Tim Harford on Persuasion and Popular Economics

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By Conversations with Tyler and Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

To Tim Harford, mistakes are fascinating. “We often only understand how something works when it breaks,” he says, explaining why there’s such an emphasis on errors throughout his work. They also tend to make great stories, which can stoke the curiosity necessary to change minds. A former persuasive speaking champion, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire “for services to improving economic understanding,” which he’s achieved through appearances on the BBC, columns for the Financial Times, several TED Talks and books, and now his latest podcast series Cautionary Tales.

Tim joined Tyler to discuss the role of popular economics in a politicized world, the puzzling polarization behind Brexit, why good feedback is necessary (and rare), the limits of fact-checking, the “tremendously British” encouragement he received from Prince Charles, playing poker with Steve Levitt, messiness in music, the underrated aspect of formal debate, whether introverts are better at public speaking, the three things he can’t live without, and more.

Note: This conversation was recorded in November 2019 and thus took place before the UK’s general election in December, which secured Boris Johnson a Conservative majority and ensured the passage of his Brexit deal in January 2020.

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