#154 - Steve Levitt, Ph.D.: A rogue economist’s view on climate change, mental health, the ethics of experiments, and more
3/22/2021
Steven Levitt is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the co-author of the bestselling book Freakonomics and its two sequels. In this episode, Steve discusses his unlikely path to a career in economics and his view of the current state, and limitations, of the field. He also gives his unique perspective on contemporary issues including climate change, mental health in education, how to evaluate whether an experiment is ethical, decision making, horse racing, and much more. 

 

We discuss:

  • How Steve ended up in economics (2:45);
  • Current trends in the field of economics: macro vs. micro, usefulness of models, and the relationship between data and theory (8:45);
  • Revisiting what Steve wrote about climate change in SuperFreakonomics, and why it’s unlikely to be solved with behavioral change (18:45);
  • The consequences of a blurred line between climate science and advocacy (27:30);
  • Answering climate questions with a “Manhattan Project for climate change” (31:45);
  • Steve’s reflections on his career path and how he found his way by being himself (40:00);
  • How Steve came to write Freakonomics (and its sequels), and the topics which caused the most controversy (53:00);
  • How Steve came to appreciate mental health through parenting, and the need to emphasize mental health into the education system (1:10:15);
  • Why people are bad at making decisions (1:26:45);
  • Deliberating on why horse racing times haven’t advance much in decades (1:34:30);
  • Reducing the impact of negative emotions by observing the world free of language (1:44:00);
  • Changing our thinking about what it means to conduct experiments ethically (1:49:00); and
  • More.

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