Hands down, my favorite podcast, bar none.
The word polymath is an understatement where Professor Cowen is concerned, and this manifests itself in various ways, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the podcast. I do not know too many people who will be able to hold an hour long conversation with people ranging from Martina Navratilova to Larry Summers, and in the process, more than hold their own.
Here’s what I like about the podcast in general: Tyler Cowen doesn’t interview the person he is talking to, he has a conversation with them. And while seemingly obvious, this needs mentioning for two reasons. One, the conversations are never confrontational, not even remotely so. If the guest indicates the slightest degree of discomfort while talking about a particular point, the conversation moves on.
Second, the conversation is a genuinely Cowenian celebration of that person’s oeuvre. In most episodes, but not all, there is a question about how Tyler Cowen thinks about what the person has tried to do in their career: what were the big questions that the person was trying to address? Is there therefore a common theme that emerges from that person’s career? In other words, the entire conversation has a unifying idea, around which other questions are built. The pertinent sections from the conversations with Dani Rodrik, Jeffrey Sachs, and Malcolm Gladwell are especially fun to listen to in this regard.
You should listen to this podcast to find out more about these people and find stuff you can consume (books, movies, paintings, articles, whatever) – but above all, you should listen to the podcast to learn how to have a conversation. Tyler Cowen learns through the conversation, and in the process, he teaches us how to learn by having a conversation. It’s a remarkable gift to bequeath.
Which episodes would I recommend in particular? The very first one, with Peter Thiel, the one with Dani Rodrik, and the ones with Fuschia Dunlop and Mark Miller (they’re Kill Bill 1&2, in a sense) are particularly good. But really, every single one of them is gold.
Do give it a listen. Dare I say it, self-recommending