Ricardo Hausmann speaks with us about the macroeconomic and humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela. Hausmann is the Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard, where he also runs the Growth Lab. The topics we cover in the chat include an overview of Venezuelan history since the 1950s, the state’s reliance on oil, the specific policies enacted by Hugo Chavez that are responsible for the current disaster, his own antagonistic relationship with the Venezuelan government, the bleak prospects for the country’s future, and the fate of its debt. Some of the articles we referenced, with links embedded:
Our guest this week is Mary Waters, a Harvard sociologist who chaired the committee appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine to investigate the integration of immigrants into American society. She also edited the wonderfully detailed report published by the committee in September 2015. You can view a summary of the report here, and we’ll publish a transcript of the chat as soon as it’s ready. Enjoy!
This week, the FT’s US markets editor Robin Wigglesworth interviews sovereign debt experts Lee Buchheit and Mitu Gulati about their recent paper, How to Restructure Venezuelan Debt, after starting the show with a brief update on the ongoing economic and humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela. As further reading and listening, Robin also recommends Part 1 and Part 2 of a series by Anna Gelpern, a recent special report from Reuters, and his own sovereign debt series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Season 3 of Alphachat starts next week, but today we’re re-upping a wonderful conversation we had with Angus Deaton in October 2015, just after he’d won the the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — or just the economic Nobel, to the non-pedants among you. Further down is a time guide to the topics we discuss. And as we wrote at the time of the interview, several threads run consistently throughout his academic work and his writing (copied from our original post), including:
Tim Harford joins the show this week to talk about his new book, 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy (US, UK), a companion to his delightful podcast series for the BBC World Service. Tim also shares the lessons of past inventions that we often miss, the topic of his recent FT Magazine cover story. Here’s an excerpt:
Alphachat is hard at work preparing for its third season, which starts in just a few weeks. We’ll soon feature interviews with Michael Pettis on the economics and politics of trade rebalancing, Tim Harford on technology and the making of the modern economy, and Gabriel Zucman on tax havens and inequality. This week we are running again one of our favourite episodes from last year — a chat with Heidi Williams of MIT. Below we re-post the show notes from that episode. Enjoy!
Noah Smith, an economist who writes at Bloomberg View and on his personal blog, makes his second appearance on Alphachat. Economics methodology is a frequent subject of Noah’s columns, and I was keen for a podcast segment appraising how economics has evolved since the crisis. Among the issues discussed:
Our guest for this episode was Erica Grieder, a journalist and author of Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas. The state of Texas is often stereotyped and thus easily misunderstood. But its economic model — low taxes, light regulation, not much spending on public services — appears to have worked quite well for it. The model allows for meaningful exceptions such as an industrial policy that privileges the interests of businesses and entrepreneurs, and it includes a willingness to learn from earlier mistakes. One example was the implementation of tight restrictions on mortgage lending in response to an earlier lending bust, allowing Texas to escape some of the worst consequences of the recent housing crisis.
Alphachat’s guest this week was Martin Sandbu, economics writer at the FT and author of the daily Free Lunch newsletter, which we highly recommend. Martin has written extensively about both the appeal of a Universal Basic Income and the ways in which economics should re-orient itself in the wake of the financial crises and deep recessions of the past decade. We asked Martin to join us for a chat about UBI and other ideas in economics that once would have been considered radical or excessive, but which now are the subject of serious debate. We focused especially on the potential for these ideas to directly alleviate problems in the labour market and regional inequalities.
Our guest for the entire episode was Steven Johnson, author of the new book Wonderland: How Play Shaped the Modern World, a new history of how our amusements — the things we do and see for pleasure, wonder, enchantment — often have astonishing effects in the more serious realms of life much later on.
Michael Mauboussin, head of global financial strategies at Credit Suisse, joins us again to discuss his recent paper, Thirty years: The ten attributes of great investors. The paper is a reflection on much of what Michael has learned about investing throughout his career, and how the investment landscape has changed over time. Michael thinks deeply about epistemological issues and cognitive biases. One of his books, The Success Equation, is about the difficulty of untangling the roles of luck and skill in our lives. Here’s an excerpt from the opening to the paper: