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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    "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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.