My Conversation with Glenn Loury

Moving throughout, here is the audio, video, and transcript.  Here is part of the summary:

Economist and public intellectual Glenn Loury joined Tyler to discuss the soundtrack of Glenn’s life, Glenn’s early career in theoretical economics, his favorite Thomas Schelling story, the best place to raise a family in the US, the seeming worsening mental health issues among undergraduates, what he learned about himself while writing his memoir, what his right-wing fans most misunderstand about race, the key difference he has with John McWhorter, his evolving relationship with Christianity, the lasting influence of his late wife, his favorite novels and movies, how well he thinks he will face death, and more.

Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: What’s your favorite Thomas Schelling story?

LOURY: [laughs] This is a story about me as much as it is about Tom Schelling. The year is 1984. I’ve been at Harvard for two years. I’m appointed a professor of economics and of Afro-American studies, and I’m having a crisis of confidence, thinking I’m never going to write another paper worth reading again.

Tom is a friend. He helped to recruit me because he was on the committee that Henry Rosovsky, the famous and powerful dean of the college of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, who hired me — the committee that Rosovsky put together to try to find someone who could fill the position that I was hired into: professor of economics and of Afro-American Studies. They said Afro-American in those years.

Tom was my connection. He’s the guy who called me up when I was sitting at Michigan in Ann Arbor in early ’82, and said, “Do you think you might be interested in a job out here?” He had helped to recruit me.

So, I had this crisis of confidence. “Am I ever going to write another paper? I’m never going to write another paper.” I’m saying this to Tom, and he’s sitting, sober, listening, nodding, and suddenly starts laughing, and he can’t stop, and the laughing becomes uncontrollable. I am completely flummoxed by this. What the hell is he laughing at? What’s so funny? I just told him something I wouldn’t even tell my wife, which is, I was afraid I was a failure, that it was an imposter syndrome situation, that I could never measure up.

Everybody in the faculty meeting at Harvard’s economics department in 1982 was famous. Everybody. I was six years out of graduate school, and I didn’t know if I could fit in. He’s laughing, and I couldn’t get it. After a while, he regains his composure, and he says, “You think you’re the only one? This place is full of neurotics hiding behind their secretaries and their 10-foot oak doors, fearing the dreaded question, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Why don’t you just put your head down and do your work? Believe me, everything will be okay.” That was Tom Schelling.

COWEN: He was great. I still miss him.

And the final question:

COWEN: Very last question. Do you think you will do a good job facing death?

Interesting and revealing throughout.


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