or 2013 so what people are calling polarization is the stakes are higher what is possible through politics is be in greater and grander so there's more hatred more mutual recrimination but people are just all over the map in terms of what they believe yeah well I do think it's a rich ground for ideas right now there but it's higher risk – yeah yeah so we could it could spin out of control correct I guess podcasts always have a lot of responsibility right now well we all do in some sense of personal mission in the old standard American Protestant sense even if you're totally secular to take that notion of a personal mission upon yourself and go and do it to me it's just critically important isn't that it like to me that's it it's your life grab it go with it demand as much freedom as you can possibly pilfer out of this world and take it and yet that message right now for young people unfortunately it's not catching on the way it should or maybe it is to your point and also understand we have some origins as a Puritan nation I'm not saying be a Puritan not at all but that has given America a cultural strength and ability to support people who do this in terms of openness and resources and the culture surrounding you how much encouragement you will find how big an audience you can build so early things like blogging now podcasting just how American those are we take for granted but it's a deep fundamentally important truth that Americans are sometimes Canadians Jordan Peterson have been the leaders in this area I don't think we appreciate enough yeah is anyone else doing it better is anyone else doing basics of freedom and liberty and the type of economics that you're talking about is anyone doing it better better it's a tricky word I think Australia and Canada as countries are in pretty good shape not with respect to political Liberty but in many areas I'm a fan of Singapore they have done economic policy very very well and they have become overall freer than they used to be you know Western Europe in some ways has a wonderful lifestyle but for me it's somewhat deadening and not that innovative but for cultivating like quality of consumption and how to enjoy leisure not really my thing in many ways but they're definitely ahead of us and we should value that and learn something from it what are what are some of the economic ideas or principles that we're not paying attention to you that we should if you're you know like there's people talking about ubi now there's people talking about all this stuff with automation I mean what should we be if we're looking at the future now what are things that we should be focusing on learning about what I'm seeing is people forgetting a lot of basics so ubi I find a tempting idea but I don't favor it I want can you steal man it for those that don't know what ubi is universal basic income the notion there's different versions of the scheme but government sends everyone money to support them as a kind of social welfare so just like a baseline everyone's got yes go from there now I believe in some kind of baseline so if you're disabled I believe you should receive a significant baseline if you need assistance I think for the most part we should pay people to work not pay them not to work so we have the Earned Income Tax Credit if you work and you're poor the government pays you extra money I think that has worked quite well it attracts a better quality of immigrant when you pay people to work rather than paying them not to work too much of Western Europe pays people not to work so the forms of aid we give they are cultural symbols and they are potent and the idea that it is automatic and eternal that you just get cash it's telling people the main thing of importance in life is cash and you will get it no matter what it's the wrong message to send and is it it's stealing the exact idea that you've been talking about for the last half hour which is sort of you've gotta innovate in life it's stealing that idea from the individual right we're just going to give you something right if you don't do anything you'll be able to sustain at the bottom of the tower forever even though obviously they're always gonna want more and more for that right that's alright it's gonna get you bi day one and then it's gonna be like that three years later correct but that said we should find ways of helping the needy I'm all for that yeah what's the right way to do it I don't think it's ubi yeah what else that people we should be thinking about that's popping up right now like when you're when you're in economics conferences and things and people are talking about what's going on in the future which we need thinking about I'm not sure how to fix climate change I think it's a very important issue I very much favor nuclear power I hope nuclear fuel endlessly one time so climate change do you think this could be I see a movement now it's coming from the right actually yes where there are people saying there are ways to tackle this that could be done through private enterprise and not purely through the government now I know you said you want some regulation that is a place where you see the government doing something related to the environment right what do you see is some sort of partnership there perhaps you also need to free up energy competition so say you try to build wind turbines in different parts of America homeowners say not near my house right there's a kind of NIMBY mentality that should be much easier I know it doesn't always look pretty you drive from LA to Palm Springs you see all the wind turbines but it is cheap clean green energy and if you really think climate change is a problem you should jump on board nuclear energy in my opinion can be safe France Sweden have done it just fine I'm optimistic about the prospects for nuclear fusion which can be safer yet than nuclear fishing and this is a place where you think the government should be leading correct or leading is a tricky area for nuclear power to operate I do think nuclear plant operators need a special kind of liability insurance which we provided under the price-anderson Act and that has a role for government and I'm fine by that I think it's much better than dealing with all of the secondary costs of higher air pollution so I don't think it can be lays a fair but also you have to free up the market so entrepreneurs can do this right do you like like I've sat down here with a couple and cat people that really just wanted you know disassemble the government altogether and enter their Mad Max phase I really like the idea intellectually like I like seeing how far you can take an intellectual argument how much government could disappear do you like entertaining those ideas just purely for just purely for your mind if not for practicality it's very important to entertain them or learn something from them but again we have to start from where we're at there's a lot of things government does that probably they're impossible to undo even if they're unwise American well that's why I was asking you yeah before that we have this machine that is so big that it's not you should just come in and something like Social Security you may not have designed it from scratch the way we have it but I'm not sure there's a way to back out and undo it all because you're caught in a cycle where people have been promised payments right yeah so maybe you know just live with that one and try to fix some other things yeah I'm sort of all over the place here but what do you think about crypto relating to all this and a changing economy I think there's a 20% chance crypto will pay off big time but not now maybe in 20 30 years from now just the way quantum mechanics at the time seemed weird and much later it became essential for computers but right now it seems to me the crypto revolution is failing what was promised has not really come to us I'm not upset that the price of Bitcoin is low I see a lot of potential for the notion of self executing market contracts in a crypto system I just don't see that right now consumers have problems where they're clamoring for this as the solution so I could see us getting there right so in a bizarre way if the problems of today exacerbate then maybe that funnels this all to crypto answers and also crypto may need more infrastructure so you look at a possible use of crypto well verifying individual identities possibly crypto is much better at that then you're with someone on the phone and they say what are the last four digits of your social right that's a crazy system but for crypto right we just we've just accepted that we're giving it to all sorts of strangers most likely Asia right every time we pick up the phone yeah crazy but it doesn't mean you can fix it quickly just by having crypto now there's a whole system built that way with payments companies and government bureaus and your personal data is encoded with your social security number your tax returns even if crypto is the answer there it'll be such an awkward roundabout route just like for cars to be a big deal well you needed roads you needed service stations you needed spare parts it took about 40 years for us to put together like the network of cars to revolutionize the world so I think a lot of people are over promising crypto in the short run and there is a very real chance it just dies out and doesn't work but I don't think it's all some fraud or bubble there's real potential there we don't yet know if it can work the rest of the infrastructure is not in place probably in the short run it will fail but I still hold that hope I have to say there's a certain pleasantness to everything you're talking about because you're sort of just telling people to take a breath for a second right I mean that sort of economically but personally I was just kind of slowed down a little bit for all of our problems the world as a whole has never been in better shape than it is today 2019 never ever so just keep that in mind and you know gratitude is good for your personal development like people who keep gratitude journals it seems they're happier they're more productive my gratitude Journal I guess is my blog in a funny way or podcasts but try to have some version of a gratitude journal in your life do you think as an interviewer that that you actually do learn every week I think one of the things on most I have most gratitude for is that I genuinely learn every week and I forget that the average person doesn't get to learn every week or maybe doesn't take time to learn it yeah you could learn every week but I mean I sit across incredible people all the time and it's like wow I learned something or at least i sat with someone who knows something that I don't know it's incredible I mean you get that same opportunity we've had many of the same guests not over the years prepping for interviews is right now the main way I learned but most people now also have this chance to learn every week podcasts other forms of the internet cable TV is much better than television used to be Netflix yeah so there's a lot more access for learning how do you decide how much prep you're supposed to do because I find sometimes occasionally I want to know a little bit less because I find that it will allow me to explore during the interview more sometimes I need to know a lot of very specific factual information or chronological information when when I did your show I was truly impressed how deep you had dug into my past then you asked me things that nobody had ever asked me before I go crazy over prepping so for Agnes Callard I read Plato's symposium five times in a row that's a lot of prep Emily Wilson she just tree translated Homer's Odyssey I'll have read that three times and she did Senecas plays and she wrote a biography of Seneca and wrote a book over living and a book about the death of Socrates and I'll read all of those and reread some of the underlying texts and her sister wrote a book on the history of the fort which I've already read and has some other books on food I'm gonna read some of the books of this whole book on the history of the four and it's a wonderful book it's called consider the fork Forks are important I thought you meant maybe that's an economic term no not good I mean the fourth dinner table for literal Fork Wow yeah so people's families of people have you know a sibling or a spouse who've done things I figure well of course the person has thought about this and they probably have interesting ideas about it that are not out there anywhere yeah so you'd rather talk about ideas more than any absolutely yeah yeah like the nitty-gritty of the day-to-day that's when I see all these people fighting over this policy that policy it bores me to no end at this point it doesn't seem it seemingly meaningless or valueless it's overreacting to the most recent signal in those ideas which are you know eternal will be with us and actually be more influential yeah so that's a that's an interesting segue actually to college campuses because you're teaching economics first off has economics at least from your position been infected by a lot of what we're seeing in the wider sense on college campuses related to free speech shouting down speakers because even if I find this all the time if you know people come up to me after events and they'll say you know I want to tell my boss or something that or my spouse time for low taxes but if I say that they're gonna say I'm racist I mean really crazy stuff so as someone that takes the small-l libertarian approach on this do you find that some of these ideas are infecting not so much economics is a much healthier field it has a tradition as being maybe more conservative isn't the right word but more market-oriented a lot of people disagree with me so economists I think register is about 80% democratic but they tend to be more conservative Democrats and I don't find that much just outright bias when I say things I feel mostly accepted and indeed even welcomed yeah now I know George Mason obviously is a specific thing but in general when I visit other campuses I just spoke at University Michigan to the philosophy department but I spoke to them in bad economics I'm going to use Chicago I don't expect any trouble at all I don't think I'll say anything incendiary either just like my version of common sense right here's why you should have a more positive view of the world here's what we can do here are the small steps toward a much better world that we should embrace I think it's gonna go fine sounds pretty hates peachy to me well we'll see I suppose well what would you say is the best way to deal then with what's going on on campuses even if you're not getting it and maybe it's not happening directly in economics departments right now I mean we're seeing it leak into into biology departments when we're talking about gender and all sorts of other things what do you think the best way to push against this the the sort of corroding of academic freedom if I look at my own school George Mason we have a very good record in this regard we have the highest free speech rating from fire a group you know about and our school I think has about more immigrant students or children of immigrants than any other major university in America and their attitude is so different they want to get in education to learn something and to make a good living and they're very practically oriented a lot of them are very curious and to them this is political correctness is often a form of nonsense and it seems to me a disease of kind of rich white kids schools so I think we need to be more cosmopolitan and just less provincial America has a long history of being provincial and this is the new form of American provincialism all right so let's back up a little bit because you just mentioned immigration but we started there but yeah so lay out what a sensible immigration plan actually looks like I think that if you have a plausible graduate degree from a real institution including from most other nations you should be able to get a green card here I think we should have completely free immigration from Canada I would say we should have open borders with any country that has a more generous welfare state than we do because then those people will not be coming for welfare they'll be coming here to work and I get you need to transition to that over time and then I would still let in people from poorer countries you need some of what is called unskilled labor it's not actually unskilled in fact but the more skilled people you have they need to work with people who can use the burden of their time so you have working women and they want nannies or that's fine so I think we could increase both skilled and unskilled immigration in this country we've done a pretty good job assimilating immigrants better than anyone in the history of the world I would argue absolutely so anyone that's even close I mean I guess I guess Canada perhaps er they do a good job accepting immigrants but they assimilate them much less so they have a tradition like French you know Quebec is separate and right maybe always will be separate so they just let it be separate so if you're a Sikh Chinese you move to Canada maybe you'll stay separate it works well it's very peaceful mmm but they assimilate much less I actually prefer a simulation but that's okay so what do we do with what if they always say it's 12 million people that are here illegally right now how do we how do we fix this then I would cut a deal I think they should be able to stay and if the restriction is no more wall for that it's actually a deal I would do I'm opposed to the wall but you know the wall will not stop people most people who come come by overstaying their visas the net flow from Mexico has actually been negative by a small amount for a few years I think Central America is a problem the notion that you can be safe from Honduras and simply by virtue of the fact that you made it to the border claim refugee status because you know there's a drug gang in your Pueblo I think that's a bad system I do favor some version of refugee status my wife was a refugee from Soviet Union so I appreciate this but just because you know things are bad in my country I'm a refugee because I'm close to the US and I made it to the border I think it's a very bad system it's very bad incentives and it's overwhelming our court system so some of what Trump says about that is true again my goal is to find a way of taking more of those people in an orderly manner but to encourage just rushing for the border I do think we need to change that yeah well that's why it really does seem we've imaginated hell right now right you've got Trump wanting okay he wants a wall and I don't think a wall is a nice actually pretty much agree with who he said I don't think a wall is inherently racist it may not actually work and maybe there's all sorts of other ways to deal with it but if the option that if the other option that people see is that you've got people screaming for open borders then I don't blame all the people that want the ball the wall and we have a wall right now right and if that's the way you the arguments gonna be framed right so to enforce immigration more properly but let in many more people would be my preferred solution so when you say cut a deal on the people here so if let's say you're throwing the Republicans the idea that you're gonna get some more of a wall or something what's the what's the deal on the other side that what these people the dreamers get to stay and we adjust the quotas upward and say tech companies can hire more skilled people on work visas and we also redo NAFTA so Canadians have the right to simply come here you might want to limit their ability to clean welfare I'm fine with that yeah and over time think about with what other countries can we have free movement the European Union has does this has done this within the European Union I get that there's a political backlash I'm not sure we should have open borders with Bulgaria and Romania I understand that probably doesn't work but we've also got a you know a notion sure but the the idea that 15 years from now we could have open borders with France and Germany to me we should be working toward that I understand it's not easy mm-hmm so I think when people hear the phrase open borders they think that means that you can automatically come here and become a citizen but that's not that's not what you'd be calling for right well work rights but we have a rapid path to citizenship which I favor it's one of the things that makes us good at assimilation and you know both political parties at different points in the past they always go crazy like oh all these people are going to come they're going to vote for the other party I don't think we really know 20 years from now what immigrants are going to vote for or why so you know Asian Americans will they remain as heavily Democratic as they are right now I don't know that that one's got to be changing just the pure economics of it same with Latinos I just say it's an open question so the partisan fear that like the they who come will be on the other side I think we just need to relax a bit on that yeah are there any topics that you shy away from because I'm you have to keep on asking I guess I can keep on asking because I've got a whole I haven't even looked at this but I've got a whole lot here about economics okay but it seems very obvious to me that through an economic lens of looking at things the way you do that you really could talk about anything but also I interview people a lot as you do and I'm used to talking about many topics so what else is interesting to you right now that maybe isn't purely within an economic lens or even a political lens whoa what sort of peaking your interest these days besides sports the question of how to find more talent in the world so I think there's a relative sir Fiat of capital relative to talented laborers my view of the world is if you have an incredibly talented person who is good at execution that person can get so much done the world as a whole is under explored from this point of view so you go to Nigeria how many talented people are there well they're about as talented as the United States they just don't have the opportunities look at how much talent has come from India in the last 20 years right China phenomenal amount and so 4050 years people like that didn't really have a chance so how is it say you were to go to Nigeria and try to mobilize a Nigerian talent what should you look for what should you do what kind of cultural training is needed what ought to change in Nigeria how can we recruit that talent that's maybe the the biggest question in the world today and we're not good at it and we don't really know what we're doing so I think what's keeping the twinkle in your eye actually is the fact that technology has led us to be able to explore all these ideas right now absolutely yeah and talk to people about them yeah that's pretty cool it is yeah I guess we are doing something fun and these other countries there except maybe North Korea but they're connected to the Internet yeah so you go to a random place in Africa or I was just in rural Ecuador a guy was driving me around and I asked him do you listen to YouTube it's a Quechua speaking fellow I asked him in Spanish he's like of course I went to my Ethiopian Travel Guide in Lalibela I asked him do you listen to YouTube he's like of course I say what do you listen to he said I'm a big fan of Armenian Church history I he can speak articulately about movements in the Armenian Christian Church in medieval times because that's what he does on YouTube a guy in rural Ethiopia that's phenomenal people don't get how much of that is there what a difference it's going to make people a lot of peat outside Oh YouTube that's like cat videos well yes there's those two some are pretty good actually but it's also medieval Armenian Church history in in rural Ethiopia yeah like how can you not be excited by that I just the amount of people that are thirsty for a little of this that's right a little of it yeah pretty great and they're basically all smarter than the mainstream used to think and the innovators who just talk to them and try to be like as smart as they can be they're attracting those audiences my goodness that's exciting yeah I don't how to end an interview better than that a little excitement that's pretty good it is you feel good about it I do how do I do as an interviewer wonderful you did fine as a guest thank you very much for more on Tyler check out his website marginal revolution com




Comments
  1. all the Democrats need to do is not act crazy and they'd have a shot at 2020…

    how do you engage others who view everything thru a political lens?

  2. Cowen said Trump hasn't rolled back much regulation, but the federal registry was reduced by well over a third back to 1970s level during Trump's first year. What other ways are good for measuring federal statutes?

  3. What's unfortunate is that this guy Cowen doesn't seem to understand the radical Intersectional agenda of breaking all the cultural underpinnings of what made America the place people wanted to come to live a better life in the first place. Wokeness wants to destroy it all and the genteel method of rational discourse is completely ineffective when you're dealing with someone who claims that all opposing words are hate speech and psychically harmful and radically promotes censorship, social media de-platforming, or indeed financial ruin and violence against all intelligent and persuasive political opponents. You can't debate a wokesupremacist fanatic who's only trying to silence you at any cost. Civility in the face of barbarism is a pipedream in this case, ask Bret Weinstein.

  4. I've been libertarian since 1982,… and I have seen more maturity and reasonableness in this episode than I have seen most anywhere else. Dave asked many relevant and important questions. He is a good bridge to most reasonable, but not intellectually curious, folks. I would love to see Dave host a debate between Sam Harris and Stefan Molyneux on various subjects,… such as free will, Universal Preferable Behavior, what necessary set of unchosen positive affirmative duties that free people have to comply with in even the best of all possible societies,… you can think of more topics yourself.

    I really wish Dave would have Mary J. Ruwart on his show to discuss her book Healing Our World: The Compassion of Libertarianism at http://www.ruwart.com/product/healing-our-world . Libertarians need to learn how to lead arguments by first appealing to emotions,… always while being ready to respond with those facts, logic, principles, and such abstract concepts that we all love so much. This book is the ONLY book I would ever really imagine giving to those who value feelings over facts (probably 90% of any given population if I am any judge of the matter). Using emotions to invoke a visceral response from listeners isn't cheating,… it's simply essential,… and valid too!

    My whole take on libertarianism is simply that I don't know what's best for other people.

    ~ Penn Jillette

    [Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

    ~ Mark Twain

    Humor is the great thing. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away.

    ~ Mark Twain

  5. First time I’ve ever watched or listened to David Rubin, although I’ve heard a lot about him. 7 minutes in and I just can’t understand what all the hoopla is. This guy is a milquetoast weak sauce nothing burger who seems to have incredibly superficial grasp of… well… basically, every issue. I’m not impressed.

  6. I feel as though there could be a decent benefit to UBI's. Regarding your concerns about it going to high I think it may be a little unfounded considering how hard of a political fight it is in this country to get things, such as welfare and the minimum wage, raised in this country. That being said, if a UBI were to be installed, I would want it to be very low so that it's not enough for its recipients to solely rely on, but can help alleviate a few of the financial burdens for those who are desperately struggling.

  7. (5:45) the moment people "outsource" liberty to government, it can no longer be called "liberty" and by definition becomes tyranny. granted, tyranny comes in all shapes and sizes, but the tendency of tyranny—like government—is always to grow and GROW.

  8. Political commentators here in France are bad but god damn none of em is as dumb as Rubin lmao this guy's a talking joke. But like we say here "idiots have no limits, that's how you recognize them"

  9. Mr. Tyler Cowen supports Bloomberg as a Presidential candidate??? That's the point I stopped watching this guy! Everyone knows all small 'l' libertarians love 32oz and sometimes 44 oz soda's…let alone the U.S Constitution's 2nd Amendment!!!
    Good bye….

  10. Remember when you worked for TYT and were saying the exact opposite of everything you’re saying now? Pepperidge farm remembers… 😁 #DebateSamSeder

  11. 19:00 @daverubin @therubinreport It is difficult for the average person to "step back" from the blood sport of politics when the policies are directly affecting their lives, particularly in the areas of cost of living and barriers to small business. Around the Western World, governments are increasing regulation on the individual, without compensating for the reality of living in a world that costs more than the average person earns. Until governments start ACTING for the People – which is the job they have forgotten – citizens will increasingly rise up in protest. Should governments continue to ignore the Citizenry, they will have world-wide rev olu tions on their hands.

  12. Avg IQ of Nigeria 84 below so below average of American blacks your going to take their high IQ people the few they have so they become average Americans rather than help Africa and lower wages in America. You want to help billion dollar corporations via tax payers expense. Also the children of Nigerians will be dumber than average American citizens end up on wealthfare or criminal tendencies. As we can statistical see violent crime correlated to IQ and if you don't think so go to lowest IQ countries in Africa and you see why you can't have innovation. Your poorly thought out views on long term benifits, cultures, biology and religions is like a school girl accepting candy by a guy in a van. Your basically a selfish guy trying to virtual signal to your beta males and women.

  13. All the "Nigerian talent" packs up and moves to the Western world anyway. I'm not sure what this guy's point is.

  14. I love Tyler and have read his blog for years. But it's funny, you ask him his positions and he basically outlines Rand Paul's platform to the letter. Then he says he likes the guy who outlaws big gulps. Just goes to show that even a guy as smart as Tyler is deeply swayed by tribal tics and mood affiliation.

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