The Ezra Klein Show

By New York Times Opinion

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Subscribers: 3223
Reviews: 13

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 11, 2021

Patty
 Jun 20, 2021
06-20-21 This has become my favorite news related podcast. Always informative and well rounded conversations with really interesting people.

Jane Heaton
 May 28, 2021
Great conversations. Ezra Klein asks thoughtful questions that go deeper.


 May 1, 2021

Mathieu
 Apr 28, 2021
Not Joe Rogan

Description

*** Named a best podcast of 2021 by Time, Vulture and Esquire. *** Each Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation on something that matters. How do we address climate change if the political system fails to act? Has the logic of markets infiltrated too many aspects of our lives? What is the future of the Republican Party? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness? What does sci-fi understand about our present that we miss? Can our food system be just to humans and animals alike?

Episode Date
A Crypto Optimist and a Crypto Skeptic Walk Into a Podcast Studio
01:07:51

I’ve been wanting to explore the world crypto and blockchain technologies could build on the show for a while. In certain ways, I’m an optimist: I think these technologies matter, and many of them will work. In other ways, I’m a skeptic: I’m unconvinced that their wide adoption will lead to the glittering, decentralized digital world that many crypto proponents imagine.

So this is a crypto conversation that goes way beyond Bitcoin. It’s about what will happen when we build the foundation for truly digital economies, with digital money, digital goods, and digital ownership. It’s about technologies that could unlock a renaissance of creativity or an orgy of commercialization. Or both. And it’s about whether we are mistaking problems of power for problems of technology, and what might happen if we fix the technologies without changing the power structures. As everyone in this debate agrees, we made a lot of mistakes with the internet we have. How do we avoid them on the internet we’re building?

My guest today is Katie Haun. Haun is a general partner at the venture firm A16Z, also known as Andreesen-Horowitz. She’s a former Supreme Court clerk and federal prosecutor who has focused on cybercrime and prosecuted corrupt agents involved in Silk Road, the first big darknet market. So she saw the dark side of crypto first, and now, at A16Z, she’s a leader of one of the biggest crypto venture funds there is. So this is a conversation about the world crypto might create, conducted with as little technical jargon as we could manage. Enjoy!

I also want to note that this will be the last episode I host until January. I’m going on paternity leave for the next few months, and we’re going to have an absolutely all-star lineup of guest hosts while I’m gone. That lineup will include Jamelle Bouie, Ross Douthat, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Nicole Hemmer, Heather McGhee, David Brooks, Julia Galef, and the one, the only, Rogé Karma. I’m excited to be a listener and trust me, you should be too. 

One last bit of housekeeping: The Times’s Opinion section is looking for an editorial assistant to work with Michelle Goldberg and me on fact-checking our columns and doing some editorial research and clerical work. This is a great, entry-level role at The Times. It needs a year of journalism experience, and on my end, I’m particularly looking for candidates with a demonstrable obsession with policy analysis and social science research. You can find more information at http://nytco.com/careers.

Mentioned:

NFTs and a Thousand True Fans” by Chris Dixon

Book recommendations:

The Company by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

My Life in Full by Indra Nooyi

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Oct 15, 2021
Lessons on Living Well, From Nick Offerman
01:09:02

Nick Offerman is best known for his role as Ron Swanson, the mustachioed, libertarian outdoorsman who led the Pawnee, Ind., Parks and Recreation Department on the beloved show “Parks and Recreation.” But there’s more to Offerman than Swanson: His new book, “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play,” was inspired in part by his conversation with the agrarian poet-philosopher Wendell Berry, and a hiking trip he took with the writer George Saunders and the musician Jeff Tweedy (both of whom you may remember from past episodes of this show).

Offerman is fascinating. He plays, inhabits and ultimately subverts a kind of camp masculinity. Some of it is real. He really does own a woodworking shop. He really did release a whiskey with Lagavulin. But some of it is a container Offerman is using to try to get people to think about different ways to live. Like his famed character, Offerman loves the outdoors and thinks we’ve lost touch with the role it should play in our lives and the role it has played in our past. That’s the subject of his book, and to some degree, of this conversation. But Offerman is also just a wonderful storyteller and possessed of a generous, earthy wisdom. So this one is a delight.

Mentioned:

The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

Book Recommendations:

Fidelity by Wendell Berry

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

Boys and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Andrea López Cruzado and Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Love listening to New York Times podcasts? Help us test a new audio product in beta and give us your thoughts to shape what it becomes. Visit nytimes.com/audio to join the beta.

Oct 12, 2021
Let's Talk About the Anxiety Freedom Can Cause
01:05:08

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and cultural theorist whose work includes the award-winning 2016 book “The Argonauts.” Her newest work, “On Freedom,” pierces right into the heart of America’s founding idea: What if there’s no such thing as freedom, at least not freedom as a state of enduring liberation?

And more than that: What if we don’t want to be free? Perhaps that’s the great lie in the American dream: We’re taught to want freedom, but many of us recoil from its touch.

Nelson describes herself as a “disobedient thinker,” someone who enjoys looking at “the difficulty of difficult things,” and this conversation bears that out. We talk about when and whether freedom is hard to bear, the difference between a state of liberation and the daily practice of freedom, the hard conversations sexual liberation demands, what it means to live in koans, my problems with the “The Giving Tree,” Nelson’s disagreements with the left, the difficulty of maintaining your own experience of art in an age when the entire internet wants to tell you how to feel about everything, and more.

Book Recommendations:

Possibilities by David Graeber

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman

The Force of Nonviolence by Judith Butler

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Mary Marge Locker and Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Oct 08, 2021
How to Do the Most Good
01:28:32

Do we actually know how much good our charitable donations do?

This is the question that jump-started Holden Karnofsky’s current career. He was working at a hedge fund and wanted to figure out how to give his money away with the certainty that it would save as many lives as possible. But he couldn’t find a service that would help him do that, so he and his co-worker Elie Hassenfeld decided to quit their jobs to build one. The result was GiveWell, a nonprofit that measures the effectiveness of different charities and recommends the ones it is most confident can save lives with the least cost. Things like providing bed nets to prevent malaria and treatments to deworm schoolchildren in low-income countries.

But in recent years, Karnofsky has taken a different approach. He is currently the co-C.E.O. of Open Philanthropy, which operates under the same basic principle — how can we do the most good possible? — but with a very different theory of how to do so. Open Phil’s areas of funding range from farm animal welfare campaigns and criminal justice reform to pandemic preparedness and A.I. safety. And Karnofsky has recently written a series of blog posts centered around the idea that, ethically speaking, we’re living through the most important century in human history: The decisions we make in the coming decades about transformational technologies will determine the fate of trillions of future humans.

In all of this, Karnofsky represents the twin poles of a movement that’s come to deeply influence my thinking: effective altruism. The hallmark of that approach is following fundamental questions about how to do good through to their conclusions, no matter how simple or fantastical the answers. And so this is a conversation, at a meta-level, about how to think like an effective altruist. Along the way, we discuss everything from climate change to animal welfare to evaluating charities to artificial intelligence to the hard limits of economic growth to trying to view the world as if you were a billion years old.

You probably won’t agree with every prediction in here, but that is, in a way, the point: We live in a weird world that’s only getting weirder, and we need to be able to entertain both the obvious and the outlandish implications. What Karnofksy’s career reveals is how hard that is to actually do.

Mentioned:

The "Most Important Century" Blog Post Series on Holden Karnofsky’s blog, Cold Takes

GiveWell

More on Open Philanthropy’s approach to worldview diversification

What Charity Navigator Gets Wrong About Effective Altruism” by William MacAskill

The Past and Future of Economic Growth: A Semi-Endogenous Perspective” by Charles I. Jones

Book recommendations:

Due Diligence by David Roodman

The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers by Robert L. Kelly

The Precipice by Toby Ord

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Oct 05, 2021
Eric Adams Has a Message for the Democratic Party
00:48:57

In July, Eric Adams narrowly won the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York, making him the odds-on favorite to win in November. And he won the nomination by running directly against the verities of today’s progressives: asserting that the police are the answer, not the problem; that “defund the police” misjudged what communities of color actually want; that Democrats had lost touch with the multiracial working-class voters they claim to represent.

Adams won on that message. He won in deep-blue New York City. It’s made him a national figure, and he’s been emphatic on what that means. “I am the face of the new Democratic Party,” he said. And “if the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential election.”

When politicians become national stories, they often release, or rerelease, a book. Adams is no exception. But instead of a campaign manifesto or an autobiography, “Healthy at Last” is a book about the health benefits of plant-based eating. “Outspoken vegan” isn’t a political identity I tend to associate with ambitious politicians at odds with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but that’s Adams for you. He doesn’t shy away from a fight.

In this conversation, Adams and I talk about the fights he is picking, or will have to pick, in the coming years: with progressives who he thinks have lost their way, with police unions he wants to reform, with wealthy communities where he wants to build more housing, with critics who think plant-based eating is a hobby for foodie elites and with voters who may not be willing to wait for Adams’s “upstream” approach to social problems to pay off.

Book Recommendations:

Healthy At Last by Eric Adams

Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza

You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza

Upstream by Dan Heath

Atomic Habits by James Clear

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Oct 01, 2021
This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift
01:24:23

There are certain conversations I fear trying to fit into a description. There’s just more to them than I’m going to be able to convey. This is one of them.

Richard Powers is the author of 13 novels, including the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Overstory.” If you haven’t read it, you should. It’ll change you. It changed me. I haven’t walked through a forest the same way again. And I’m not alone in that. When I interviewed Barack Obama this year, he recommended “The Overstory,” saying, “It changed how I thought about the earth and our place in it.”

Powers’s new book is “Bewilderment.” You could think of it as 'The Innerstory': It is about how and whether we see the world we inhabit. It’s about the nature and limits of our empathy. It’s about refusing to die before we’re dead and taking seriously the gifts and responsibilities of being alive. It is about how we change our minds and how we change our societies. It is about how we treat delusion as normal and clarity as lunacy. It is enchanting, and it is devastating.

It is not just books through which Powers has been exploring these ideas. It is also through radical changes he’s made to how he lives his life. That’s where we start but far from where we end: This conversation touches on mortality, animism, politics, old-growth forests, extraterrestrial life, Buddhism and beyond.

Mentioned:

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Book recommendations:

How to Be Animal by Melanie Challenger

Rooted by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Ever Green by John W. Reid and Thomas E. Lovejoy

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 28, 2021
Opinion Crossover: California Republicans, Facebook and Media Navelgazing
00:34:59

Today, we’re doing something a little different. Instead of a normal interview, we wanted to let you in on a special round table discussion I recently had with my fellow Opinion Audio hosts: Jane Coaston of “The Argument” and Kara Swisher of “Sway.” We discuss California’s recall election, the future of the Republican Party, the recent “Facebook Files” revelations, the case for and against breaking up Big Tech, why so many Americans distrust the media and much more. 

So enjoy! And remember to subscribe to “Sway” and “The Argument” wherever you get your podcasts.

Mentioned: 

“Gavin Newsom Is Much More Than the Lesser of Two Evils” by Ezra Klein

“How California conservatives became the intellectual engine of Trumpism” by Jane Coaston 

“The Facebook Files”

 Book recommendations: 

The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor

Fuzz by Mary Roach

This is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 24, 2021
We’re on the Precipice of a Post-Roe World
00:59:56

A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court let stand a Texas law creating a system of vigilante legal enforcement against anyone who participates in an abortion after the point of fetal cardiac activity. In effect, Texas’ law bans abortions after about six weeks, which is long before many women even know they’re pregnant. And soon the court will hear arguments on a Mississippi abortion ban that will give the justices the chance to overturn Roe v. Wade directly.

We may be on the precipice of a post-Roe world.

But what does that actually mean? Leslie Reagan is the author of “When Abortion Was a Crime” and “Dangerous Pregnancies.” Reagan has done groundbreaking historical work to reveal what happened when U.S. states began criminalizing abortion in the early 19th century. There are lessons in our past that should inform our future, if we’ll listen.

This is also a particularly personal episode for me.My partner is 33 weeks pregnant. This is our second pregnancy. Both have been unusually dangerous and physically damaging. For the state to say that it will force any people to undergo that against their will is a remarkable assumption of power over individuals. Reagan and I talk about what that means, what the state is saying about the personhood, or lack thereof, of those who become pregnant.

Mentioned: 

"Behind the Texas Abortion Law, a Persevering Conservative Lawyer" by  Michael S. Schmidt

Book recommendations: 

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics by Laura Biggs

Killing for Life by Carol Mason

Radical Reproductive Justice, edited by Loretta J. Ross, Lynn Roberts, Erika Derkas, Whitney Peoples, and Pamela Bridgewater

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 21, 2021
Economics Needs to Reckon With What It Doesn’t Know
01:16:00

“The world discovered that John Maynard Keynes was right when he declared during World War II that ‘anything we can actually do, we can afford,’” writes Adam Tooze. “Budget constraints don’t seem to exist; money is a mere technicality. The hard limits of financial sustainability, policed, we used to think, by ferocious bond markets, were blurred by the 2008 financial crisis. In 2020, they were erased.”

Tooze is an economic historian at Columbia University, co-hosts the podcast “Ones and Tooze,” writes the brilliant Chartbook blog and is the author of “Crashed,” the single best history of the 2008 financial crisis. He’s now out with a new book, “Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy,” which tells the story of the unprecedented global economic response to the pandemic.

The central thread of Tooze’s work is how the past decade of crises has upended many of the core assumptions that have guided economic policymaking for the past 50 years — including ones that many contemporary economists and policymakers continue to cling to. So that’s what we mainly talk about here. But we also discuss how the boundaries of acceptable thought in the economics profession are policed, the actual risk of runaway inflation, the limits of green monetary policy, the fight over Jerome Powell’s reappointment as Fed chair, what the Covid crisis reveals about our ability to respond to the climate crisis, the need for a supply-side progressivism and more.

Mentioned: 

“Declining worker power and American economic performance” by Anna Stansbury and Larry Summers 

“The green swan: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change”

Book recommendations: 

The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton

Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman

Essays in Persuasion by John Maynard Keynes

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 17, 2021
How Colson Whitehead Writes About Our ‘Big Wild Country’
00:56:35

“If he got a thrill out of transforming these ill-gotten goods into legit merchandise, a zap-charge in his blood like he’d plugged into a socket, he was in control of it and not the other way around,” writes Colson Whitehead in his new novel, “Harlem Shuffle.” “Dizzying and powerful as it was. Everyone had secret corners and alleys that no one else saw — what mattered were your major streets and boulevards, the stuff that showed up on other people’s maps of you.”

Whitehead is the author of “The Underground Railroad,” which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and “The Nickel Boys,” which also won a Pulitzer, the first time two consecutive books by an author won. But he actually started “Harlem Shuffle” in between those two books. And now that he’s finished it, he can’t quite put it down. He’s working on a sequel, he told me. The first time he’s tried one.

“Harlem Shuffle” is both a joyous and a troubled book. It’s built around Ray Carney, a furniture salesman and fence for stolen goods, and a series of capers around 1960s-era Harlem. But at its core it’s about patrimony, capitalism, ambition, race and the moral costs of striving in an unjust system.

We talk about all that, and more: how Marvel Comics made Whitehead want to be a writer, how parenthood changed him, why he hopes to distill it all down to a haiku, whether the writing world is a just or unjust system, the nature of zombies, the nonfiction of the late-Aughts internet, the legacy of 9/11, his favorite heist movies, what his wife thinks his characters know that he doesn’t — and I could keep going.

This one’s a fun one.

Mentioned: 

"Wow, Fiction Works!" by Colson Whitehead

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead

Book recommendations: 

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Mad As Hell by Dave Itzkoff

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 14, 2021
Tyler Cowen on the Great Stagnation’s End
01:17:32

Tyler Cowen is an economist at George Mason University, the co-founder of the blog Marginal Revolution, and host of the podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” But more than that, he’s a genuine polymath who reads about everything, goes everywhere and talks to everyone. I’ve known him for years, and while I disagree with him on quite a bit, there are few people I learn more from in a single conversation.

In this conversation, I wanted to get at the connective thread in Cowen’s work: the moral imperative of economic growth. Growth doesn’t have the best reputation in left-wing circles these days, and often for good reason. It’s hard to look at a world where rising G.D.P. has driven rising temperatures and shocking inequality, and then to continue venerating growth as an all-encompassing good.

Cowen admits those criticisms — particularly the climate one — but still argues that growth, properly measured, is central to a moral economy. The East Asian economic miracles are, he’s written, “the highest manifestation of the ethical good in human history to date.” Time, he argues, is a “moral illusion,” and the most important thing we can do for the future is set the power of compounding growth to work now. We do that by generating new ideas, new technologies, new ways of living and cooperating. And that, in turn, requires us to find and nurture human talent, which is where his recent work has focused.

So we begin this conversation by discussing the case for and against economic growth, but we also get into lots of other things: why Cowen thinks the great stagnation in technology is coming to an end; the future of technologies like A.I., crypto, fourth-generation nuclear and the Chinese system of government; the problems in how we fund scientific research; what the right has done to make government both ineffective and larger; why Cowen is skeptical of universal pre-K (and why I’m not); whether I overestimate the dangers of polarization; the ways in which we’re getting weirder; the long-term future of human civilization; why reading is overrated and travel is underrated; how to appreciate classical music and much more.

Mentioned: 

The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen 

Stubborn Attachments by Tyler Cowen 

“Beyond GDP? Welfare across Countries and Time” by Charles I. Jones and Peter J. Klenow 

(No book recommendations on this one, but tune in for some classical music and travel recommendations) 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. 

Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 10, 2021
Can We Change Our Sexual Desires? Should We?
01:05:07

“Feminists have long dreamed of sexual freedom,” writes Amia Srinivasan. “What they refuse to accept is its simulacrum: sex that is said to be free, not because it is equal, but because it is ubiquitous.”

Srinivasan is an Oxford philosopher who, in 2018, wrote the viral essay “Does Anyone Have the Right to Sex?” Her piece was inspired by Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage and the misogynist manifesto he published to justify it. But Srinivasan’s inquiry opened out to larger questions about the relationship between sex and status, what happens when we’re undesired for unjust reasons and whether we can change our own preferences and passions. The task, as she frames it, is “not imagining a desire regulated by the demands of justice, but a desire set free from the binds of injustice.” I love that line.

Srinivasan’s new book of essays, “The Right to Sex,” includes that essay alongside other challenging pieces considering consent, pornography, student-professor relationships, sex work and the role of law in regulating all of those activities. This is a conversation about topics we don’t always cover on this show, but that shape the world we all live in: Monogamy and polyamory, the nature and malleability of desire, the interplay between sex and status-seeking, what it would mean to be sexually free, the relationship between inequality and modern dating, incels, the feminist critique of porn, how the internet has transformed the sexual culture for today’s young people and much more.

(One note: This conversation was recorded before the Supreme Court permitted a Texas law prohibiting abortions after six weeks, arguably ushering in the post-Roe era. We’re working on an episode that will discuss that directly.)

Mentioned: 

The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan

"Sex Worker Syllabus and Toolkit for Academics" by Heather Berg, Angela Jones and PJ Patella-Rey

Book recommendations: 

Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, with Barbara Smith 

Revolting Prostitutes by Juno Mac and Molly Smith

Feminist International by Verónica Gago, translated by Liz Mason-Deese

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 07, 2021
This Isn’t Your Grandpa’s Joe Biden
00:54:40

President Biden’s economic policy isn’t what you would have expected from his long career. That’s true in the legislation he’s backing, which is bigger and bolder than anything we’ve seen from him before, but it’s even truer in the appointments he’s making and the theories he’s embracing. On everything from antitrust to inflation to employment to power, Biden is reflecting a new strain of progressive economics thoughts — one that wants to direct markets, not just correct them.

Felicia Wong is the chief executive of the Roosevelt Institute, one of the think tanks that’s been central to building the new progressive economics that Biden has picked up. She joined me for a conversation on Biden’s theory of the economy, how antitrust thinking has changed, whether Jerome Powell should be reappointed chair of the Federal Reserve, whether progressives need to reckon with Amazon’s wild popularity, what kind of inflation problem we have and much more.

Mentioned: 

“Socialists Will Never Understand Elizabeth Warren” by Henry Farrell

Book recommendations: 

Undoing the Demos by Wendy Brown

The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin

Difference without Domination by Danielle Allen and Rohini Somanathan

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Sep 03, 2021
Ask Ezra Anything: Degrowth, Third Parties, Reading and More
01:11:30

We asked for your questions, and you answered. Hundreds and hundreds of fantastic questions poured in, and our producer Annie Galvin joined me to ask some of the best of them. Does the infrastructure bill mean there’s more hope for bipartisanship than we thought? What’s my view on the degrowth movement? What do I think my book, “Why We’re Polarized,” got right, and what did it get wrong? Will plant- and cell-based meats ever be cheaper than eating animals, given the subsidies the meat industry gets? Why hasn’t any blue state created a single-payer health care system? Can you really build more housing without creating a biodiversity crisis?

We also get into reading habits, comic books, meditation, children’s books, why I spend a lot of time thinking about death and much more. So here it is: the “Ask Me Anything” episode.

Mentioned:

"What Does Degrowth mean? A Few Points of Clarification" by Jason Hickel

"The Ugly Secrets Behind the Costco Chicken" by Nicholas Kristof

"The Number of Parties" by Maurice Duverger

Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America  by Lee Drutman

"Forget Obamacare: Vermont Wants to Bring Single-Payer to America" by Sarah Kliff

"What the Rich Don't Want to Admit About the Poor" by Ezra Klein

Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor

Seeing That Frees by Rob Burbea

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman

Supergods by Grant Morrison

Book Recommendations:

Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 31, 2021
The Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have
00:59:23

Everything about the Afghanistan withdrawal is tragic. But that tragedy is the result not of the withdrawal, but the occupation, and America’s profound misjudgment of its own power and limits.

This is the foreign policy conversation much of Washington is trying desperately to avoid. The answer for the horrors of war is always more war. The bomb attack at the Kabul airport on Thursday reflects this dynamic perfectly: It’s being wielded as a cudgel by those who support a permanent American occupation of Afghanistan, guaranteeing more U.S., and Afghan, casualties in a bloody, open-ended struggle with the Taliban. We are ever alert to the costs of our inaction, or absence, but not to the harms of our presence or policies.

Robert Wright is a journalist and author of, among other things, the excellent newsletter Nonzero, where he examines the assumptions that drive America’s foreign policy. We discuss the deeper history of American involvement in Afghanistan, the limits of America’s knowledge of other nations, why the foreign policy establishment retains its authority and influence, the hollowness of humanitarian justifications for remaining in Afghanistan, the dangers of too much bipartisanship, how the withdrawal could have gone both better or much worse, the emerging consensus around a possible cold war with China and much more.

Book recommendations: 

The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam

The Hell of Good Intentions by Stephen Walt

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

If you enjoyed this episode, check out Ezra’s recent column: “Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem” 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 27, 2021
This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Trauma
01:17:28

“Trauma is much more than a story about something that happened long ago,” writes Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. “The emotions and physical sensations that were imprinted during the trauma are experienced not as memories but as disruptive physical reactions in the present.”

Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist by training, has been a pioneer in trauma research for decades now and leads the Trauma Research Foundation. His 2014 book “The Body Keeps the Score,” quickly became a touchstone on the topic. And although the book was first released seven years ago, it now sits at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, a testament to the state of our national psyche.

The core argument of the book is that traumatic experiences — everything from sexual assault and incest to emotional and physical abuse — become embedded in the older, more primal parts of our brain that don’t have access to conscious awareness. And that means two things simultaneously. First, that trauma lodges in the body. We carry a physical imprint of our psychic wounds. The body keeps the score. But — and I found this more revelatory — the mind hides the score. It obscures the memories, or convinces us our victimization was our fault, or covers the event in shame so we don’t discuss it.

There’s a lot in this conversation. We discuss the lived experience of trauma, the relationship between the mind and the body, the differences between our “experiencing” and “autobiographical” selves, why van der Kolk believes human language is both a “miracle” and a “tyranny,” unconventional treatments for trauma from E.M.D.R. and yoga to psychedelics and theater, how societies can manage collective trauma like 9/11 and Covid-19, the shortcomings of America’s “post-alcoholic” approach to dealing with psychic suffering, how to navigate the often complex relationships with the traumatized people we know and love, and much more.

Mentioned: 

“The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study” by Vince Felitti et al.

Study on efficacy of EMDR

“REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Toward a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics” by Robin Carhart-Harris et al. 

Book Recommendations:

The Apology by V 

Love in Goon Park by Deborah Blum

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 24, 2021
The Argument: Should We Say "Hi" to Aliens?
00:36:22

We're taking this week off from publishing new episodes, so today we're bringing you an episode from "The Argument" about one of my favorite topics: aliens. We'll be back with new episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" on Tuesday.

With the U.S. government puzzling over U.F.O.s, and potentially habitable exoplanets in our telescopes, earthlings are closer than ever to finding other intelligent life in the universe. So the existential question is: Should we try to communicate with whatever we think might be out there?

That’s the argument this week between Douglas Vakoch and Michio Kaku. Vakoch, the president of the research and educational nonprofit METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International, has dedicated his life’s work to intentionally broadcasting messages beyond our solar system.

Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and a co-founder of string field theory, thinks reaching out to unknown aliens is a catastrophically bad idea and “would be the biggest mistake in human history.”

Together, they join Jane  to debate the question of making first contact and our place in the cosmos.

Mentioned in this episode:

Adam Mann, The New Yorker: “Intelligent Ways to Search for Extraterrestrials

Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker: “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously

Arik Kershenbaum, The Wall Street Journal, “Alien Languages May Not Be Entirely Alien to Us

“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Season 4, Episode 15: “First Contact” (Netflix)

The Ezra Klein Show: “Obama Explains How America Went From ‘Yes We Can’ to ‘MAGA’

You can find more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 20, 2021
Best of: George Saunders on Kindness in a Cruel World
01:15:52

We’re taking a week off from releasing new episodes, so today I wanted to re-up one of my favorite episodes of the show, a conversation with fiction writer George Saunders that covers much more than just his writing.

Saunders is one of America’s greatest living writers. He’s the author of dozens of critically acclaimed short stories, including his 2013 collection, “Tenth of December”; his debut novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” won the 2017 Booker Prize; and his nonfiction work has empathy and insight that leave pieces from more than a decade ago ringing in my head today. His most recent book, “A Swim in A Pond in the Rain,” is a literary master class built around seven Russian short stories, analyzing how they work, and what they reveal about how we work.

I’ve wanted to interview Saunders for more than 15 years. I first saw him talk when I was in college, and there was a quality of compassion and consideration in every response that was, well, strange. His voice doesn’t sound like his fiction. His fiction is bitingly satirical, manic, often unsettling. His voice is calm, kind, gracious. The dissonance stuck with me.

Saunders’s central topic, literalized in his famous 2013 commencement speech, is about what it means to be kind in an unkind world. And that’s the organizing question of this conversation, too. We discuss the collisions between capitalism and human relations, the relationship between writing and meditation, Saunders’s personal editing process, the tension between empathizing with others and holding them to account, the promise of re-localizing our politics, the way our minds deceive us, Tolstoy’s unusual theory of personal transformation and much more.

What a pleasure this conversation was. So worth the wait.

Recommendations: 

"Red Cavalry" by Isaac Babel

"Stamped from the Beginning" by Ibram X. Kendi

"Dispatches" by Michael Herr

"Patriotic Gore" by Edmund Wilson

"In Love with the World" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

"Loving; Living; Party Going" by Henry Green

"Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey" by Hayden Carruth

"Tropic of Squalor" by Mary Carr

"They Lift Their Wings to Cry" by Brooks Haxton

"The Hundred Dresses" by Eleanor Estes and Louis Slobodkin

"Caps for Sale" by Esphyr Slobodkina

You can find a transcript of this episode here and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma, Jeff Geld and Annie Galvin; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Aug 17, 2021
How Identity Politics Took Over the Republican Party
01:16:44

One problem with the conversation around political polarization is that it can imply that polarization is a static, singular thing. That our divisions are fixed and unchanging. But that’s not how it is at all. The dimensions of conflict change, and they change quickly. In the Obama era, Republicans mobilized against government spending and deficits but didn’t think much about election administration. Now, a trillion-dollar infrastructure package has passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but the divisions over democracy and voting access are deep.

Lilliana Mason is one of the political scientists I’ve learned the most from in recent years. Her 2018 book, “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,” is, in my view, one of the most important political books of the last decade. But it’s been a tumultuous three and a half years since it was published. And Mason has continued to pump out important new work on political identity, how support for Donald Trump differs from that of other Republicans, when Democrats and Republicans believe political violence is justifiable and even necessary, and much more. And so I wanted to have Mason on the show to discuss how her thinking has changed in recent years and, in particular, which identities and interests she thinks are at the center of our political collisions today.

Mentioned:

Uncivil Agreement by Lilliana Mason

"Who's At the Party? Group Sentiments, Knowledge and Partisan Identity" by John Victor Kane, Lilliana Mason and Julie Wronski

"Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support" by Lilliana Mason, Julie Wronski and John Victor Kane

"Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization" by Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee

Book Recommendations:

Reconstruction by Eric Foner

Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 by W. E. B. Du Bois

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Julie Beer and Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 13, 2021
We’re Living in the World the War on Terror Built
00:58:15

The Sept, 11 attacks might have taken place almost 20 years ago, but we’re still living in the America that the war on terror built. Its legacy is not just mass surveillance and drone strikes but birtherism, nativism and Donald Trump. And much of it has been — and continues to be — a bipartisan effort.

That’s the argument of Spencer Ackerman’s new book, “Reign of Terror.” Ackerman is the author of the newsletter Forever Wars, a contributing editor at The Daily Beast, and a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Guardian that reported on Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations. In “Reign of Terror,” Ackerman takes all he’s reported on and wraps it into one sweeping argument: We are still in the 9/11 era, and that’s all the more true because we’ve come to take so much of it for granted.

We discuss the connection between Sept. 11 and birtherism, the scope of mass surveillance, the ethics of drone strikes, how Trump understood the war on terror’s moral core better than its architects did, the messy choices of national security, the ways America’s belief in its own innocence makes it less safe, Barack Obama’s complicated relationship with the fight against terrorism, the emergence of a genuinely left-wing foreign policy movement, the coalescing bipartisan consensus around a cold war with China, and much more.

Book recommendations: 

American War by Omar El Akkad

The Jakarta Method by Vincent Bevins

Overheated by Kate Aronoff

The New Gods by Jack Kirby 

Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Rise of the Black Panther by Evan Narcisse and Ta-Nehisi Coates

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 10, 2021
The Good and Bad News About the Delta Variant
00:58:28

“The war has changed.” That’s what the leaked C.D.C. document says about the way the Delta variant has upended our coronavirus policies. Delta is astonishingly contagious. It can generate 1,000 times the viral load of the original coronavirus strain, and it spreads with the ease of chickenpox. The vaccinated can no longer assume immunity. The unvaccinated are at more risk than ever. Masks are back. New York City is essentially imposing a vaccine mandate.

I have so many questions about the war we’re now in. What do we actually know about Delta? If you’re vaccinated, is it more or less likely to kill you than the flu? Is it more serious for children? Are we re-masking to protect the unvaccinated, or is this also for the vaccinated? What are the risks of long Covid for the vaccinated? I could go on.

Luckily, Dr. Céline Gounder has answers. Gounder is an epidemiologist at N.Y.U. medical school, a CNN medical analyst and host of the Covid podcast “Epidemic.” I’m not sure if this conversation will make you feel better about the war we’re now in. But it will, if nothing else, make it much, much clearer.

 

Mentioned:

"Improving Communications Around Vaccine Breakthrough and Vaccine Effectiveness" by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Book recommendations:

Wired for Culture by Mark Pagel

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers by Michele Gelfand

Stuck by Heidi J. Larson

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 06, 2021
41 Questions For The Technologies We Use, and That Use Us
00:57:57

We all know by now that Zoom causes fatigue, social media spreads misinformation and Google Maps is wiping out our sense of direction. We also know, of course, that Zoom allows us to cooperate across continents, that social media connects us to our families and Google Maps keeps us from being lost. A lot of technological criticism today is about weighing whether a technology is good or bad, or judging its various uses. But there’s an older tradition of criticism that asks a more fundamental and nuanced question: How do these technologies change the people who use them, both for good and for bad? And what do the people who use them — all of us, in other words — actually want? Do we even know?

L.M. Sacasas explores these questions in his great newsletter, “The Convivial Society.” His work is marrying the theorists of the 20th century — Hannah Arendt, C.S. Lewis, Ivan Illich, Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman and more — to the technologies of the present day. I’ve found this merging of past thinkers and contemporary concerns revelatory in an era when we tend to take the shape of our world for granted and forget how it would look to those who stood outside it, or how it looked to those who were there at the inception of these tools and mediums.

Sacasas recently published a list of 41 questions we should ask of the technologies and tools that shape our lives. What I loved about these questions is how they invite us to think not just about technologies, but about ourselves, and how we act and what we want and what, in the end, we truly value. So I asked him on the show to talk through some of them, and to see what light they shed on the lives we live.

Mentioned: 

"The Questions Concerning Technology" by L. M. Sacasas

"A Theory of Zoom Fatigue" by L. M. Sacasas

"Do Artifacts Have Ethics?" by L. M. Sacasas

Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford

"Before We Make Out, Wanna Dismantle Capitalism?" by Emilia Petrarca

"The Analog City and the Digital City" by L. M. Sacasas

"The Materiality of Digital Culture" by L. M. Sacasas

"When Silence Is Power" by L. M. Sacasas

Book recommendations: 

Tools for Conviviality by Ivan Illich

The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt

Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life by Albert Borgmann

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Aug 03, 2021
Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Fight Over U.S. History
01:17:41

You’ve heard plenty by now about the fights over teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project. But behind those skirmishes is something deeper: A fight over the story we tell about America. Why that fight has so gripped our national discourse is the question of this podcast: What changes when a country’s sense of its own history changes? What changes when who gets to tell that story changes? What are the stakes here, and why now?

My guests for this conversation need little introduction. Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist for the New York Times Magazine where she led the 1619 Project, and, before that, did incredible work on racial inequality in the American education system. Ta- Nehisi Coates is the author of books including “Between the World and Me” and “The Water Dancer,” essays including “The Case for Reparations,” and, for Marvel Comics, “Captain America” and “Black Panther.” Each of them has won more prestigious awards for their work than I could possibly list here, and both will be taking faculty positions at Howard University.

We discuss the 1619 Project, whether patriotism can coexist with shame and regret, the political power of American exceptionalism, the cracked foundations of American democracy, how journalism is and should be taught, our relationships to Twitter, what journalists can learn from children and much more.

Nikole Hannah-Jones book recommendations: 

Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 by W.E.B Du Bois

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Ta-Nehisi Coates book recommendations: 

Postwar by Tony Judt 

Avengers of the New World by Laurent Dubois

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 30, 2021
Ross Douthat Has Been ‘Radicalized a Little Bit, Too’
01:07:45

Am I too panicked about the future of American democracy?

My colleague Ross Douthat thinks so. He points to research suggesting that voter ID laws and absentee voting have modest effects on elections and the reality that Republican state officials already have tremendous power to alter election outcomes — powers they did not use in the aftermath of 2020 and show few signs of preparing to use now.

So I invited Ross on the show to hash it out: Am I too alarmed, or is he too chill? We also talk about his trio of recent columns trying to find a middle ground in the fight over how America understands, and teaches, it’s own history; as well as how his own medical struggles with treatment-resistant Lyme disease have shaped how he’s understood and covered the coronavirus.

 

Mentioned: 

"Can Anything End the Voting Wars?" by Ross Douthat

Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign by Frances Lee

"What Progressives Want, and What Conservatives Are Fighting" by Ross Douthat

"The Excesses of Antiracist Education" by Ross Douthat

"Why a Patriotic Education Can Be Valuable" by Ross Douthat

"Why the Lab Leak Theory Matters" by Ross Douthat

"Use of Alternative Medicine for Cancer and Its Impact on Survival" by Skyler B. Johnson, Henry S. Park, Cary P. Gross and James B. Yu

The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Recovery by Ross Douthat

"The War That Made Our World" by Ross Douthat

Book recommendations: 

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson

Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer

Mom Genes: Inside the New Science of Our Ancient Maternal Instinct by Abigail Tucker

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 27, 2021
How Blue Cities Became So Outrageously Unaffordable
01:08:44

Joe Biden’s economic agenda is centered on a basic premise: The United States needs to build. To build roads and bridges. To build child care facilities and car-charging stations. To build public transit and affordable housing. And in doing so, to build a better future for everyone.

But there’s a twist of irony in that vision. Because right now, even in places where Democrats hold control over government, they are consistently failing to build cheaply, quickly and equitably. In recent decades, blue states and cities from Los Angeles to Boston to New York have become known for their outrageously expensive housing, massive homeless populations and infrastructure projects marred by major delays and cost overruns — all stemming from this fundamental inability to actually build.

Jerusalem Demsas is a policy reporter at Vox who covers a range of issues from housing to transportation. And the central question her work asks is this: Why is the party that ostensibly supports big government doing ambitious things constantly failing to do just that, even in the places where it holds the most power?

So this is a conversation about the policy areas where blue city and state governance is failing the most: housing, homelessness, infrastructure. But it is also about the larger problems that those failures reveal: The tension between big-government liberalism and anti-corporatist progressivism; the cognitive dissonance between what city-dwelling, college-educated liberals say they believe and their inequality-amplifying actions; how reforms intended to make government more accountable to the people have been wielded by special interests to stall or kill popular projects; and much more.


Mentioned: 

“Why does it cost so much to build things in America?” by Jerusalem Demsas

“Los Angeles’s quixotic quest to end homelessness” by Jerusalem Demsas 

“Housing Constraints and Spatial Misallocation” by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti

Public Citizens by Paul Sabin

“Zoom Does Not Reduce Unequal Participation” by Katherine Levine Einstein, David Glick, Luisa Godinez Puig, and Maxwell Palmer

“The Gavin Newsom Recall Is a Farce” by Ezra Klein

“California Is Making Liberals Squirm” by Ezra Klein

Book recommendations: 

Golden Gates by Conor Dougherty

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 23, 2021
Our Workplaces Think We’re Computers. We’re Not.
01:08:14

For decades, our society’s dominant metaphor for the mind has been a computer. A machine that operates the exact same way whether it’s in a dark room or next to a sunny window, whether it’s been working for 30 seconds or three hours, whether it’s near other computers or completely alone.

But that’s wrong. Annie Murphy Paul’s “The Extended Mind” argues, convincingly, that the human mind is contextual. It works differently in different environments, with different tools, amid different bodily states, among other minds.

Here’s the problem: Our schools, our workplaces, our society are built atop that bad metaphor. Activities and habits that we’ve been taught to associate with creativity and efficiency often stunt our thinking, and so much that we’ve been taught to dismiss — activities that look like leisure, play or rest — are crucial to thinking (and living!) well.

Paul’s book, read correctly, is a radical critique of not just how we think about thinking, but how we’ve constructed much of our society. In this conversation, we discuss how the body can pick up on patterns before the conscious mind knows what it’s seen, why forcing kids (and adults) to “sit still” makes it harder for them to think clearly, the connection between physical movement and creativity, why efficiency is often the enemy of productivity, the restorative power of exposure to the natural world, the dystopian implications of massive cognitive inequality, why open-plan offices were a terrible idea and much more.

Mentioned: 

"The extended mind" by Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers

Book recommendations: 

Supersizing the Mind by Andy Clark

Mind in Motion by Barbara Tversky

Thoughts Without a Thinker by Mark Epstein

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 20, 2021
Ibram X. Kendi on What Conservatives—and Liberals—Get Wrong About Antiracism
01:05:25

“What if instead of a feelings advocacy we had an outcome advocacy that put equitable outcomes before our guilt and anguish?” wrote Ibram X. Kendi in his 2019 book “How to Be an Antiracist.” “What if we focused our human and fiscal resources on changing power and policy to actually make society, not just our feelings, better?”

When I first read “How to Be an Antiracist” in the fall of 2019, I was struck by Kendi’s relentless focus on outcomes. For him, racism wasn’t about what you intended, or what you felt. If a given policy or action reduced racial inequality, it was antiracist; if it increased racial inequality, it was racist. If you support policies that reduce racial inequality you are being antiracist; if you aren’t, you’re being racist. That’s it.

These days, Kendi needs little introduction. “How to Be an Antiracist” has become one of the signature texts of the post-George Floyd moment. And Kendi himself has become a central figure of the antiracist movement, having launched a vast array of projects, from his new podcast, “Be Antiracist,” to his children’s book “Antiracist Baby” to his Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.

But I’ve often wondered about the genuine radicalism of Kendi’s work as it has phased from book to phenomenon. There are certainly some people who are doing the real, hard analytical and empirical work that Kendi actually calls for. But a lot of what occurs under the banner of “antiracism” is putting up yard signs, publicly acknowledging privilege and issuing statements of solidarity without the consequentialist analysis he demands.

So I wanted to have a conversation that really took Kendi’s approach to antiracism seriously. Spoiler alert: It’s hard. We discuss policy issues ranging from police defunding to open borders and interest rates, the research on corporate diversity and inclusion trainings, the political tradeoffs of Barack Obama’s presidency, the cases where a policy might reduce racial inequality but the backlash to it might increase it, the right-wing assault on critical race theory, visions of a positive-sum racial future and much more.

References:

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Book recommendations: 

Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

 

Jul 16, 2021
How Octopuses Upend What We Know About Ourselves
00:56:04

I’ve spent the past few months on an octopus kick. In that, I don’t seem to be alone. Octopuses (it’s incorrect to say “octopi,” to my despair) are having a moment: There are award-winning books, documentaries and even science fiction about them. I suspect it’s the same hunger that leaves many of us yearning to know aliens: How do radically different minds work? What is it like to be a truly different being living in a similar world? The flying objects above remain unidentified. But the incomprehensible objects below do not. We are starting to be smart enough to ask the question: How smart are octopuses? And what are their lives like?

Sy Montgomery is a naturalist and the author of dozens of books on animals. In 2015 she published the dazzling book “The Soul of an Octopus,” which became a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. It’s an investigation not only into the lives and minds of octopuses but also into the relationships they can and do have with human beings.

This was one of those conversations that are hard to describe, but it was a joy to have. Montgomery writes and speaks with an appropriate sense of wonder about the world around us and the other animals that inhabit it. This is a conversation about octopuses, of course, but it’s also about us: our minds, our relationship with the natural world, what we see and what we’ve learned to stop seeing. It will leave you looking at the water — and maybe at yourself — differently.

Book recommendations: 

The Outermost House by Henry Beston

The Old Way by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 13, 2021
Critical Race Theory, Comic Books and the Power of Public Schools
01:26:16

Eve Ewing’s work as a sociologist, poet, visual artist, podcaster and comic book writer manages to do two things that are often in tension: it gives us a clear picture of how race, power and education work in America right now, and envisions a world that could work radically differently.

“Dreaming and imagination and possibility are very much key words for the kind of work I want to do,” Ewing says. She’s a sociologist at the University of Chicago who focuses on race and public education, and her book “Ghosts in the Schoolyard” brilliantly examines the closing of several Chicago public schools around 2013 and what they meant to the communities they served. But she has also written Marvel comics and a book for young readers, “Maya and the Robot,” which comes out next week. She hosted the podcast “Bughouse Square,” a collaboration with the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, makes visual art and works on TV productions. She is a public educator in the broadest sense of the term.

I wanted to see how one person’s mind keeps all of these projects straight, and how Ewing’s sociology connects to her poetry and comic books. One thread that unites Ewing’s work is that she is often seeking out knowledge in unexpected places and challenging her audience to think about whose experiences and insights we treat as valid when debating policy. Our conversation touched on the role of public schools in low-income communities, quantitative versus “emotional” data, the limits of objectivity in debates, critical race theory and how it can inform politics, her Afrofuturist poetry that looks forward and backward in time, the cultural significance of comics, her feelings about Tony Stark and more.

Mentioned: 

“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side by Eve Ewing

Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools, edited by Annette Lareau and Kimberly Goyette

Ironheart #1 by Eve Ewing

Bughouse Square with Eve Ewing

Book recommendations:  

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller

Severance by Ling Ma

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 09, 2021
Best of: What ‘Drained-Pool’ Politics Costs America
01:08:55

In February, I spoke with Heather McGhee. I’ve been thinking about the conversation ever since. 

“The American landscape was once graced with resplendent public swimming pools, some big enough to hold thousands of swimmers at a time,” writes McGhee in her recent book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” These pools were the pride of their communities, monuments to what public investment could do. But they were, in many places, whites-only. Then came the desegregation orders. The pools would need to be open to everyone. But these communities found a loophole. They could close them for everyone. Drain them. Fill them with concrete. Shutter their parks departments entirely. And so they did.

Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — are still with us today. They help explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, or a decent social safety net. Why policy changes that seem incredibly modest by international standards are so often met with backlash. And there are plenty of recent examples: A few weeks ago, Sen. Tom Cotton proposed that rather than abolishing the racist sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine possession, we extend them to powder cocaine, too. 

This conversation is just as relevant today as it was at the time we recorded it. The lens it offers into American policy and politics is truly invaluable for making sense of so much of what’s going on around us. And it’s message is ultimately a hopeful one: There is a $20 bill lying on the street of American public policy. It’s the vast “solidarity dividends” waiting for us, if we are willing to stand with, rather than against, each other.

Recommendations: 

"Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler

"The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein

“Good Times” (TV series)

"The Word Collector" by Peter H. Reynolds

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jul 06, 2021
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Wants You to Be Bad at Something. It’s for Your Own Good.
01:11:01

Recently, I picked up Jeff Tweedy’s “How to Write One Song.” It was a bit of a lark. Tweedy is the frontman for Wilco, one of my favorite bands, but I’m not a songwriter, and I don’t plan to become one. But, unexpectedly, I loved the book. It’s the most generous and approachable guide to the creative process I’ve read.

It’s also relentlessly practical: To Tweedy, this really is a process, replete with practices that you can enjoy doing daily. As a writer of a very different sort, I’ve had a blast with them.

So I asked Tweedy to come on the show to talk about creativity, ands his approach to it. He debunks the idea that suffering is necessary (or even useful) for the creative process, talks through his relentless search for inspiration, sings and analyzes a few of my favorite songs, analyzes his relationship with his mother, shares some of his tricks for finding fresh language for old ideas and even convinces me to write some poetry.

This is a fun one.

Book recommendations: 

Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes 

A Temple of Texts by William H. Gass

The MacGuffin by Stanley Elkin

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

 

Jul 02, 2021
Why Do We Work So Damn Much?
01:22:47

Historically speaking, we live in an age of extraordinary abundance. We have long since passed the income thresholds when past economists believed our needs would be more than met and we’d be working 15-hour weeks, puzzling over how to spend our free time. And yet, few of us feel able to exult in leisure, and even many of today’s rich toil as if the truest reward for work is more work. Our culture of work would be profoundly puzzling to those who came before us.

James Suzman is an anthropologist who has spent the last 30 years living with and studying the Ju/’hoansi people of southern Africa, one of the world’s enduring hunter-gatherer societies. And that project has given him a unique lens on our modern obsession with work.

As Suzman documents in his new book, “Work: A Deep History From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots,” hunter-gatherer societies like the Ju/’hoansi spent only about 15 hours a week meeting their material needs despite being deeply impoverished by modern standards. But as we’ve gotten richer and invented more technology, we’ve developed a machine for generating new needs, new desires, new forms of status competition.

So this is a conversation about the past, present and future of humanity’s relationship to work and to want. We discuss what economists get wrong about scarcity, the lessons hunter-gatherer societies can teach us about desire, how the advent of farming radically altered people’s conceptions of work and time, whether there’s such a thing as human nature, the dangers of social and economic inequality, the role of advertising in shaping human desires, whether we should have a wealth tax and universal basic income, and much more.

Mentioned: 

“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” by John Maynard Keynes

“‘Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren’ 75 Years after: A Global Perspective” by Fabrizio Zilibotti

“Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce

Book recommendations:  

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 29, 2021
Republicans Are Setting Off a ‘Doom Loop’ for Democracy
01:18:29

The insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 failed. Donald Trump is not the president. But at the state level, the Republican war on elections is posting startling wins. They are trying to do what Trump failed to do: neuter elections as a check on Republican power.

A new report by three voting rights groups found that 24 laws have been passed in 14 states this year that will allow state legislatures to “politicize, criminalize and interfere in election administration.” And a May analysis from the Brennan Center found that Republican-controlled legislatures in 14 states have passed 22 laws that made voting harder, with dozens of others currently moving through the legislative process.

This is an example of what I’ve sometimes referred to as the “doom loop of democracy”: highly gerrymandered Republican state legislatures in key swing states passing legislation that gives them more power to discourage Democratic-leaning groups from voting, throw out legitimate votes and overturn election results — all of it backed up by Republican-dominated courts.

Ari Berman is a senior reporter at Mother Jones and the author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.” He’s done excellent coverage of these state bills. So I wanted to bring him on, in part, to understand these bills on a more detailed level: What do they actually do? What kind of impact will they have?

But we also discuss the Republican Party’s minoritarian path to power, potential nightmare 2024 election scenarios, how voting rights became a culture war issue, whether the United States is becoming a “competitive authoritarianism” political system, why the biggest scandal in American democracy is what’s legal and even expected, what HR1 — even if it had passed — would and wouldn’t have fixed and much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

“What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does” by Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein

“The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On.” by Ari Berman 

“Call it authoritarianism” by Zack Beauchamp

“Statement of Concern: The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards” by multiple

“Advantage, GOP” by By Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich

“2020 Census: What the Reapportionment Numbers Mean” by Dave Wasserman

Recommendations: 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré

Race and Reunion by David Blight

Dirty Work by Eyal Press

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 25, 2021
Sarah Schulman’s Radical Approach to Conflict, Communication and Change
01:01:27

Sarah Schulman’s work — as a nonfiction writer, novelist, activist, playwright and filmmaker — confronts the very thing most people try to avoid: conflict. Schulman, far from running from it, believes we need more of it.

This was true in Schulman’s 2016 book, “Conflict Is Not Abuse,” which argues that people often mislabel conflict as abuse without recognizing the power that they have to potentially abuse others. Viewing oneself as a victim can be one way to earn compassion. But powerful groups often use their perceived victimhood as an excuse to harm those who are more vulnerable. And more individually, people often don’t see when they have power, and they often fear or dodge the work of repair. It’s a challenging and prescient book, with a deep faith in the healing power of not just communication, but of collision.

Schulman’s latest book, “Let the Record Show,” is a history of ACT UP New York, the direct-action group that reshaped AIDS activism in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a book about necessary conflicts: between the AIDS community and the U.S. government, and between queer people and a widely homophobic society. But it’s also about conflict among people who generally agree with one another and are working toward a common goal. Schulman calls the book “a political history,” but it’s also a work of political theory: a proposal for how social movements can become more effective by embracing dissensus rather than striving for consensus.

We began this conversation discussing ACT UP, conflict and Schulman’s theory of political change. But we also ended up discussing Israel and Palestine, a topic she has written widely about. And Schulman shares her thoughts on contemporary L.G.B.T.Q. politics and what she thinks has been lost as queer culture has become more mainstream.

Mentioned in this episode: 

Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 by Sarah Schulman 

Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman

Recommendations: 

Poor Queer Studies: Confronting Elitism in the University by Matt Brim

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 22, 2021
Welcome to the ‘Take This Job and Shove It’ Economy
00:54:03

This is a strange moment in the economy. Wages are up, but so is inflation. Jobs are growing, but maybe not fast enough. Quit rates are at a 21st-century high. It isn’t clear what’s a trend, what’s a blip, what’s a transition and what’s now normal. And all this as the virus continues to stalk us and we process the trauma of the last 18 months.

“We all will have various times in our life where we’ll stop and say, ‘Whoa — am I going in the right direction? Is this the right occupation for me? Should I do something differently?’” says Betsey Stevenson. “But I can’t think of any other time when it’s been a correlated shock across the entire country, where we’ve all been faced — no, forced — to ask questions.”

Stevenson is an economist, and a highly accomplished one at that. She served as the chief economist of Barack Obama’s Department of Labor and later a member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Now she’s a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, as well as co-host of the podcast “Think Like an Economist.” She has a rare talent to blend a rigorous approach to labor market economics with a recognition that people — our psychologies and fears and dreams — matter, and they shape our economic decisions. Particularly now.

So I invited Stevenson on the show to discuss the big picture of what’s happening right now in the U.S. economy — wages, employment, inflation and the animal spirits driving much of it. She didn’t disappoint. I came away from this conversation far less confused than when I walked into it.

Mentioned in this episode: 

“The Jobs Report Takeaway: A Huge Reallocation of People and Work Is Underway” by Betsey Stevenson 

“Examining the uneven and hard-to-predict labor market recovery” by Lauren Bauer, Arindrajit Dube, Wendy Edelberg, and Aaron Sojourner

“Why we got more inflation than I expected” by Matt Yglesias

“Do Hiring Headaches Imply a Labor Shortage?” by Paul Krugman

Recommendations: 

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Undercover Economist Strikes Back by Tim Hartford 

Career and Family by Claudia Goldin

If you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous podcast “Employers Are Begging for Workers. Maybe That’s a Good Thing” with Cornell political scientist Jamila Michener 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 18, 2021
The Freeing of the American Mind
01:03:35

Free minds. Freedom fries. Free speech. The Freedom Caucus. Freedom from. Freedom to. What do Americans really mean when they talk about freedom?

Louis Menand’s “The Free World” is a 700-plus-page intellectual history of the Cold War period that traces the opening of the American mind to new ideas in art, literature, politics, music, foreign policy, criticism, higher education and campus activism. John Cage was making silent music, Jackson Pollock was throwing paint on canvases, Pauline Kael was giving us permission to actually enjoy movies. Thinkers like James Baldwin, Isaiah Berlin and Hannah Arendt were arguing over what it meant to be free. Liberatory movements were trying to actually make Americans free. But what did it all get us? Out of all this ferment and conflict, what forms of freedom did Americans secure, and which did we lose?

It’s hard to think of a writer better suited to explain the art and intellectual culture of the Cold War than Louis Menand. In his writing for The New Yorker and his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Metaphysical Club,” Menand has shown how ideas are born out of interactions between individuals and larger historical forces, and how philosophical traditions like pragmatism, Transcendentalism and abolitionism continue to profoundly shape our world.

In this conversation, we talk about the opening of the American mind, the rise of the American market and the narrowing of American politics. We discuss the avant-garde artists of the age and why Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for equity has been lost. Oh, and how today’s elite universities are built atop the legacy of 1960s campus radicalism, whether the Beat writers were actually the rebels they’re remembered as, why John Cena is apologizing to China for calling Taiwan a country and more.

Mentioned in this episode:

The Free World” by Louis Menand

Recommendations:

Tristes Tropiques” by Claude Lévi-Strauss

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945” by Tony Judt

Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham” by Carolyn Brown

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 15, 2021
Sam Altman on the A.I. Revolution, Trillionaires and the Future of Political Power
01:10:56

“The technological progress we make in the next 100 years will be far larger than all we’ve made since we first controlled fire and invented the wheel,” writes Sam Altman in his essay “Moore’s Law for Everything.” “This revolution will generate enough wealth for everyone to have what they need, if we as a society manage it responsibly.”

Altman is the C.E.O. of OpenAI, one of the biggest, most important players in the artificial intelligence space. His argument is this: Since the 1970s, computers have gotten exponentially better even as they’re gotten cheaper, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law. Altman believes that A.I. could get us closer to Moore’s Law for everything: it could make everything better even as it makes it cheaper. Housing, health care, education, you name it.

But what struck me about his essay is that last clause: “if we as a society manage it responsibly.” Because, as Altman also admits, if he is right then A.I. will generate phenomenal wealth largely by destroying countless jobs — that’s a big part of how everything gets cheaper — and shifting huge amounts of wealth from labor to capital. And whether that world becomes a post-scarcity utopia or a feudal dystopia hinges on how wealth, power and dignity are then distributed — it hinges, in other words, on politics.

This is a conversation, then, about the political economy of the next technological age. Some of it is speculative, of course, but some of it isn’t. That shift of power and wealth is already underway. Altman is proposing an answer: a move toward taxing land and wealth, and distributing it to all. We talk about that idea, but also the political economy behind it: Are the people gaining all this power and wealth really going to offer themselves up for more taxation? Or will they fight it tooth-and-nail?

We also discuss who is funding the A.I. revolution, the business models these systems will use (and the dangers of those business models), how A.I. would change the geopolitical balance of power, whether we should allow trillionaires, why the political debate over A.I. is stuck, why a pro-technology progressivism would also need to be committed to a radical politics of equality, what global governance of A.I. could look like, whether I’m just “energy flowing through a neural network,” and much more.

Mentioned: 

“Moore’s Law for Everything” by Sam Altman

Recommendations: 

Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler

“Meditations on Moloch” by Scott Alexander 

If you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous conversation “Is A.I. the Problem? Or Are We?”

 

 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 11, 2021
Employers Are Begging for Workers. Maybe That’s a Good Thing.
01:03:52

There has been a bit of panic lately over employers who say not enough people want to apply for open jobs. Are we facing a labor shortage? Have stimulus checks and expanded unemployment insurance payments created an economy full of people who don’t want to work — and who are holding back the economic recovery? That’s one theory, anyway. But it’s leading to real policy change: 25 Republican governors have cut off expanded unemployment benefits early.

You can also tell a different story: The continuing threat of the coronavirus and the ongoing traumas and child care disruptions mean lots of workers don’t feel safe taking jobs in poorly ventilated spaces. Others may be using their stimulus checks and unemployment benefits to let them find a better job than they had before the pandemic, insisting on better pay and conditions. And if so — isn’t that a policy success?

This is a moment when an implicit but ugly fact of our economy has been thrown into unusual relief: Our economy relies on poverty — or at least the threat of it — to force people to take bad jobs at low wages. This gets couched in paeans to the virtues of work, but the truth is more instrumental. The country likes cheap goods and plentiful services, and it can’t get them without a lot of people taking jobs that higher-income Americans would never, ever consider. When we begin to see glimmers of worker power in the economy, a lot of powerful people freak out, all at once.

Jamila Michener is an associate professor of government at Cornell University and a co-director of Cornell’s Center for Health Equity. She does remarkable research on the intersection of race, poverty and public policy and speaks about all of it with uncommon humanity. We discuss the role of poverty in the economy, cultural narratives around work and deservingness, why the less-well-off masses don’t band together politically, how social programs disempower and humiliate the very people they’re ostensibly supposed to help, why it would be so hard to sell a universal basic income, whether the Biden administration’s economic agenda represents a sharp break from those of past administrations and much more.

Mentioned: 

“Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism, and Unequal Politics” by Jamila Michener 

Book recommendations: 

Halfway Home by Reuben Miller

Root Shock by Mindy Fullilove

Poorly Understood by Mark Rank, Lawrence Eppard, and Heather Bullock

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 08, 2021
Is A.I. the Problem? Or Are We?
01:16:39

If you talk to many of the people working on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research, you’ll hear that we are on the cusp of a technology that will be far more transformative than simply computers and the internet, one that could bring about a new industrial revolution and usher in a utopia — or perhaps pose the greatest threat in our species’s history.

Others, of course, will tell you those folks are nuts.

One of my projects this year is to get a better handle on this debate. A.I., after all, isn’t some force only future human beings will face. It’s here now, deciding what advertisements are served to us online, how bail is set after we commit crimes and whether our jobs will exist in a couple of years. It is both shaped by and reshaping politics, economics and society. It’s worth understanding.

Brian Christian’s recent book “The Alignment Problem” is the best book on the key technical and moral questions of A.I. that I’ve read. At its center is the term from which the book gets its name. “Alignment problem” originated in economics as a way to describe the fact that the systems and incentives we create often fail to align with our goals. And that’s a central worry with A.I., too: that we will create something to help us that will instead harm us, in part because we didn’t understand how it really worked or what we had actually asked it to do.

So this conversation is about the various alignment problems associated with A.I. We discuss what machine learning is and how it works, how governments and corporations are using it right now, what it has taught us about human learning, the ethics of how humans should treat sentient robots, the all-important question of how A.I. developers plan to make profits, what kinds of regulatory structures are possible when we’re dealing with algorithms we don’t really understand, the way A.I. reflects and then supercharges the inequities that exist in our society, the saddest Super Mario Bros. game I’ve ever heard of, why the problem of automation isn’t so much job loss as dignity loss and much more.

Mentioned: 

“Human-level control through deep reinforcement learning”

“Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation” by Norbert Wiener

Recommendations: 

"What to Expect When You're Expecting Robots"  by Julie Shah and Laura Major

"Finite and Infinite Games" by James P. Carse 

"How to Do Nothing" by Jenny Odell

If you enjoyed this episode, check out my conversation with Alison Gopnik on what we can all learn from studying the minds of children.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 04, 2021
Obama Explains How America Went From ‘Yes We Can’ to ‘MAGA’
00:58:42

“My entire politics is premised on the fact that we are these tiny organisms on this little speck floating in the middle of space,” Barack Obama told me, sitting in his office in Washington, D.C.

To be fair, I was the one who had introduced the cosmic scale, asking how proof of alien life would change his politics. But Obama, in a philosophical mood, used the question to trace his view of humanity. “The differences we have on this planet are real,” he said. “They’re profound. And they cause enormous tragedy as well as joy. But we’re just a bunch of humans with doubts and confusion. We do the best we can. And the best thing we can do is treat each other better, because we’re all we got.”

Before our interview, I’d read “A Promised Land,” the first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs. It had left me thinking about the central paradox of Obama’s political career. He accomplished one of the most remarkable acts of political persuasion in American history, convincing the country to vote, twice, for a liberal Black man named Barack Hussein Obama during the era of the war on terror. But he left behind a country that is less persuadable, more polarized, and more divided. The Republican Party, of course, became a vessel for the Tea Party, for Sarah Palin, for Donald Trump — a direct challenge to the pluralistic, democratic politics Obama practiced. But the left, too, has struggled with the limits of Obama’s presidency, coming to embrace a more confrontational and unsparing approach to politics.

So this is a conversation with Obama about both the successes and failures of his presidency. We talk about his unusual approach to persuasion, when it’s best to leave some truths unsaid, the media dynamics that helped fuel both his and Trump’s campaigns, how to reduce educational polarization, why he believes Americans have become less politically persuadable, the mistakes he believes were made in the design of the 2009 stimulus and the Affordable Care Act, the ways in which Biden is completing the policy changes begun in the Obama administration, what humans are doing now that we will be judged for most harshly in 100 years, and more.

Mentioned in this episode 

“Why Obamacare enrollees voted for Trump” by Sarah Kliff, Vox

“By 2040, two-thirds of Americans will be represented by 30 percent of the Senate” by Philip Bump, The Washington Post 

“Advantage, GOP” by Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich, FiveThirtyEight

Recommendations: 

"The Overstory" by Richard Powers

"Memorial Drive" by Natasha Tretheway

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

Jun 01, 2021
Sway: How Online Sleuths Pantsed Putin
00:41:57

Today, while I'm on vacation, we're sharing an episode from Sway, a fellow New York Times Opinion podcast. Host Kara Swisher talks to Eliot Higgins, CEO of the open source investigative operation Bellingcat. Kara presses Higgins about the perils of taking on Vladimir Putin and how Bellingcat’s work, which Kara calls “gumshoe journalism,” differs from online vigilantism.

We'll be back to our regular programming on Tuesday.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

The Ezra Klein Show is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld. Special thanks to Shannon Busta and Kristin Lin.

May 28, 2021
The Argument: Should We Cancel Student Loan Debt?
00:47:48

This week, while I'm on vacation, we'll be sharing work from two other New York Times Opinion podcasts. First up, an episode from our friends at The Argument about how to cancel student-loan debt. Host Jane Coaston is joined by activist Astra Taylor and economist Sandy Baum, who agree that addressing the crisis requires dramatic measures but disagree on how to get there.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

The Ezra Klein Show is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld. Special thanks to Shannon Busta and Kristin Lin.

May 25, 2021
Violent Crime Is Spiking. Do Liberals Have an Answer?
01:14:06

Early estimates find that in 2020, homicides in the United States increased somewhere between 25 percent and nearly 40 percent, the largest spike since 1960, when formal crime statistics began to be collected. And early estimates indicate that the increase has carried over to 2021.

Violent crime is a crisis on two levels. The first, and most direct, is the toll it takes on people and communities. The lost lives, the grieving families, the traumatized children, the families and businesses that flee, leaving inequality and joblessness for those who remain.

It’s also a political crisis: Violent crime can lead to more punitive, authoritarian and often racist policies, with consequences that shape communities decades later. In the 1970s and ’80s, the politics of crime drove the rise of mass incarceration and warrior policing, the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, the abandonment of inner cities. If these numbers keep rising, they could end any chance we have of building a new approach to safety, and possibly carry Donald Trump — or someone like him — back to the presidency in 2024.

There’s still time. Just this week, Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney, Larry Krasner, handily fended off a primary challenge. But the politics are changing, and fast: Democratic primary voters in New York City say crime and violence is the second most important problem facing the city, behind the coronavirus but ahead of affordable housing and racial injustice. And just a few weeks ago, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, who was facing political challengers attacking her for being soft on crime, announced she would not seek re-election in the fall.

So do liberals have an answer to violent crime? And if so, what is it?

James Forman Jr. is a professor of law at Yale Law School and the author “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” for which he received a Pulitzer Prize. In the book, Forman uses Washington, D.C., of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s as a case study to explore the political and psychological dynamics that rising crime produces. We discuss the toll of living amid both street and state violence; what the crime wave of the ’70s and ’80s did to Black politics; the causes of the “Great Crime Decline”; the extent to which policing and prisons actually reduce crime; why we should think of violence the way we think of pandemics; the Black community’s complex views of policing; the three-pronged approach liberals should take to safety; and much more.

Mentioned in this episode:

“The Long Reach of Violence” by Patrick Sharkey 

“The U.S. public’s support for being tough on crime has been a main determinant of changes to the incarceration rate” by Peter Enns

“Modeling Contagion Through Social Networks to Explain and Predict Gunshot Violence in Chicago, 2006 to 2014” by Ben Green, Thibaut Horel, and Andrew V. Papachristos

Vox/Data for Progress poll April 2-5, 2021

“State Reforms Reverse Decades of Incarceration Growth” 

Recommendations: 

"Ghettoside" by Jill Leovy 

"Becoming Ms. Burton" by Susan Burton and Cari Lynn

"The Condemnation of Blackness" by Khalil Gibran Muhammad 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

May 21, 2021
The Spectacle of the G.O.P.'s Shrinking Tent
01:02:59

On May 12, House Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, from her leadership post. Her transgression? Vocally rebuking the claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

But Cheney’s ouster is just the latest plot development in a story about the contemporary G.O.P. that goes back farther than Nov. 3, 2020, and even Nov. 8, 2016. Over the past decade, the party has decimated its former leadership class. John Boehner and Paul Ryan were pushed out. Eric Cantor lost in the primaries. George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and John McCain were viciously attacked by Donald Trump and his supporters. Cheney is just the latest victim of this ongoing party purge, and she certainly won’t be the last.

So how did the Republican Party get here? And what does that tell us about its future — and the future of American democracy?

Nicole Hemmer is the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and a host of the podcasts “Past/Present” and “This Day in Esoteric Political History.” A political historian by training, she has followed the development of the contemporary Republican Party as closely as anyone, with specific attention to the role right-wing media has played in the party’s development.

We discuss how Republican Party loyalty has morphed into unwavering fealty to Donald Trump; whether the G.O.P. is a postpolicy party; the vicious feedback loop between the G.O.P. base, right-wing media and Republican politicians; how the party of Lincoln became a party committed to minority rule; Hemmer’s grim outlook on what the current G.O.P.’s behavior will mean for the future of American democracy; and much more.

Mentioned in the episode:

"Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics" by Nicole Hemmer

Living in the World of Pants-on-Fire Lies,” by Nicole Hemmer, CNN

George W. Bush Is a Flawed Messenger for Republicans,” by Nicole Hemmer, CNN

Recommendations:

"Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America" by Kathleen Belew

"Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex and Gender in the Twentieth Century" by Charles King

"The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate Over Race in America" by Nicholas Buccola

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

May 18, 2021
Status Games, Polyamory and the Merits of Meritocracy
01:21:50

Agnes Callard is an ethical philosopher who dissects, in dazzlingly precise detail, familiar human experiences that we think we understand. Whether her topic is expressing anger, fighting with others, jockeying for status, giving advice, or navigating jealousy, Callard provokes us to rethink the emotions and habits that govern how we live. She also happens to be one of my favorite columnists.

In this conversation, I wanted to hear what Callard had to say about a tangle of topics we’ve explored before on the show: how we measure and trade status, and how that feeds into the amorphous thing we call “the meritocracy.” Callard’s argument is that we can have a “non-punitive” meritocracy, one that rewards us for our (virtuous) successes but doesn’t blame us for our failures. I’m not so sure, but it’s a fantastic conversation I’m still thinking about.

But as they say on the infomercials — that’s not all! We also talk about why advice is useless, the benefits of jealousy, whether polyamory and monogamy suffer from the same problem, sad music, why Callard’s office is such a riot of color, and the secret to a good divorce. And, at the end, I’ve got some music recommendations for you. Enjoy!

Mentioned in this episode:

Who Wants to Play the Status Game?” by Agnes Callard, The Point

Against Advice,” by Agnes Callard, The Point

The Other Woman,” by Agnes Callard, The Point

Parenting and Panic,” by Agnes Callard, The Point

"Aspiration" by Agnes Callard

Recommendations:

"Tolstoy: A Russian Life" by Rosamund Bartlett

"Pessoa: A Biography" by Richard Zenith

"Augustine of Hippo" by Peter Brown

Real Death” by Mount Eerie

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

May 14, 2021
Michael Lewis Is Asking the Right Question
00:59:44

Michael Lewis’s new book, “The Premonition,” is about one of the most important questions of this moment: Why, despite having the most money, the brightest minds and the some of the most robust public health infrastructure in the world, did the United States fail so miserably at handling the Covid-19 pandemic? And what could we have done differently?

The villain of Lewis’s story is not Donald Trump; it’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The argument laced through the book is that the C.D.C. was too passive, too unwilling to act on uncertain information, too afraid of making mistakes, too interested in its public image. What we needed was earlier shutdowns, frank public messaging, a more decentralized testing regime, a public health bureaucracy more willing to stand up to the president.

Lewis is asking the right question, and I agree with much of his critique. But I’m skeptical of whether the kind of pandemic response he lionizes in the book was ever possible for America. Put another way: How much of a constraint is the public on public health?

Lewis and I discuss the trade-offs in pandemic prevention, why bureaucracies have such a difficult time managing catastrophic risk, the messy politics of pandemics, the lessons of the masking debate, and ultimately, what the United States needs to learn from this crisis to prepare for the next one. I’m not sure Lewis and I came to agreement, but I’m still thinking about the conversation weeks later.

Mentioned in this episode: 

“Public policy and health in the Trump era,” The Lancet 

Recommendations: 

"Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro

"Young Men and Fire" by Norman McLean 

"Furious Hours" by Casey Cep

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

May 11, 2021
Elizabeth Warren on What We Get Wrong About Inequality
00:55:01

One lesson of covering policy over the past 20 years is that whatever Elizabeth Warren is thinking about now is what Washington is going to be talking about next.

So when I read Senator Warren’s new book, “Persist,” I read it with an eye toward that question: Where is Warren trying to drive the policy debate next? And two answers emerged. First, toward a truly pro-family progressivism, one that puts children’s well-being and care at the center of the agenda. And second, toward a view of inequality that puts wealth, not income, first, and builds a whole different set of economic priorities atop that analysis.

Warren was a policy wonk before she was a politician, and that’s the kind of conversation we had here. We discuss the drivers of the rising costs of child care, the stagnation in women’s labor force participation, whether universal day care discriminates against stay-at-home parents, Warren’s plan for fixing America’s housing crisis, whether billionaires are a policy failure, the distributional effects of canceling $50,000 in student debt, the social philosophy behind Warren’s tax proposals, how markets can be channeled toward progressive ends, the coming technologies that excite Warren, and much more.

Recommendations: 

"Heart of Fire" by Mazie Hirono

"Before the Coffee Gets Cold" by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

"John Rain" Book Series by Barry Eisler

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

May 07, 2021
How to Have Better Conversations About Hard Things
01:03:49

Anna Sale is one of my favorite interviewers. As the host of WNYC Studios’ “Death, Sex and Money,” she has an uncanny ability to get her guests to open up about the most personal, tragic, beautiful and embarrassing parts of their lives, whether it’s childhood trauma, the death of a partner or losing control of one’s limbs.

The kinds of conversations Sale has on her show are hard to have in real life. So we rarely have them, even though our relationships and our society and even our politics desperately need them. Thankfully, Sale has written a new book, “Let’s Talk About Hard Things,” which distills the lessons she has learned over the years for the rest of us and offers wisdom for navigating the topics we too often shy away from: death, sex, money, family, identity.

We discuss how society has increasingly pushed the responsibility for having these hard conversations onto individuals, what it takes to be a good listener, the common mistakes people make when supporting grieving friends and family members, why it’s especially hard to communicate with our family members, whether it’s necessary to give up our righteousness to preserve our relationships, the social stigma against talking about money, how to navigate tricky discussions about race and gender, and the art of asking open questions.

Recommendations: 

"Death in Mud Lick" by Eric Eyre

"Crying in H Mart" by Michelle Zauner

"The Secret to Superhuman Strength" by Alison Bechdel

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

May 04, 2021
How Chuck Schumer Plans to Win Over Trump Voters
00:45:35

In his 100 days address this week, Joe Biden outlined his plans for a big, bold legislative agenda to come. He previewed a two-pronged economic package: the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. He spoke about the need to pass universal background checks for firearms, comprehensive immigration reform, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

The success of that agenda hinges on whether 50 Senate Democrats — ranging from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin — can come together and pass legislation. They don’t have a single vote to spare. And the person responsible for making that happens is the New York senator and Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer.

Schumer has a theory of politics that he believes can hold or even win Democrats seats in 2022. It’s not a complicated theory: For Democrats to win over middle-of-the-road voters — including those who voted for Donald Trump — they need to prove that government is actually helping them. But to do that, the government needs to actually help those voters, in clear and visible ways. That means passing big, bold legislation. And the institution Schumer leads — the Senate — is the primary obstacle to that happening.

So I invited Schumer on the show to talk about how exactly he plans on doing that. How do you win over Trump voters? What kinds of economic policies can help deliver Democrats victory in 2022? How should the party approach topics like race and gender? How will he pass bills, like the For The People Act, that can’t go through budget reconciliation? And, of course, what do you do about the filibuster?

Book recommendations: 

"Grant" by Ron Chernow 

"Freedom" by William Safire

"The Power Broker" by Robert Caro 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 30, 2021
Shame, Safety and Moving Beyond Cancel Culture
01:01:23

I’ve been thinking lately about how to move beyond the binary debate over cancel culture. And a good place to start is with the deeper question we’re all trying to ask: What is the kind of politics — the kind of society — we’re trying to achieve in our fights over acceptable speech?

To talk through this question, I wanted to bring on two guests, both of whom have been canceled — one by the left and one by the right — and have since dedicated parts of their work to grappling with both the good and the bad of the phenomenon. When is cancellation merited or useful? When is it insufficient or harmful? And what other tools are available in those cases?

Natalie Wynn runs the YouTube channel ContraPoints. Her videos, on topics ranging from cancel culture to J.K. Rowling, are not only intellectually stimulating and aesthetically rich but also deeply humanizing. What sets Wynn apart is a unique capacity to live inside the heads of those she disagrees with vehemently and bring them into a dialogue with her.

Will Wilkinson was the vice president for research at the Niskanen Center. He was fired after a right-wing online mob attacked a clearly satirical tweet he’d sent. Since being canceled, Wilkinson has, surprisingly, become one of the most outspoken critics of the anti-cancel-culture discourse. He now writes the great newsletter Model Citizen, hosts a podcast of the same name and contributes to Times Opinion.

The result is a very different kind of cancel culture conversation. We discuss the universal yearning for safe spaces, the psychology of the social media pile-on, the political limits of social shame, the pathways to persuasion and humanization, theories of social change, the virtues of an effective political communicator, how social media shapes the way we act and think online and much, much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

"A Different Way of Thinking About Cancel Culture" by Ezra Klein

“Canceling” by ContraPoints 

“J.K. Rowling” by ContraPoints

“Undefined Cancel Game” by Will Wilkinson 

“The Boring Truth vs ‘Cancel Culture’ Panic” by Will Wilkinson 

Recommendations: 

"Conflict is Not Abuse" by Sarah Schulman

"The Tao is Silent" by Raymond Smullyan

If you enjoyed this show, you should check out The Argument's recent episode: "Is It Time to Cancel Cancel Culture?" 

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 27, 2021
Noam Chomsky’s Theory of the Good Life
01:12:30

How do you introduce Noam Chomsky? Perhaps you start here: In 1979, The New York Times called him “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.” More than 40 years later, Chomsky, at 92, is still putting his dent in the world — writing books, giving interviews, changing minds.

There are different sides to Chomsky. He’s a world-renowned linguist who revolutionized his field. He’s a political theorist who’s been a sharp critic of American foreign policy for decades. He’s an anarchist who believes in a radically different way of ordering society. He’s a pragmatist who pushed leftists to vote for Joe Biden in 2020 and has described himself as having a “rather conservative attitude towards social change.” He is, very much, himself.

The problem in planning a conversation with Chomsky is how to get at all these different sides. So this one covers a lot of ground. We discuss:

— Why Chomsky is an anarchist, and how he defines anarchism

— How his work on language informs his idea of what human beings want

— The role of advertising in capitalism

— Whether we should understand job contracts as the free market at work or a form of constant coercion

— How Chomsky’s ideal vision of society differs from Nordic social democracy

— How Chomsky’s class-based theory of politics holds up in an era where college-educated suburbanites are moving left on economics

— Chomsky’s view of the climate crisis and why he thinks the “degrowth” movement is misguided

— Whether job automation could actually be a good thing for human flourishing

— Chomsky’s views on US-China policy, and why he doesn’t think China is a major geopolitical threat

— The likelihood of nuclear war in the next decade

And much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky 

Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin

 “Why the Amazon Workers Never Stood a Chance” by Erik Loomis 

“Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018” by Carter C. Price and Kathryn A. Edwards 

“This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity” by Dean Baker

“There is no Plan B for dealing with the climate crisis” by Raymond Pierrehumbert

Recommendations: 

"The Last of the Just" by Andre Schwarz-Bart

"All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw" by Theodore Rosengarten

Selected essays by Ahad Ha'am

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 23, 2021
That Anxiety You’re Feeling? It’s a Habit You Can Unlearn.
00:59:16

This has been a bad year for the anxious among us — myself very much included. The pandemic was objectively terrifying. And many of us were trapped inside, with nothing we could do about it, severed from social connection and routine, with plenty of time to fret.

But that almost gives anxiety, at least as I experience it, too much credit. This year, anyway, being anxious made sense. It so often doesn’t. Your mind has so much power and capacity, and there are so many real problems to solve or wonders to contemplate, and instead you’re obsessively ruminating over something that happened three years ago or might happen three years from now.

So, what is anxiety? How do we learn it as a behavior? And more to the point, how do we unlearn it?

Jud Brewer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University, where he is the director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center. I’ve followed his work on meditation and addiction for years, and his new book, “Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind” applies that research to anxiety, which he understands as a kind of addiction. And just like with any addiction, you have to understand its rewards in order to begin addressing it.

It’s a powerful framework, and one I’ve found useful in my own life. I’m not saying his book, or this conversation, cured me of anxiety. But it helped me understand it better. I hope it’ll do the same for you

Recommendations: 

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

"Barbarian Days" by William Finnegan

"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 20, 2021
Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginner’s Mind’
01:01:07

Here’s a sobering thought: The older we get, the harder it is for us to learn, to question, to reimagine. This isn’t just habit hardening into dogma. It’s encoded into the way our brains change as we age. And it’s worsened by an intellectual and economic culture that prizes efficiency and dismisses play.

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where she runs the Cognitive Development and Learning Lab; she’s also the author of over 100 papers and half a dozen books, including “The Gardener and the Carpenter” and “The Philosophical Baby.” What I love about her work is she takes the minds of children seriously. The child’s mind is tuned to learn. They are, she writes, the R. & D. departments of the human race. But a mind tuned to learn works differently from a mind trying to exploit what it already knows.

So instead of asking what children can learn from us, perhaps we need to reverse the question: What can we learn from them?

In this conversation, Gopnik and I discuss the way children think, the cognitive reasons social change so often starts with the young, and the power of play. We talk about why Gopnik thinks children should be considered an entirely different form of Homo sapiens, the crucial difference between “spotlight” consciousness and “lantern” consciousness, why “going for a walk with a 2-year-old is like going for a walk with William Blake,” what A.I. researchers are borrowing from human children, the effects of different types of meditation on the brain and more.

Recommendations: 

"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak

"Mary Poppins in the Park" by P.L. Travers

"The Children of Green Knowe" by L. M. Boston

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 16, 2021
Your Success Probably Didn’t Come From Merit Alone
01:22:34

Prepping for a conversation with Tressie McMillan Cottom is intimidating. McMillan Cottom is a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a 2020 MacArthur fellow, co-host of the podcast “Hear to Slay,” and the author of the essay collection “Thick,” which was a National Book Award finalist. And she’s one of those people who can seemingly write on anything: The way for-profit colleges generate inequality, the cultural meaning of Dolly Parton, the way the U.S. medical profession treats Black women, how beauty operates in contemporary America, the role of hustle in the economy — the list just keeps going.

And so did this conversation, in the end. I barely made it through a third of my planned questions because so many interesting topics came up in each answer. We discuss the dangers of nostalgia, the social construction of smartness, the moral panics gripping America, why journalists are racing to platforms like Substack, how different mediums of communication shape our conversations, the central role status plays in American life, her research on the root causes of the uptick in “deaths of despair,” how beauty is constructed and wielded and much, much more. This is one of those conversations that could’ve gone on for four more hours.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Recommendations:

"Minor Feelings" by Cathy Park Hong

"Fearing the Black Body" by Sabrina Strings

"The Chosen" by Jerome Karabel

"Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred Taylor

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 13, 2021
The Best Explanation of Biden's Thinking I’ve Heard
00:56:46

With the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, the economic theory that is Bidenomics is taking shape. It’s big. It puts climate at the center of everything. It is more worried about political risks — losing the House, giving Donald Trump a path back to power — than some traditional economic risks, like wasting money and bumping up inflation. It prefers to err on the side of spending more and making sure people know they got a bridge or a job than doing less and having people question whether government is working for them. But I still have a lot of questions about Bidenomics, in terms of both its economic theories and its political ones.

Brian Deese is the director of the National Economic Council, the nerve center that coordinates economic policy across the executive branch. He led the auto bailout in the Obama administration and then turned to climate, first in the Obama White House and then at BlackRock. When President Biden brought him on to run the N.E.C., it was a message: In the Biden administration, all economics was going to be climate economics.

I asked Deese to join me on the podcast to talk about how his economic policymaking and thinking have changed since 2009, what the Biden administration learned from the successes and failures of the Obama era, why so much of the White House’s economic policy is framed in terms of competition with China, why he doesn’t think a carbon tax is the right answer for climate, how the Biden administration will invest in the care economy and more.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 09, 2021
Did the Boomers Ruin America? A Debate.
01:10:52

Donald Trump was the fourth member of the baby boomer generation to be elected president, after Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is a boomer. Chief Justice John Roberts is a boomer. The Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, is a boomer. President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, were born a few years too early to officially qualify as boomers, but they’re close. We’re living in the world the boomers and nearly boomers built, and are still building.

This is not, to younger Americans, a comfort. One 2018 poll found that just over half of millennials said that boomers made things worse for their generation; only 13 percent said they made things better. Then there was the rise of the “OK Boomer” meme in 2019, an all-purpose dismissal of boomer politics and rhetoric. But the boomers are a vast group, as are all generations. So is this a useful category for political argument? And even if it is, what, precisely, is it that the boomers did wrong?

Jill Filipovic is a journalist, former lawyer and the author of “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind,” a primarily economic critique of the boomer generation from the left. Helen Andrews is a senior editor at The American Conservative and author of “Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster,” a searing cultural critique of the boomers from the right.

Filipovic and Andrews, both of whom are millennials (as am I), agree that the boomers left our generation worse off; but they disagree on just about everything else, which makes this conversation all the more interesting. We discuss the value of generational analysis, the legacy of the sexual revolution, the impact of boomer economic policies, the decline of the nuclear family, the so-called millennial sex recession, the millennial affordability crisis, the impact of pornography, how much the critique of the boomers is really a critique of technological change and much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

American Compass survey on family preferences 

"The share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high"  by Christopher Ingraham

"The Rise of Childless America"  by Lyman Stone

Jill’s recommendations: 

"The Culture of Narcissism" by Christopher Lasch

"Can't Even" by Anne Helen Petersen

"Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown

Helen’s recommendations: 

"A Tale of Two Utopias" by Paul Berman

"Coming of Age on Zoloft" by Katherine Sharpe

"A Book of Americans" by Stepehen Vincent Benét

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 06, 2021
Humanity’s Awesome, Terrifying Takeover of Evolution
00:55:37

For years now, I’ve had the same recurring worry: Am I focusing on the trivial? When future generations look back on this moment in history, will they remember the daily political fights — or will everything just look like a sideshow compared to humans being able to edit genetic code? 

The technology I’m referring to, known as CRISPR, could cure genetic diseases like sickle-cell anemia and Huntington’s. It could let us regulate height, hair color, and vulnerabilities in our children. And, one day, it has the potential to imbue human beings with superhuman characteristics — making us stronger, faster, smarter. Nor is it just us. CRISPR lets us edit other animals and plants, with all kinds of beckoning possibilities, some wonderful, some terrible. We cannot do all this yet. But it’s coming, and soon. 

Walter Isaacson is the former editor of Time magazine, the former head of CNN, and author of biographies of everyone from Albert Einstein to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs. However, his newest book, “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” is much more than a biography of Jennifer Doudna, a Nobel Prize winning scientist who was essential to developing CRISPR. It’s a biography of the scientific process that led to CRISPR, and the people trying to understand its moral, political and human implications.

In this conversation, I get to ask Isaacson the questions I’ve wanted to focus on myself: Is it wrong to edit your kid’s genes? Is it cruel not to? What happens when CRISPR and capitalism collide? Will we witness the rise of a superhuman genetic elite? And what kind of political and economic systems do we need to start building  to ensure this technology is used in just ways?

Recommendations: 

"The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"The Moviegoer" by Walker Percy

"The Eighth Day of Creation" by Horace Freeland Judson

"Winnie the Pooh" by A.A. Milne

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Apr 02, 2021
The Author Behind ‘Arrival’ Doesn’t Fear AI. ‘Look at How We Treat Animals.’
00:50:16

For years, I’ve kept a list of dream guests for this show. And as long as that list has existed, Ted Chiang has been atop it.

Chiang is a science fiction writer. But that undersells him. He has released two short story collections over 20 years — 2002’s “Stories of Your Life and Others” and 2019’s “Exhalation.” Those stories have won more awards than I can list, and one of them was turned into the film “Arrival.” They are remarkable pieces of work: Each is built around a profound scientific, philosophical or religious idea, and then the story or the story structure is shaped to represent that idea. They are wonders of precision and craft. But unlike a lot of science fiction, they are never cold. Chiang’s work is deeply, irrepressibly humane.

I’ve always wondered about the mind that would create Chiang’s stories. And in this conversation I got to watch it in action. Chiang doesn’t like to talk about himself. But he does like to talk about ideas. And so we do: We discuss the difference between magic and technology, why superheroes fight crime but ignore injustice, what it would do to the human psyche if we knew the future is fixed, whether free will exists, whether we’d want to know the exact date of our deaths, why Chiang fears what humans will do to artificial intelligence more than what A.I. will do to humans, the way capitalism turns people against technology, and much more.

The ideas Chiang offered in this conversation are still ringing in my head, and changing the way I see the world. It’s worth taking your time with this one.

Recommendations: 

"Creation" by Steve Grand

"On the Measure of Intelligence" by Francois Chollet

"CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" by George Saunders

"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan

"Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise" (movie)

"On Fragile Waves" by Lily Yu

"Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard

Control (video game)

Return of the Obra Dinn (video game)

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 30, 2021
A Top G.O.P. Pollster on Trump 2024, QAnon and What Republicans Really Want
01:00:58

In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, the polling firm Echelon Insights decided to ask voters a simple question: Do they think the goal of politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or “ensuring the country’s survival as we know it?”

Only 25 percent of Republicans said politics is about policy; nearly half said it’s about survival. That’s today’s Republican Party in a nutshell.

I’ve had some recent conversations with Republicans who are trying to reform their party, to push it back toward policy and, in some cases, reality. But, for now, we’re governing with the Republican Party we have, not the Republican Party many want. So what does that Republican Party, the real Republican Party, believe?

Kristen Soltis Anderson is a Republican pollster, host of Sirius XM’s “The Trendline,” and co-founder of Echelon Insights. She has done some of the most in-depth surveys of Republican voters to date: the issues that animate them, the traits they look for in presidential candidates, how they consume information, their faith in Donald Trump and much more. So I asked her about what today’s Republicans believe, and what that reveals about where the party is going next.

Recommendations: 

"Grand New Party" by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam

"Resonate" by Nancy Duarte

“Generations Status and Party Identification, A Theory of Operant Conditioning” by Keith Billingsley and Clyde Tucker

"Dragons Love Tacos" by Adam Rubin

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 26, 2021
An Unusually Optimistic Conversation With Bernie Sanders
00:28:57

Bernie Sanders didn’t win the 2020 election. But he may have won its aftermath.

If you look back at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’s careers, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for forever, without much of the compromise or concerns that you used to see from Senator Joe Biden. That’s not to take anything away from Biden. He’s the president. This is his plan. And it is to his credit that he saw what the country needed, what the politics of the moment would support and where his party had moved, and met it with full force.

But Sanders’s two presidential campaigns are part of the reason that the Democratic Party had moved, and the politics of the moment had changed. And so I’ve wondered what Sanders makes of this moment. Is it a triumph? A disappointment? A beginning?

And I’ve wondered about his take on some of the other questions swirling around the Democratic Party: Are liberals alienating people who agree with them on economics by being too censorious on culture? Is there room to work with populist Republicans who might be open to new economic ideas even as they turn against liberal democracy itself?

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 23, 2021
Andrew Cuomo and the Performance of Power
01:05:02

Six months ago, Andrew Cuomo was on top of the world. He was touted as the anti-Donald Trump — the calm, fact-driven coronavirus leader the country needed. Now, amid allegations of hiding the true number of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes and of workplace sexual harassment and abusive behavior, most of the state’s major Democratic politicians are calling for Cuomo’s resignation.

Rebecca Traister is a writer at large at New York magazine and the author of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.” Last week, Traister published an extraordinary piece on the allegations against Cuomo. For her, the Andrew Cuomo story is a lot bigger than just Andrew Cuomo; it’s about the nature of toxic workplaces and the desire — even among Democrats — for strongmen leaders. And more than that, it’s about what we’ve been taught leadership looks like, and how the aesthetic of the tough, domineering male leader covers up, or contributes to, poor leadership.

So I wanted to bring Traister on the show to discuss the details of the Cuomo story and its broader implications. We discuss what Cuomo has actually been accused of (including Traister’s own in-depth reporting), why we often mistake bullying for leadership, what blind spots the Cuomo story reveals among liberals, the trade-offs between projecting an aesthetic of power and actually governing, why white male rage is so accepted and even admired, the parallels between Cuomo and Trump, how this story recasts reporting on Hillary Clinton and Amy Klobuchar, the double bind faced by female politicians, and much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

"Abuse and Power" by Rebecca Traister, New York magazine

Recommendations: 

"The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith

"Another Brooklyn" by Jacqueline Woodson

"My Ántonia" by Willa Cather

"Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris

"All the King’s Men" by Robert Penn Warren

"Unbought and Unbossed" by Shirley Chisholm

"The Elephant and the Bad Baby" by Elfrida Vipont

"The Church Mouse" by Graham Oakley

"Tar Beach" by Faith Ringgold

"The Highway Rat" by Julia Donaldson

"The Complete 8-Book Ramona Collection" by Beverly Cleary

"When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead

"The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 19, 2021
Mark Bittman Cooked Everything. Now He Wants to Change Everything.
00:48:54

Mark Bittman taught me to cook. I read his New York Times cooking column, “The Minimalist,” religiously. I bought “How to Cook Everything,” that red brick of a cookbook, and then, when I gave up meat, I bought its green companion, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” He was like my cranky, no-B.S. food uncle.

But now Bittman wants to do more than teach me, or you, how to cook. He wants to convince us that the whole food system has fallen into calamity. His new book, "Animal, Vegetable, Junk" is a stunning reinterpretation of humanity’s relationship to the food it forages, grows and, nowadays, concocts. It’s about the marvel of the modern food system, which feeds more than seven billion people and offers more food, with more variety, at less cost, than ever before. But even more so, it’s about the malignancy of that food system, which is sickening us, poisoning the planet and inflicting so much suffering on other creatures that the mind breaks contemplating it.

Even as someone who is fairly critical of our modern food system, I wasn’t prepared for the scale or sweep of Bittman’s indictment. And I’m not sure I’ve bought into every piece of it. But it is bracing. And it raises profound questions about the relationship among humans, animals, plants, capitalism, technology and morality. So I asked him on the show to discuss it.

Recommendations: 

"Classic Indian Cooking" by Julie Sahni

"How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman

"Lord Emsworth" by P.G. Wodehouse

"The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" by Claudia Roden

"The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking" by Elisabeth Luard

"The Optimist's Telescope" by Bina Venkataraman

"The Wuggie Norple Story" by Daniel Manus Pinkwater and Tomie dePaola

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 16, 2021
How America’s Covid-19 Nightmare Ends
01:01:10

On Jan. 28, I published a column that began like this: “I hope, in the end, that this article reads as alarmism. I hope that a year from now it’s a piece people point to as an overreaction.”

Today, that column, thankfully, does look like alarmism. Cases fell, and kept falling, even in places beset by new variants. The U.S. vaccination effort accelerated. And there’s going to be vastly more vaccine supply in the coming months.

Few emotions are as unnerving right now as hope. No one wants to permit themselves optimism, only to be crushed when death tolls rise. But the case for hope is strengthening. And there are important policy reasons to take that case seriously.

Dr. Ashish Jha is a physician, leading health policy researcher and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. He’s been one of the clearest and most thoughtful voices through this crisis. And he’s feeling hopeful, too. 

So I asked Jha on the show to guide us through these next months, to help us see what he’s seeing. Don’t get him, or me, wrong: This isn’t over. But in America, things are going to feel very, very different in 45 days, for reasons he explains. And then comes another question: How do we make sure the global end to this crisis comes soon after?

A note: This episode was recorded before President Biden’s March 11 address directing states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive Covid vaccines by no later than May 1; however, the timeline Jha and I discuss here is just as ambitious and its implications are just as promising.

This is one Covid discussion, finally, that is not going to leave you feeling in despair.

Recommendations: 

"LikeWar" by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 12, 2021
What Does Toxic Stress Do to Children?
01:06:13

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s pioneering work on how childhood trauma shapes adult outcomes led to her being named the first surgeon general of California. That was in 2019. And then, of course, the novel coronavirus hit. The job of California’s surgeon general in 2020 was not what it was in 2019. But in some ways, Burke Harris’s expertise was more necessary than ever.

This conversation is about the growing evidence that difficult experiences we face as children reverberate in our lives decades later. It’s profound research that should reshape how we think about social insurance, public morality and criminal justice. But it’s also a conversation about what the coronavirus has done to children — whether this year will be a trauma that marks a generation, and remakes their lives. How has it changed socialization for toddlers — like my 2-year-old son? What has it meant for children who can’t go to school, who watched their parents lose work or who had family members die alone in a hospital? How do we help them? How do we even understand what they’ve gone through, particularly when they can’t tell us?

We also discuss the lessons California learned from the early difficulties in its vaccine rollout (“simplicity saves lives,” Burke Harris says), why we need to be investing a lot more in mental health therapeutics, the debate over universal child allowances, how to address racial and income disparities in vaccine distribution, the drivers of vaccine hesitancy in Black and brown communities, what a safe path to post-pandemic reopening would look like, why Covid-19 cases have been declining across the country, and much more.

This is one of those conversations that will leave you looking at vast swaths of public policy differently. Don’t miss it.

Mentioned in this episode:

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris

“Roadmap for Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health”

“Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study”

“The prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the lives of juvenile offenders”

“Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of premature mortality” 

Recommendations: 

"Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers" by Robert Sapolsky

"The Emotional Life of the Toddler" by Alicia Lieberman

"The Woman Behind the New Deal" by Kirstin Downey

"The Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 09, 2021
Stop. Breathe. We Can’t Keep Working Like This.
00:54:16

We were promised, with the internet, a productivity revolution. We were told that we’d get more done, in less time, with less stress. Instead, we got always-on communication, the dissolution of the boundaries between work and home, the feeling of constantly being behind, lackluster productivity numbers, and, to be fair, reaction GIFs. What went wrong?

Cal Newport is a computer scientist at Georgetown and the author of books trying to figure that out. At the center of his work is the idea that the technologies billed as offering us more productive, happier, socially rich lives have left us more exhausted, empty and stressed out than ever. He’s doing something not enough people do: questioning whether this was all worth it.

My critique of Newport’s work has always been that it focuses too much on the individual: Telling someone whose workplace communicates exclusively via Slack and email to be a “digital minimalist” is like telling someone who lives in a candy store to diet. But his new book, “A World Without Email,” is all about systems — specifically, the systems that govern how we work. In it, Newport makes a radical argument: We are living through a massive, rolling failure of markets and firms to rethink work for the digital age. But that can change. We can change it.

Recommendations: 

"Technics and Civilization" by Lewis Mumford

"Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change" by Neil Postman

“A Continuous Shape” (video)

"Andrew Henry's Meadow" by Doris Burn

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 05, 2021
What a More Responsible Republican Party Would Look Like
00:58:12

If you watched this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, you heard a lot of debunked election conspiracies, dire warnings about “cancel culture” and unwavering fealty to Donald Trump. What you didn’t hear was much in the way of policy ideas to raise wages, improve health care or support families. This is the modern G.O.P.: a post-policy party obsessed with symbolic fights and curiously uninterested in the actual work of governing. But does it have to be that way?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Republican wonk who is pushing his party in a more responsible, policy-centric direction. We discuss:

— Why Republicans have lost interest in policy.

— Whether Trump would have won the presidency if Senate Republicans had passed a big stimulus bill before the 2020 election.

— Why Ponnuru thinks the Republican Party’s 2024 hopefuls have learned the wrong lesson from Trump’s 2016 victory.

— The conservative case for a universal child allowance.

— Why so few Republican politicians have openly endorsed the Romney child allowance plan — and what that says about the tensions within the party’s coalition.

— What it would take for Republicans to move away from being a “business owners’” party and toward being a “parents’” party.

— Why Ponnuru thinks Republicans should support limiting, or outright banning, just-in-time scheduling practices.

— Whether there was ever a mass constituency for Paul Ryan’s version of conservatism.

— Who are the most important emerging voices on the political right today.

And much more.

Recommendations: 

"The Great Debate" by Yuval Levin

"The Upside-Down Constitution" by Michael S. Greve

"Popular Crime" by Bill James

"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Mar 02, 2021
How the Texas Crisis Could Become Everyone's Crisis
01:20:28

Last week, freezing temperatures overwhelmed the Texas power grid, setting off rolling blackouts that left millions without power during an intense winter storm. But this story is a lot bigger than Texas: Our world is built around a model of the climate from the 19th and 20th centuries. Global warming is going to crack that model apart, and with it, much of the physical and political infrastructure civilization relies on.

At the same time, there’s good news on the climate front, too. The Biden administration has rejoined the Paris climate accords, pushed through a blitz of executive orders on the environment, and is planning a multitrillion-dollar climate bill. China has also set newly ambitious targets for decarbonization. Renewable energy is getting cheaper, faster, than almost anyone dared hope. And if you follow climate models, you know the most catastrophic outcomes have become less likely in recent years.

I wanted to have a conversation about both the emergency in Texas, and the broader picture on climate. Leah Stokes is a political scientist at University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of the excellent book “Short Circuiting Policy,” which, among other things, explores Texas’ surprising history with renewables. David Wallace-Wells is an editor at large at New York magazine and author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," one of the most sobering, disquieting portraits of our future — though he is, as you’ll hear in this discussion, getting a bit more optimistic.

We discuss whether the Texas crisis is going to be the new normal worldwide, the harrowing implications of how Texas Republicans have responded, why liberals should be cheering on Elon Musk, the difficulties liberal states are having on climate policy, the obstacles to decarbonization, the horrifying truth of what “adapting” to climate change will actually entail, why air pollution alone is a public health crisis worth solving, whether nuclear energy is the answer, and much more. I learned so much getting to sit in on this conversation. You will, too.

Mentioned in this episode:

Migration towards Bangladesh coastlines projected to increase with sea level rise through 2100” by AR Bell, et al.

“Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure” by Christopher W. Tessum, et al.

“Wildfire Exposure Increases Pro-Environment Voting within Democratic but Not Republican Areas” by Chad Hazlett and Matto Mildenberger

Prisoners of the Wrong Dilemma: Why Distributive Conflict, Not Collective Action, Characterizes the Politics of Climate Change” by Michaël Aklin and Matto Mildenberger

Recommendations: 

"Short Circuiting Policy" by Leah Stokes

"The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss

"Under a White Sky" by Elizabeth Kolbert

"The Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley Robinson

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 26, 2021
A Radical Proposal for True Democracy
00:44:44

One thing I want to do on this show is give space to truly radical ideas, to expand the boundaries of our political and moral imaginations. And Hélène Landemore, a political scientist at Yale, has one of those ideas. She calls it “open democracy,” and the premise is simple: What we call democracy is not very democratic.

The role of the people is confined to elections, to choosing the elites who will represent us. Landemore argues that our political thinking is stuck in “18th-century epistemologies and technologies.” It is not enough.

We’ve learned much in the last few hundred years about random sampling, about the benefits of cognitively diverse groups, about the ways elections are captured by those with the most social and financial capital. Landemore wants to take what we’ve learned and build a new vision of democracy atop it — one in which we let groups of randomly selected citizens actually deliberate and govern. One in which we trust deliberation and diversity, not elections and political parties, to shape our ideas and to restrain our worst impulses.

This is a challenging idea. I don’t know that it would work. But it’s a provocation worth wrestling with, particularly at this moment, when our ideas about democracy have so far outpaced the thin, corrupted ways in which we practice it.

You’ve heard people say, “We’re a republic, not a democracy.” Landemore’s challenge is this: What if we were a democracy? We honor those who came before us for radically reimagining who could govern, and how politics could work. But did they really discover the terminal state of democracy? Or are there bold steps left for us to take?

Recommendations:

"Liquid Reign" by Tim Reutemann

"The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas

"The Principles of Representative Government" by Bernard Manin

Mortelle Adèle Book Series

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 23, 2021
What It Means to be Kind in a Cruel World
01:15:48

George Saunders is one of America’s greatest living writers. He’s the author of dozens of critically acclaimed short stories, including his 2013 collection, “Tenth of December”; his debut novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” won the 2017 Booker Prize; and his nonfiction work has empathy and insight that leave pieces from more than a decade ago ringing in my head today. His most recent book, “A Swim in A Pond in the Rain,” is a literary master class built around seven Russian short stories, analyzing how they work, and what they reveal about how we work.

I’ve wanted to interview Saunders for more than 15 years. I first saw him talk when I was in college, and there was a quality of compassion and consideration in every response that was, well, strange. His voice doesn’t sound like his fiction. His fiction is bitingly satirical, manic, often unsettling. His voice is calm, kind, gracious. The dissonance stuck with me.

Saunders’s central topic, literalized in his famous 2013 commencement speech, is about what it means to be kind in an unkind world. And that’s the organizing question of this conversation, too. We discuss the collisions between capitalism and human relations, the relationship between writing and meditation, Saunders’s personal editing process, the tension between empathizing with others and holding them to account, the promise of re-localizing our politics, the way our minds deceive us, Tolstoy’s unusual theory of personal transformation, and much more.

What a pleasure this conversation was. So worth the wait.

Recommendations: 

"Red Cavalry" by Isaac Babel

"Stamped from the Beginning" by Ibram X. Kendi

"Dispatches" by Michael Herr

"Patriotic Gore" by Edmund Wilson

"In Love with the World" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

"Loving; Living; Party Going" by Henry Green

"Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey" by Hayden Carruth

"Tropic of Squalor" by Mary Carr

"They Lift Their Wings to Cry" by Brooks Haxton

"The Hundred Dresses" by Eleanor Estes and Louis Slobodkin

"Caps for Sale" by Esphyr Slobodkina

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 19, 2021
What ‘Drained-Pool’ Politics Costs America
01:08:55

“The American landscape was once graced with resplendent public swimming pools, some big enough to hold thousands of swimmers at a time,” writes Heather McGhee in her new book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” These pools were the pride of their communities, monuments to what public investment could do. But they were, in many places, whites-only. Then came the desegregation orders. The pools would need to be open to everyone. But these communities found a loophole. They could close them for everyone. Drain them. Fill them with concrete. Shutter their parks departments entirely. And so they did.

It’s a shocking tale. But it’s too easily dismissed as yet one more story of America’s racist past. McGhee shows otherwise. Drained-pool politics are still with us today and shaping issues of far more consequence than pool access. Drained-pool politics — if “they” can also have it, then no one can — helps explain why America still doesn’t have a truly universal health care system, a child care system, a decent social safety net. McGhee, the former president of the think tank Demos, offers a devastating tour of American public policy, and she shows how drained-pool politics have led to less for everyone, not just their intended targets.

I asked McGhee to join me for a discussion about drained-pool politics, the zero-sum stories at the heart of American policymaking, how people define and understand their political interests, and the path forward. This is, in my view, a hopeful book, and a hopeful conversation. There are so many issues where the trade-offs are real, and binding. But in this space, there are vast “solidarity dividends” just waiting for us, if we are willing to stand with, rather than against, each other.

Recommendations: 

"Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler

"The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein

“Good Times” (TV series)

"The Word Collector" by Peter H. Reynolds

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 16, 2021
The Senate Is Making a Mockery of Itself
01:09:37

The Senate is where Joe Biden’s agenda will live or die. More specifically, the intricacies of archaic Senate rules — the budget reconciliation process, the filibuster, the majority leader’s ability to control the floor — combined with the fealty today’s senators have to yesterday’s structures will decide the agenda’s fate. It would be the gravest mistake for progressives, or anyone else, to consider the fight over how the Senate works to be a sideshow compared with debates over a $15 minimum wage, a Green New Deal or democracy reform. The fight over how the Senate works is what will decide all those other debates.

Adam Jentleson served as deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid when he was the majority leader. Jentleson was high enough to see how the institution really worked, and young enough to be free of gauzy nostalgia from the days of yore. And his book, "Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy," is both blistering and persuasive. “This is not a particularly uplifting history,” Jentleson writes. But nor is it without hope. “Unlike many of the structural features that determine the politics of our era, the Senate is relatively easy to reform.”

So I invited Jentleson on my podcast, “The Ezra Klein Show,” to explain how the modern Senate really works, why it works that way, and how to fix it. Along the way, we discuss what can — and crucially can’t — be passed through budget reconciliation, why senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to defend the filibuster (and why Jentleson thinks they will change their minds), the foundational myths of the Senate, like the idea that the modern filibuster encourages compromise, how Mitch McConnell understands the American political system better than his opponents and much more.

Recommendations:

"Double Indemnity" by James Cain

"Master of the Senate" by Robert Caro

"The Sum of Us" by Heather McGhee

"Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 12, 2021
Should We Dim the Sun? Will We Even Have a Choice?
00:56:01

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” Stewart Brand famously wrote in “The Whole Earth Catalogue.” Human beings act upon nature at fantastic scale, altering whole ecosystems, terraforming the world to our purposes, breeding new species into existence and driving countless more into extinction. The power we wield is awesome. But Brand was overly optimistic. We did not get good at it. We are terrible at it, and the consequences surround us.

That’s the central theme of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.” And yet, there is no going back. We will not return to a prelapsarian period where humans let nature alone. Indeed, as Kolbert shows, there is no natural nature left — we live in the world (and in particular, a climate) we altered, and are altering. The awful knowledge that our interventions have gone awry again and again must be paired with the awful reality that we have no choice save to try to manage the mess we have made.

Examples abound in Kolbert’s book, but in my conversation with her  I wanted to focus on one that obsesses me: solar geoengineering. To even contemplate it feels like the height of hubris. Are we really going to dim the sun? And yet, any reasonable analysis of the mismatch between our glacial politics and our rapidly warming planet demands that we deny ourselves the luxury of only contemplating the solutions we would prefer. With every subsequent day that our politics fails, the choices that we will need to make in the future become worse.

This is a conversation about some of the difficult trade-offs and suboptimal options that we are left with in what Kolbert describes as a “no-analog moment.” We discuss the prospect of intentionally sending sulfurous particles into the atmosphere to dim the sun, whether “carbon capture” technology could scale up to the levels needed to make a dent in emissions levels, the ethics of using gene editing technologies to make endangered species more resistant to climate change, the governance mechanisms needed to prevent these technologies from getting out of hand, what a healthier narrative about humanity’s relationship with nature would sound like, how the pandemic altered carbon emissions, and more.

At the end, we discuss another fascinating question that Kolbert wrote about recently in The New Yorker: Why is a Harvard astrophysicist arguing Earth has already been visited by aliens, and should we believe him?

Mentioned in this episode: 

Whole Earth Catalogue

Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb

Recommendations: 

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka"

"The Song of the Dodo" by David Quammen

"Global Warming (The Complete Briefing)" by John Houghton

"Cosmicomics" by Italo Calvino

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster

"Charlotte’s Web" by E.B. White

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 09, 2021
An Appalled Republican Considers the Future of the G.O.P.
01:25:17

"I don’t think conservatism can do its job in a free society in opposition to the institutions of that society,” Yuval Levin told me. “I think it can only function in defense of them.”

Levin is the director of social, cultural and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute, as well as the author of a number of great books, most recently, “A Time to Build.” I wanted to talk to him about a very specific question, though: What will the Republican Party become? Levin is one of its most thoughtful and sober analysts — a temperament that may, I realize, make him unsuited to interpreting its current incarnation, in which a majority of House Republicans voted to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election and one of them is, well, Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But Levin’s diagnosis is interesting. Histories of the modern Republican Party often place Ronald Reagan at their center. That is, in Levin’s view, a mistake. “I think Reagan is better understood as a detour from a history that is otherwise a story of a constant struggle between populism and conservatism,” he said. Donald Trump was an inheritor of a tradition that stretches long before him — Pat Buchanan’s tradition, and Strom Thurmond’s tradition. He didn’t form a new Republican Party; he allowed a long-existing part to express itself.

Behind that lie institutional changes both in the Republican Party and in the broader structure of American politics. That’s why I wanted to talk to Levin for this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show”: He, like me, thinks in terms of institutions. “The question for us in the coming years is whether we can move a little more in the direction of a politics of ‘what does government do,’ and less of a politics of ‘who rules,’” he says.

That’s exactly the right question, in my view. But we have very different views of what kinds of institutional changes would get us there. I’d like to see a more democratized, majoritarian system. Levin would, among other things, add a filibuster to the House.

So this is more than just a conversation about how to fix the Republican Party. It’s a conversation about how to fix American politics — how to recenter it on policy that changes people’s lives, rather than symbolic clashes that merely harden our hearts.

Mentioned in this episode:

Big Tech, Big Government: The Challenges of Regulating Internet Platforms,” National Affairs, Winter 2021

The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism by Henry Olsen

"Democrats, Here’s How to Lose in 2022. And Deserve It." by Ezra Klein

Recommendations: 

"On Empire, Liberty, and Reform: Speeches and Letters" by Edmund Burke

"Reflections On The Revolution In France" by Edmund Burke

"The American Crisis" by Thomas Paine

"The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine

"Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition" by Roger Scruton

"Freedom From the Market: America’s Fight to Liberate Itself from the Grip of the Invisible Hand" by Mike Konczal

"Social Democratic Capitalism" by Lane Kenworthy

"The Upswing" by Robert Putnam with Shaylyn Romney Garrett

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 05, 2021
To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems
01:09:33

As my colleague Ben Smith wrote in an August profile, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has “made a habit of being right on the big things.” She saw the threat of the coronavirus early and clearly. She saw that the public health community was ignoring the evidence on masking, and raised the alarm persuasively enough that she tipped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toward new, lifesaving guidance. Before Tufekci was being prescient about the coronavirus, she was being prescient about disinformation online, about the way social media was changing political organizing, about what election forecasting models could actually tell us, about the rising threat of authoritarianism in America.

Tufekci attributes this track record to “systems thinking,” which she believes holds the key to forming a more accurate understanding of everything from pandemics to social media to the Republican Party. So I asked Tufekci to come on a podcast for a conversation about how she thinks, and what the rest of us can learn from it. 

In answering those questions, we discuss why public health experts were slow to change guidance on disruptive measures like masking and travel bans, the logic of authoritarian regimes, why Asian countries so decisively outperformed Western Europe and America in containing coronavirus, why Tufekci thinks media coverage of the vaccines is too pessimistic, the crisis of American democracy, whether a more competent demagogue will succeed Donald Trump, and much more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

 “How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right” by Ben Smith

“Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired” by Zeynep Tufekci

“Can We Do Twice as Many Vaccinations as We Thought?” by Zeynep Tufekci and Michael Mina

“America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent” by Zeynep Tufekci

Recommendations: 

"Groundhog Day" (movie)

"Normal Accidents" by Charles Perrow

"The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Feb 02, 2021
What’s Happening to Our Economy Is Like a Natural Disaster
01:08:35

The Biden administration’s first legislative priority is a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package. It’s the kind of mega-package where the individual policies contained inside it — a $15 minimum wage, $1,400 checks, a huge child tax credit expansion, a $50 billion virus testing infrastructure — would be big deals on their own. But together, this would be one of the most consequential packages ever passed.

So there’s a lot to talk about here. And who better to talk about it with than my now-colleague Paul Krugman? We dig into the details of the plan and then spiral off into some other topics I wanted to run by the nearest Nobel laureate: the major rethinking of debt and deficits among left-of-center economists, the differences between Keynesians and Modern Monetary Theorists, how Krugman made a bunch of money off Bitcoin (it’s not how you’d think!), why progressives need a better theory of technological change, Krugman’s favorite indie bands of the mid-2000s, and more.

Mentioned in this episode: 

“Notes on the Coronacoma (Wonkish)” by Paul Krugman

“Why Markets Boomed in a Year of Human Misery” by Neil Irwin and Weiyi Cai

“Who’s Afraid of Budget Deficits?” By Jason Furman and Lawrence Summers

“Public Debt: Fiscal and Welfare Costs in a Time of Low Interest Rates” by Olivier Blanchard

“America’s anti-democratic Senate, in one number” by Ian Millhiser

Book Recommendations: 

“Laundry Files” series by Charlie Stross

“Merchant Princes” series by Charlie Stross

“The Price of Peace” by Zachary Carter

Band Recommendations: 

The Be Good Tanyas

Larkin Poe

Reina del Cid

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Jan 29, 2021
The Man With the Plan to Beat the Pandemic
01:20:13

I’ve never covered a moment that simultaneously merits so much despair and so much hope. It’s dizzying. The Biden administration takes office with over 25 million Covid-19 cases nationwide, over 420,000 Americans dead, and new, highly contagious variants of the virus stalking our future. It’s as grim a situation as I’ve seen.

But for the first time, we can do more than hide. We can immunize. Getting a population of 330 million to herd immunity is a hellishly difficult undertaking in the best of circumstances, and these are not the best of circumstances. Still, speed matters: Getting to herd immunity a few months faster could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Dr. Vivek Murthy was surgeon general under Barack Obama, and is Joe Biden’s nominee for the same position. He’s also co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force.

In this episode, Murthy walks me through the Biden administration’s plan to beat the coronavirus. We discuss America’s botched vaccine rollout efforts, what the choke points are now, whether the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be approved, why the U.S. government should be shipping out free masks, what’s blocking 24/7 vaccination sites, the F.D.A.’s overly conservative approach to at-home testing kits, what we can and can’t do after getting the vaccine, the vaccine failures in blue states, how to change the minds of the nearly third of Americans who are vaccine-skeptical, why persuasion is as much about listening as talking, the new coronavirus variants, and much more.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Jan 26, 2021
Coming Soon: The Ezra Klein Show
00:02:13

Every Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation about something that matters. How do we address climate change if the political system fails to act? Has the logic of markets infiltrated too many aspects of our lives? What is the future of the Republican Party? What do psychedelics teach us about consciousness? What does sci-fi understand about our present that we miss? Can our food system be just to humans and animals alike?

Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

Jan 13, 2021