The Ezra Klein Show

The Ezra Klein Show

United States

Ezra Klein gives you a chance to get inside the heads of the newsmakers and power players in politics and media. These are extended conversations with policymakers, writers, technologists, and business leaders about what they believe in and why. Look elsewhere for posturing confrontation and quick reactions to the day's news. Subscribe for the anti-soundbite.


Molly Ball on whether facts matter in politics  

You may remember the Atlantic's Molly Ball from the fantastic pre-election conversation we had on this podcast. She's back this week to talk about an issue I've become more and more obsessed with — does factual argument matter in American politics? Or is it just a contest of identity activation?
In the most recent Atlantic, Ball profiles Kellyanne Conway, whose television appearances and "alternative facts" offer an unusually clear window into this debate. We talk about that, as well as:
- What's surprised us about Trump's presidency so far- How different elections activate different political identities- Fake news, how much it matters, and the ways in which it's rising among liberals- Why presidencies are defined by crises, and what we've learned about how Trump will manage his first- Whether Democrats are completely irrelevant now- How hatred of the other party became a more powerful motivator than belief in your party- Sean Trende's "missing white voters" theory- The low-grade espionage happening all over DC all of the time- Ezra's theory of what really happened between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives- Why Trump's approval numbers are far from disastrous
And much more. Ball is one of my favorite people to talk politics with, and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. 

Denis McDonough on how to run the White House  

How do you actually run a White House? What is the president’s actual job? What is the chief of staff’s role? What happens if you screw up? 

These are questions I’ve been reflecting on rather a lot lately, for obvious reasons. And so I asked Denis McDonough on the podcast to talk about them.

McDonough served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2017 — a position in which he earned the nickname “Obama’s Obama.” This is his first lengthy interview since leaving the White House, and he was thoughtful, reflective, and sober about both the job he did, and the job his successors must do.

This is a discussion about running the most important organization in the world well — and what happens when you fail. McDonough and the Obama administration did have their failures, and those failures taught them hard lessons.

This discussion, to me, speaks to a great vulnerability opening up under the Trump White House. They are trying to pursue their agenda, but they are not effectively managing the vast organization they’re in charge of. That’s going to lead to mistakes, and those mistakes could come to define, or even destroy, this administration.

Which is why, if there’s anyone who should listen to this podcast, it’s the current occupants of McDonough’s old workplace. This discussion is full of advice that’s useful to anyone running anything big, or anyone interested in how big things are run. I learned a lot from it. You will too. 

Cecile Richards on Planned Parenthood, labor organizing, and the Supreme Court  

Before Cecile Richards was president of Planned Parenthood, she was a labor organizer working with garment workers in El Paso, Texas. The experience taught her a key principle of political change: people do things for their reasons, not your reasons.

In this conversation, we talk about her organizing background, and how it's informing her work as she tries to protect her the institution she leads. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a core Republican promise. It is also, as she explains, a more punitive policy idea than people realize — there is no Planned Parenthood line in the federal budget, and so defunding the organization means denying it reimbursement for cancer screenings, birth control, and wellness visits. 

We dig into the possible consequences of that, as well as:

-Why the core skill of organizing is listening

-How she talks about Planned Parenthood with people who are pro-life

-What today’s politicians could learn from her mother, Texas Governor Ann Richards

-Why unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates are at post-Roe lows

-The reason Planned Parenthood has tried to stop using the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice”

-What’s behind the sharp rise in IUD use

-Why she thinks there’d be a very different debate over women’s health if more members of Congress could get pregnant

-Which policies she thinks would work to drive down unplanned pregnancy in the US 

-What she thinks of Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court

And much more. Also, a quick programming note: we’re accepting applications for Vox’s next unconference, which will be held April 26-27th, and focus on the first 100 days of policy under Trump. Head to for more!

-Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
-Barbarian Days by William Finnegan

Tim Ferriss on suffering, psychedelics, and spirituality  

Tim Ferriss is the author of the 4-Hour Workweek, as well as the new book, Tools of Titans. He’s also the host of The Tim Ferriss Show, which is one of my favorite podcasts, and an inspiration for this show. 

Tim is a relentless optimizer, and on his program, he interviews fascinating people to discover how they work, think, and get things done. It’s a show about the secrets of high performers. 

Here, I ask Tim about basically the reverse of that. How does he think about the parts of his life that, though crucial, are harder to optimize and systematize? We discuss friendship, love, psychedelics, spirituality, death, health, and whether it’s possible to get too addicted to productivity hacks. Amidst all that, we dig into:

-Why Tim’s house is filled with reminders of his eventual death

-Why he tries to build new friendships atop a foundation of shared suffering

-Why he hasn't written a book on romantic relationships and probably won't

-How productivity goes bad

-How a serious bout of Lyme disease changed how he lives his life

-Why some strange experiences on psychedelics convinced him there’s much more to this world than we understand

-The difficulty of describing a sneeze

-How his interviews have evolved since doing his podcast

-What he feels constitutes good advice

On his own show, Tim is always trying to offer takeaways and lessons about how to live, and he does that here, too. This episode is packed with ideas you can apply to your own life. 

-David Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man
-Frank Luntz’s Words That Work
-Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others
-Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive
-Sebastian Junger’s Tribe
-Oliver Sacks’ Gratitude
-Less is More, an anthology on minimalist thinking
-Ann Lamont’s Bird by Bird
-Frank Herbert’s Dune
-The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
-Nikos Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek
-Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning

Yuval Harari, author of “Sapiens,” on AI, religion, and 60-day meditation retreats  

Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, “Sapiens,” was an international sensation. The Israeli historian’s mind-bending tour through the trump of Homo sapiens is a favorite of, among others, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama. His new book, Homo Deus, is about what comes next for humanity — and the threat our own intelligence and creative capacity poses to our future. And it, too, is fantastically interesting. 

I’ve wanted to talk to Harari since reading Sapiens. I’ve had one big question about him: what kind of mind creates a book like that? And now I know. A clear one.

Virtually everything Harari says in this conversation in fascinating. But what I didn’t expect was how central his consistent practice of vipassana meditation — which includes a 60-day silent retreat each year — is to understanding the works of both history and futurism he produces. We talk about that, and also:

-His theory on how all large-scale collaboration is based on fictions, from mythologies and religions to nationalism to human rights

-Why he sees money as one of the greatest stories human beings have ever told

-Why he reads only 5-10 pages of a huge number of books

-His theory that human beings have moved from venerating gods, to venerating themselves, to venerating data — and what that means for our future

-How we treat other animals and what that might imply for how artificial intelligences could treat us 

-Whether wide swaths of human beings will be rendered useless by advances in computing

-The ways in which a narrow idea of what intelligence is — and the way it relates to consciousness — is holding us back from understanding AI

This is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had. Enjoy!



-Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, & Steel
-Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics
-Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

Elizabeth Drew covered Watergate. Here's what she thinks of Trump.  

Elizabeth Drew is the author of Washington Journal, one of my favorite books about Watergate. Drew covered the story as a reporter for the New Yorker, and the book emerges from the real-time, journalistic diary she kept amidst the chaos. As such, it does something no other Watergate book does: tells the story not as a tidy tale with a clear beginning and inevitable end, but as an experience thick with confusion, rumors, alarm, and half-truths.

Of late, I've heard a lot of people comparing the early days of Donald Trump's administration — with the strange scandals around Russia, the fast resignation of Trump's national Security Advisor, and the mounting pressure for investigation — with Watergate. And so I asked Drew, who is now a writer at the New York Review of Books, to provide some perspective on whether that comparison makes sense, and how to think about the Trump scandals that are unfolding, slowly and haltingly, right now.

-Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America
-Andrew Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson

Avik Roy on why conservatives need to embrace diversity  

Avik Roy advised Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign on health care, ran the policy shop on Rick Perry’s 2016 campaign, and then worked for Marco Rubio after Perry dropped out. So Roy’s Republican credentials are pretty solid. But he’s aghast at the direction his party has taken in recent years. 
The question Roy asks of conservatives today is a profound one: what is it you’re seeking to conserve? Under Donald Trump, he fears Republicans are fighting to conserve the idea of America as a fundamentally white, Christian country. “Trump showed me that white identity politics was the dominant force driving the Republican grass roots,” Roy told the Atlantic.
Roy, who recently founded The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, believes conservatism believes is bigger than that — and in this podcast, he explains why, even as he clearly details the difficulties the movement faces moving beyond white identity politics. We also go deep into healthcare, a subject Roy and I have been arguing about for years. A few other topics we cover:
-What he thinks Trumpism represents as a phenomenon-How he feels he’s dealt with his identity as a conservative as opposed to as a Republican-How the aftermath of 9/11 led him to abandon a “colorblind” outlook on race-His hope for a new type of reform within the conservative movement that might result in  “diverso-cons”-How the innovator’s dilemma helps explain the GOP’s current problems-Why many conservatives don’t spend much time thinking about healthcare as an issue, and what they could learn from progressives who do-His thoughts on setting price controls for medical procedures and other costs to consumers-Why he thinks AI doctors might change medical practice and costs in the not-too-distant future-His criticism of how people on the left see nonprofit institutions as inherently more beneficial to society than for-profit companies, and the implications that has for healthcare-Whether Republicans are prepared to really offer an Obamacare replacement, and if so, what it might look like
Books:-Leah Wright Rigueur’s The Loneliness of the Black Republican-Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind-Rationalism & Politics and Other Essays by Michael Oakeshott 

Kara Swisher gives a master class on reporting and interviewing  

Before I launched this podcast, I asked Kara Swisher to coffee. Swisher founded the technology news site Recode, hosts the excellent Recode Decode podcast, and runs a legendary conference series. She is among the best interviewers working today. Some of her gets — including the first and only dual interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — have passed nearly into myth. 

I've used the advice Swisher gave me in every episode of this podcast. But in this conversation, she goes further, offering her tips both for interviewing and reporting. If you want to be a journalist, or you just want to talk to people, you should listen to this. 

Swisher is also an excellent, hilarious storyteller who has lived an incredible, strange life. You really, really don't want to miss the story of how she became part of a sexual harassment lawsuit against John McLaughlin, and why he thanked her for stabbing him "in the front." You also don't want to miss:

-The alternative life she might have led as a CIA analyst-Why she thinks journalism school is a waste of time and what she advises people to do instead-The importance of staying in touch with sources when you're not writing about them-Her thoughts on relative friendliness of reporters and sources on politics versus tech beats-Her advice about interviewing -Why she wants to run for mayor of San Francisco, and what she'd want to do as mayor-What aspects of Trump appeal to her-Why she thinks social media’s bad for the world and probably won’t get better

This is one of the funnest conversations I've had on this podcast, and it's also perhaps the most useful. Enjoy it. 

Books:-The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams-Barbarians at the Gate by John Helyar and Bryan Burrough-Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow-Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies-The audiobook of Hilbilly Elegy by JD Vance -Megyn Kelly’s Settle For More-Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal-When Air Becomes Breath by Paul Kalanithi-A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engel-The Time Machine by Jules Verne-Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel-Time and Again by Jack Finney

David Miliband explains the global refugee crisis  

Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning Muslim refugees from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, and indefinitely banning them from Syria, doesn't come in a vacuum. The world is currently experience the worst refugee crisis since World War II — a crisis that has destabilized the Middle East, torn at the fabric of Europe, and left 65 million people displaced.

This is what America is turning its back on. And just because we slam our doors, it doesn't mean the crisis eases. It could get worse, and if it leads to, say, the collapse of Jordan and Turkey, the consequences for America and the rest of the world would be disastrous.

David Miliband served as Britain's foreign secretary from 2007 to 2010. He's now President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which operates humanitarian relief operations in more than 40 countries and has refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 26 United States cities. 

I asked him on the show to offer a broader perspective than what we're hearing in the US conversation right now. Why is the refugee crisis so bad now? What are the solutions beyond resettlement? What is the vetting process for refugees who come to America, and how have they experienced Trump's order? Who are the world's refugees, and what do they need?

What's happening right now is bigger than America. It's imperative we understand it. 

Jennifer Lawless on why you — yes, you — should run for office  

There are 500,000 elected positions in the United States. I'll say that again: 500,000. And that's no accident. "Our political system is built on the premise that running for office is something that a broad group of citizens should want to do," writes political scientist Jennifer Lawless.

But Lawless's research reveals something scary — something that helps explain the political moment we're in. Participating in politics has begun to repulse the average America. 89 percent of high schoolers says they've already decided they will never run for office. 85 percent doubt elected officials want to help people. 79% don’t think politicians are smart or hardworking. And when good, normal people turn away from politics, the system breaks down.

Well, be the change you want to see in the world. 

Lawless is the director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. Her recent book, along with co-author Richard Fox, is “Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics." Her work, which details why young people and women are increasingly turned off by a political system that badly needs their participation, has never been more essential.

This is an inspiring discussion, or at least I think it is. It's about the steps in political participation that come after Facebook posts and even marches. It's about how involving yourself directly in the daily work of politics is both easier and more meaningful than you might think. It's about the myths that keep people — and particularly keep women — from ever considering running for office. It's about recognizing that politics is much more than the presidency and the Congress, and that the opportunities it offers to make the world you live in a bit better are more numerous than you think.

Lawless practices what she preaches. She ran for Congress in Rhode Island, and her story of that race, as well as the best advice she got while running it, should not be missed. 

I hear from a lot of people who feel powerless right now. But they're not powerless. This podcast is for them. 

-Why We Lost the ERA by Jane Mansbridge
-My Life by Bill Clinton
-Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

JD Vance: the reluctant interpreter of Trumpism  

J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy has been adopted as the book that explains Trumpism. It's the book that both Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rob Portman recommended as their favorite of 2016. It's a book Keith Ellison, the frontrunner to lead the DNC, brought up in our conversation last week. Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, has turned to Vance to explain What It All Means.

All of which is a bit odd, because Vance's book is an awkward fit with Trumpism. As Vance describes it, it's about "what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it." It's a memoir about growing up amidst a particular slice of the white working class — the Scots-Irish who settled in and around Appalachia — and the ways that both propelled Vance forward and held him back. It's a book about one man's story — a story that is universal in some ways, particular in others, but was certainly not written with Donald J. Trump in mind.

Vance, today, works for an investment firm founded by Peter Thiel. He's an Iraq veteran and Yale-educated lawyer who fits comfortably among the elites he never expected to know. He's a conservative who doesn't like Trump, but has nevertheless become a favored interpreter for his movement. He's a private person who finds himself having shared the most intimate details of his life with total strangers.

We talk about all that, as well as some specific debates that have emerged in the age of Trump, and that speak to issues in Vance's book:

- The resentment members of the lower-middle class have towards the non-working poor 
- The ways in which the discussion over poor white communities has come to mirror the debate over poorer African-American communities
- How Trump constructed an "other" that merged both marginalized communities and powerful elites
- Slights Vance faced as a member of the military attending elite schools, and how that made him think about the broader debate over political correctness
- The difference between "economic anxiety" and "cultural anxiety," and why it matters
- How members of Vance's family reconcile their support for Trump with their close friendships with unauthorized immigrants
- What he feels defines the values held by elites, and how they differ from those he grew up with

And, as always, much more. Enjoy. 

-Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids”
-William Julius Wilson’s “The Truly Disadvantaged”
-Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart”
-Robert Tombs’s “The English and Their History”

Keith Ellison: The Democratic National Committee has become the Democratic Presidential Committee, and that needs to end  

Congressman Keith Ellison is the frontrunner to lead the Democratic National Committee in the Trump era. Ellison has a fascinating backstory: he's the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, and he was the second member of Congress to endorse Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. 

Now, Sanders has returned the favor, backing Ellison to lead the DNC. But in an unexpected effort to close ranks, Senator Chuck Schumer — who does not exactly come from Sanders's wing of the Democratic Party — has also backed Ellison. 

Which isn't to say Ellison doesn't face a race. Many in the White House are known to be skeptical of Ellison for this job, and have recruited Tom Perez, the popular Labor Secretary (and previous EK Show guest), to challenge Ellison. 

The campaign between the two men is increasingly seen as a new front in the Sanders-Clinton fight  — but that's a bit absurd. Both are extremely progressive, and neither is actually running for president. Which is why, in this conversation, I wanted to draw Ellison out on his vision for the job of DNC Chair, which is not a role that sets the ideological direction for the Democratic Party. What powers does the DNC chair have? How does Ellison want to use them? What is his philosophy of party organizing? How does a party — as opposed to a candidate — build a relationship with voters? What should the national party apparatus be doing in off-years? How much confrontation should there be with Trump? 

We get into the weeds of party-building here, and it's obviously a topic Ellison has thought about a lot — both in his own campaigns, and in his run for DNC Chair. The Democratic Party has some hard choices to make in the coming years, and so it's well worth hearing where Ellison wants to push it. 

Books (so many books!):
-Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
-Give Us Liberty, by Dick Armey
-What a Party, by Terry Mcauliffe
-Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Hocschild
-Hilbilly Elegy, by JD Vance
-Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown
-The Autobiography of Malcolm X
-The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabelle Wilkerson
-Who Stole The American Dream, by Hendrick Smith
-Give Us the Ballot, by Ari Berman

Elizabeth Kolbert: We have locked in centuries of climate change  

Elizabeth Kolbert covers climate change for the New Yorker. She's the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction. And she recently wrote a paragraph I can't stop thinking about. 

"The problem with global warming—and the reason it continues to resist illustration, even as the streets flood and the forests die and the mussels rot on the shores—is that experience is an inadequate guide to what’s going on. The climate operates on a time delay. When carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere, it takes decades—in a technical sense, millennia—for the earth to equilibrate. This summer’s fish kill was a product of warming that had become inevitable twenty or thirty years ago, and the warming that’s being locked in today won’t be fully felt until today’s toddlers reach middle age. In effect, we are living in the climate of the past, but already we’ve determined the climate’s future."

Kolbert lives, to an unusual degree, in the planet's future. She travels to the places around the world where the climate of tomorrow is visible today. She has watched glaciers melting, and seen species dying. And she is able to convey both the science and the cost with a rare lucidity. 

Talking with Kolbert left me with an unnerving thought. We look back on past eras in human history and judge them morally failed. We think of the Spanish Inquisition or the Mongol hordes and believe ourselves civilized, rational, moral in a way our ancestors weren't. But if the science is right, and we do unto our descendants what the data says we are doing to them, we will be judged monsters. And it will be all the worse because we knew what we were doing and we knew how to stop, but we decided it was easier to disbelieve the science or ignore the consequences. 

Kolbert and I talk about the consequences, but also about what would be necessary to stabilize the climate and back off the mass extinction event that is currently underway. We discuss geoengineering, political will, the environmental cost of meat, and what individuals can and can't do. We talk about Trump's cabinet, about whether technological innovation will save us, and if pricing carbon is enough. We talk about whether hope remains a realistic emotion when it comes to our environmental future.

-Edward Abbe’s “Desert Solitaire”
-Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”
-David G. Haskell’s “The Forest Unseen”
-Bill McKibben’s “The End of Nature”

Sarah Kliff and Ezra Interview Obama About Obamacare  

Two weeks before he leaves office, President Obama sits down for a lengthy conversation about the lessons of the Affordable Care Act and the law's uncertain future.

You Ask, Ezra Answers  

At long last, here’s the Ask Ezra Anything episode. You sent in great questions, and I answered as many as I could. 

To keep me honest — and to make sure I didn’t just talk to myself for two hours — I invited friend-of-the-show Grant Gordon back to the program to help out. We covered a lot of ground. Topics included:

- Immortality 
- The best concerts I’ve been to
- Why I think culture is the biggest impediment to a universal basic income
- Three lessons this podcast has taught me
- Three lessons the 2016 election taught me
- Three lessons running Vox has taught me
- Why my interview questions are so annoyingly long and rambling
- How explanatory reporting differs from other kinds of reporting
- The best advice I’ve been given about interviewing
- My favorite books
- Why the idea that this reality is a computer simulation reflects a failure of imagination

And much, much more. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions, and apologies for all the ones we didn’t get to. This was a lot of fun. We’ll definitely do it again soon. 

Evelyn Farkas explains the crisis in Syria and the threat of Russia  

From 2012 to 2015, Evelyn Farkas served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, where she was responsible for policy toward Russia, the Black Sea, the Balkans, and Caucasus regions and conventional arms control.

Farkas is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and I asked her on the show to explain two of the issues that worry me most right now: the horror that has befallen Syria, and the risky belligerence that has overtaken Russia. 

If this sounds like a tough episode to you, give it a chance. This conversation doesn’t presuppose deep — or really any — knowledge of either conflict. Farkas is clear, thoughtful, and insightful, and at a moment when Syria is destabilizing Europe and Russia is destabilizing the United States, it’s more than worth taking the time to dig into both.

Along the way, we talk about Farkas’s time in Bosnia, her frustrations with President Obama’s hands-off approach to the Syria conflict, why she’s sick of “slippery slope” arguments in foreign policy, the ways in which the lessons of Yugoslavia and Bosnia collided with the lessons Iraq and Afghanistan, and what to make of Russia’s hack of the US election.

Also, a number of you have asked me to start putting book recommendations in the show notes, so here they are:

-David Rhode’s "Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe's Worst Massacre Since World War II” 
-Peter Pomerantsev’s "Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia” 

In the days since our interview, I picked up “ Nothing is True,” and Farkas is right: it’s amazing. 

Tim Wu's interesting, unusual, fascinating life  

Columbia law professor Tim Wu makes me feel boring and underaccomplished. He’s been a Supreme Court clerk, a Silicon Valley startup employee, a bestselling author, and a star academic. He coined the term "network neutrality," wrote the superb book The Master Switch, and was dubbed "Genius Wu" by Richard Posner — a man many consider to be our smartest living judge. And this is to say nothing of Wu's award-winning side-gig as a — yes — travel writer.

Anyway, screw that guy. 

Wu's new book is The Attention Merchants, and it's a history of how the advertising business has shaped the information we consume, the products we crave, and the way we think. We talk about that book, but we also talk about Wu's approach to life. He explains why his great strength is his ability to ignore inconsistency, how Larry Lessig shaped his career and his marriage, why working in Silicon Valley left him skeptical of markets, and Marshall McLuhan and Timothy Leary’s advertising jingle for acid (really).

We also go deep into antitrust law, the inner workings of the Supreme Court, whether Google and Facebook are monopolies, and what a world without advertising in media might look like. 

So this conversation covers a lot of ground. Enjoy!

Ta-Nehisi Coates: "There’s not gonna be a happy ending to this story"  

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author at the Atlantic. His book, Between the World and Me, won the National Book Award, and was spoofed on SNL. He's writing the (awesome) Black Panther series for Marvel. He's a certified MacArthur Genius. And he just released a blockbuster story based on hours of interviews with President Obama about the role race played in Obama's upbringing, his presidency, and the 2016 campaign.

Coates is also one of my favorite people to talk to, and I think this conversation shows why.

The first half of our conversation is political: it's about Coates's conversations with Obama, his impressions of the president, his perspective on American politics, the way his atheism informs his worldview, why he thinks a tragic outlook is important for finding the truth but — at least for nonwhite politicians — a hindrance for winning political power. 

The second half is much more personal: it's about his frustrations as a writer, his discomfort with the way "Between the World and Me" was adopted by white audiences, how he learns, his surprising advice for young writers, his belief that personal stability enables professional wildness, his past as a blogger, his desire to return to school, his favorite books. 

I loved this interview. I think you will, too.

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison on management, rationalism, and the enlightenment  

Patrick Collison is the 28-year-old CEO of Stripe, the online payments company that was just valued at $9 billion.

Haven't heard of Stripe? You've probably used it. Last year, 40 percent of people who bought something online used Stripe's payment systems. The company has become an integral part of the internet's financial plumbing. And Collison has become one of Silicon Valley's leading lights — he made the cover of Forbes last year, where one venture capitalist described him as "the LeBron James of entrepreneurs."

Collison is also one of the few people I've met who is a genuine polymath. He seems to know everything about everything, and his recall — particularly his ability to live-footnote his own comments — is something to behold. We talk about how he and his brother conceived of, and launched, Stripe, and then we go much deeper. Among the topics we discussed:
-Why there was a market opportunity for Stripe in a world that had PayPal
-Why people are often wrong when they look at a market and think an incumbent has dominated it
-What he thinks is untrue about the stereotypes of how Silicon Valley handles regulation
-How we might be able to tell whether a buildup of regulations are preventing new companies from emerging
-Why jobs like home healthcare and childcare are becoming tension points in our national immigration discussion
-The difference in the way politicians and tech leaders approach problem-solving
-How he tries to shape culture within his company to help it become, in his words, more like itself
-What he admires about CEOs like Jeff Bezos and Jim Simons
-The culture of "rationalist” bloggers, and why he reads them
-How we underestimate the importance of the Enlightenment period


Award-winning chef José Andrés on cooking, creativity, and learning from the best  

José Andrés isn't just a chef. He's a force. All that talk of how DC is now a hot dining scene? Andrés deserves more than a bit of the credit. He's popularized Spanish tapas through Jaleo, brought El Bulli-style molecular gastronomy to America through MiniBar, and racked up some Michelin stars and James Beard awards along the way.

Andrés has hosted television shows, taught courses on the science of cooking at Harvard, extended his restaurant empire to Las Vegas and South Beach, set up a nonprofit in Haiti, and launched a fast-casual chain focused on vegetables. He's been named "Man of the Year" by GQ and one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time. 

I've known Andrés for a couple of years, and I've never met a better storyteller, or seen anyone who thinks harder about the component parts of creativity.  We talk about that, as well as:

-What Andrés learned from his father
-Why the most important job when making paella is tending the fire
-Why cooking at home is important but not essential
-What he makes of Americans eating out of the house more than ever before
-Why we need to be pragmatic about sourcing food
-How he applies what he learned in the Spanish navy to his restaurants
-What he learned from Ferran Adrià, the founder of molecular gastronomy
-How he takes ideas from other disciplines and applies them in his kitchens
-How important hiring is to him and why immigration policy is so crucial to the American restaurant business
-Why his fast-casual restaurants called Beefsteak are nearly meatless
-How he's managed to run an empire while remaining focused on the creative side
-What he thinks we might lose by eating synthetic food or soylent
-The one dish he thinks people should learn to cook

Do you eat? Do you think? Then listen to this. 

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