Russ Roberts on the Curious Task of Epistemology

Matt Asher, host of the podcast “The Filter”, is a self-proclaimed fan of the long-running podcast, Econtalk, and of its host, Russ Roberts. Asher’s primary goal in this multi-faceted discussion was to reveal the epistemology of Russ Roberts and what has shaped, changed, and encouraged the world view that he shares on weekly episodes of EconTalk as well as through his books and articles. Topics range from behavioral economics, pandemics to religion. We hope you might respond to some of the questions posed.

 

 

1- What is the “Black Box problem” and how does it relate to Hayek’s quotation about “the curious task of economics”?  Do you agree that we tend to be more fooled by political promises than by product advertising claims for weight loss? 

 

2- What does Roberts claim to be the differentiating factor between economists and physicists in predicting future outcomes? 

 

3- Roberts often refers to the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb as a strong influence on his thinking about risk and probability. What is the important takeaway point about averages illustrated in the flood mark housing investment story? 

 

4- Would you include potential climate change outcomes in the same category of events associated with fearful fat tail distributions such as pandemics or war? Why or why not?

 

5- How is the individual perception of information critical to conclusions about rational behavior? How is risk a transaction cost? Russ mentions that despair isn’t measured and could impact decisions. What else might shape our decisions yet not be captured in data sets?

 

6- How does Russ compare Adam Smith’s philosophy from Theory of Moral Sentiments to religion as a means toward the development of the virtue of “getting outside oneself”?

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