The rsvp and livestream for my conversations with Peter Thiel and Jeffrey Sachs

You can sign up for rsvp or the live stream here, the chat with Peter Thiel is March 31, 2-3:30 p.m. EST, held at the Arlington campus of George Mason University.  It is part of a new event series Conversations with Tyler.

The chat with Jeffrey Sachs is April 7, 3:30 to 5 p.m., again EST in Arlington.  There will be more to come in the Fall.

I will host and talk with guests, but without formalities.  I won’t ask “So tell us about your new book,” or any of the usual soporific chit-chatty questions.  I will try to replicate the conversations I would have with these same individuals in a private setting, except that you all get to listen.  That means launching into substance immediately and seeing how far the back and forth can be pushed.  It also means asking questions that not everyone listening will understand and willing to let parts of the audience suffer in their confusion.  I want these dialogues to be as smart as possible, based on the premise that each guest, no matter how renowned he or she may be, is nonetheless a radically underrated thinker.

The goal is to be never hostile or combative, but always probing.  I’m aiming for the chat to be 1/3 me vs. 2/3 guest, more or less, but about the ideas and contributions of the guest most of all.

Comments

Will they be recorded?

Joao -

Yes. After each livestreamed event concludes, the recorded video will be posted on the Mercatus Youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/MercatusCenter/

Can you make them available as podcasts too? That way they can be listened to in the car or on planes.

and boats

Yes, we're planning on making each event available as a podcast. Whether you listen in cars, planes, trains or boats remains your prerogative.

-Jeff

It is not my prerogative to listen on boats.

The state has denied you such prerogative, and rightfully so. Now howl!

Thiel discusses energy production in some detail in his book.

"Energy is the master resource: it's how we feed ourselves, build shelter and make everything we need to live comfortably."

But you do not discuss it much, in your book or in the blog, though you did seem to acknowledge the importance of energy in your post on the nuclear fusion reactor. To what extent is the great stagnation tied to the slowing of global energy production growth, esp. in the US? What do you both think?

Energy was very important to the full development of the Great Stagnation:
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=Vgm
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=11DG
The first part of the Great Stagnation was the Great Inflation. Energy only really became involved in that in 1973.

"slowing of global energy production growth"

..err, have you seen the news?

The last six months has nothing to do with a forty+ year long phenomenon.

"I won’t ask “So tell us about your new book,”"

Okay, but why not start with 2 minutes of "Tell us about your new book" so listeners can get a little up to speed on the topic at hand? Nobody else in the world reads as fast as you do, so let people get some grounding initially.

I'd go for Cowen Conversations. Alliteration is always amazing at attracting attention. :-D

"Tyler Talks Turkey" is a little low brow, isn't it?

Sachs is a charlatan and I'm curious what Cowen means in describing him as a "radically underrated thinker".

Sachs vs Summers vs Sumner, who is the biggest charlatan? They are all equal in my view, but give Sumner credit for taking on his critics, which the other two would never deign to do. So I guess Summers would be my choice. Apparently he's now flip-flopped to become more liberal, eying a post in any upcoming Democratic president cabinet to be sure.

No, Sachs is in a different category altogether. He leveraged the academic success of his early career into an unstoppable campaign of self-promotion. It's been at least 20 years since he accomplished anything other than throwing other people's money at his (failed) pet ideas and bloviating on Morning Joe. You can hear an audible snicker every time his name is mentioned at development economics events.

Agreed. Sachs wins as biggest charlatan.

He's a Twitter climate scientist now.

Wow! Do your homework. Go to Africa. Talk to some of the local community members and local leaders in Africa. They love Sachs because his projects have made a real difference. I did an internship because I was curious to find out what his projects were about. There's no doubt that his projects have been effective. This anti-Sachs campaign is simply about two things: 1) academic competition, and 2) self-promotion by people who want to sell their books by riding on Sachs' coattails by disagreeing with everything Sachs DOES. Note emphasis on "does." Development is difficult, but at least Sachs is DOING while his critics are simply sitting in their offices CRITICIZING from afar.

"Wow! Do your homework. Go to Africa"

Africa! Such a lovely country! Thanks for the advice. I actually lived and worked for 5 years in several African countries, including ones with MVs. While that may not give me the insights into the Sachs cult that you gleaned during your 6-week voluntourism internship, I'm pretty comfortable with the amount of homework I've done on this subject. I don't doubt you can find "local leaders" (many of whom have personally benefitted from Sach's largesse) who rave about this particular white savior, but every objective assessment has concluded MVP is at best a poor return on investment and at worst a colossal failure.

I'd like to hear Sachs describe his greatest success and greatest failure(s), just to hear how he thinks...

When he was on EconTalk a year or so ago to defend his Millenium Villages Project or whatever it's called, he came across like a politician delivering a well-rehearsed, well-worn campaign stump speech. And some of the questions Russ asked, he seemed to duck or give rote answers to, again like a politician. To me, the whole thing seemed rather disingenuous and offputting. I wouldn't quite call the guy a charlatan like someone above did, but it's pretty clear he is selling something and he badly wants you to buy it.

"he is selling something and badly wants you to buy it"

Exactly. His whole shtick with Millennium Villages Project was, essentially, "there's no mystery about how to bring about development. I know exactly what to do. It's just about pouring enough money into this set of programs. MVP will be a 'proof of concept' that I'm right about this." And he was so arrogant about it that when, way back in 2004-05, people suggested that it was important to design MVP in a way that lent itself to rigorous evaluation, his response was "I don't have time for that. I'm busy saving the world here." His consistent response to skeptics and critics of his approach has been to accuse them of wanting to keep people in poverty. And as the evidence of MVP's failure has become increasingly difficult to ignore, he's offered increasingly bizarre and disingenuous arguments in support of their success. "Look! Rates of cellphone ownership are on the rise in the MVPs!" (They're on the rise everywhere else too.) "Africa is rising! Check out these recent GDP numbers! Success!" (Yeah, including in countries with no MVP programs...)

This is sort of Larry King Live but on steroids, with economics. BTW I think Larry King started in Roselyn, Virginia on late-night talk radio (onetime disc jockey and provocateur H. Stern also started in DC)

Now the main complaint might be, "Well, TC is not the BBC's Jeremy Paxman" (supposedly one of the UK's toughest journalists, but listening to a clip on Youtube shows him to be quite funny to me, and not by US standards tough at all), but hostile interviews will make guests reluctant to show up. Also, don't expect anybody to tell you something that is inside information, so all guests will be naturally talking their book, which is not always bad. But it should be interesting, and I predict TC will be a better interviewer than Russ Roberts. This could be the start of something big!

@myself--just a clarification since even trolls have a conscious: R. Roberts is not that bad an interviewer now, I was thinking of how he used to be years ago. But if TC does not interrupt his guest with 'me too' statements as much as the old R. Roberts used to, he'll be even better.

I'd pay to watch Cowen internet Norm MacDonald (and vice versa)

Norm tends to be a bit cruel, I don't know how TC would handle that...

Sounds great.
please turn them into a podcast as well.

We're now planning on it thanks to commenters like you.

-Jeff

I look forward to listening...

Please, please, please turn these into podcasts that can be downloaded from a website.

Some of us live in really isolated, poor corners of the globe where the internet can't really handle youtube or large video downloads!

Pressure -
As someone who has also worked in corners of the globe with slow internet, I feel your pain and I'll make sure that happens.
-Jeff

Probably better served assuming each guest is a very overrated thinker - let them prove otherwise. A big concession to make up front.

These sound awesome. As for the "suffer in their confusion" part, would it be possible after the fact to give links/commentary to elucidate some things? Kind of like the "Readings and Links" section for each podcast on EconTalk. But maybe that's not what you intended. Either way, I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks for doing this!

"Suffer in their confusion". Right, why stop now? :)

+1

How about a video cast with subtitles, to explain, when he starts laying on the jargon, what-t-hell TC (or guest) is talking about

I hope it's just like the blogging heads with Peter Singer. Knew very little of Singer, but one of the best interviews I've ever seen.

Here it is: http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/2022

I think any useful attempt to discuss Big Ideas begins by establishing what each participant considers to be the Good Life or the proper Aim of human civilization/existence/what have you. Then, even if everyone disagrees about the end Goal, the suggested Means of attaining that goal can at least be discussed in terms of whether they would actually bring that Goal about. And of course there could potentially be interesting discussion trying to convert the other participants to your Goal.

Tyler, you will "never be hostile or combative"? Not a high incentive for me to listen then as people like Sachs will give you their boilerplate platform drivel. Why don't you expand your questioning to play devil's advocate and push your guests a bit. You can issue a disclaimer at the end that it wasn't really Tyler Durden asking the questions, but Nice Tyler Cowen play acting. Maybe Bill Easterly can send you some questions for Sachs....

He is a great interviewer. He probes and pushes in a non-hostile way.

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/2022

Tyler, for a dialogue with you to be smart, you would have to contribute something outside the autism spectrum, and you can't do it.

Dude, that's a low blow...Must be one of Tyler's students that got an "F"...Stop hating and study more.

The Singer interview was the best interview I've ever heard, and the competition isn't even close. Most interviews are about feeling some type of connection with the interviewee rather than learning something truly interesting.

Agreed!

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/2022

Not to be overly pedantic, but I presume you mean EDT, not EST?

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You and Thiel both have similar thoughts on the future of human/tech interactions. Maybe some background on why you believe this. Thiel doesn't use chess at all in Zero to One, what are his examples and why.
In that book Thiel also mentions that "you are not a lottery ticket" and that luck isn't part of success. Why does he think it wasn't luck?
Are Thiels predictions overweighted because of his field (technology) and why hasn't he adjusted these known biases as he seems to do with other ideas in his book (founders, competition/capitalism)

Thiel viewed PayPal's mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. They would give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen. Was the aim of PayPal to assist the citizens countries that are on the edge of Bankruptcies and default like Greece with an exit strategy of keeping their assets, if the country were to make a Capital Freeze?

I know this question and straightforward but it might possibly lead to a research into Alternative Routes to Capital Freeze.

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