The Ezra Klein Show

The Ezra Klein Show Podcast

Winner of the 2020 Webby and People's Voice awards for best interview podcast. Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Stacey Abrams feels about identity politics? How Hasan Minhaj is reinventing political comedy? The plans behind Elizabeth Warren’s plans? How Michael Lewis reads minds? This is the podcast for you. Produced by Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Who owns the Western?
Vox book critic Constance Grady talks with Vox gender identities reporter and novelist Anna North about Anna's new book Outlawed. They discuss creating an alternative history, reimagining the Western, and having fun with the usually fraught topics of gender and identity. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

A Watchmen writer on race, TV, and tech giants
The Undefeated's culture critic Soraya Nadia McDonald talks with Emmy Award-winning television writer and producer Cord Jefferson. They discuss the transition from journalism to TV, delving into Jefferson's move from Gawker to writing for hit shows like Succession, The Good Place, and Watchmen. They also touch on what needs to change about TV writer's rooms, and what our current era of streaming giants and tech barons means for news and pop culture. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adcho...

Uncovering the history of psychedelics in Christianity
Vox's Sean Illing talks about the the little-known history of psychedelics and spirituality in the Western world with Brian Muraresku, author of The Immortality Key. What role did psychedelic drugs play in the rise and spread of Christianity — and could they save the church today? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...


Biden's immigration architect on racism, reform, and the Obama legacy
NPR journalist, memoirist, and host of the upcoming WBEZ podcast The Art of Power Aarti Shahani talks with Cecilia Muñoz, a former aide to Obama and part of Biden's transition team. It's a conversation about immigration policy reform and the challenges ahead for President Biden — and for a country wrestling with changing demographics, racism, and its history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

The Capitol Siege and American Revolution
Vox's Dylan Matthews talks with author and Revolutions podcaster Mike Duncan about what history can tell us about the insurrection at the US Capitol. Is America experiencing a true moment of revolution? So many republics throughout history have crumbled - could this one be next? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

Why fascism in Post-Trump America isn't going away
Vox's Sean Illing talks to Yale professor and author Jason Stanley about why American democracy provides such fertile soil for fascism, how Donald Trump demonstrated how easy it was for our country to flirt with a fascist future and what we can do about it. Correction 2/1: Professor Stanley suggested in this conversation that West Virginia declined to expand the Medicaid option in 2013. In fact, the state did expand the program and has gradually added enrollment since 2013. Learn more about your ad choices....


The Joe Biden experience
Ezra Klein is joined by Evan Osnos, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now to discuss our new president. President Biden has been in national politics for almost five decades. And so, people tend to understand the era of Joe Biden they encountered first — the centrist Senate dealmaker, or the overconfident foreign policy hand, or the meme-able vice president, or the grieving, grave father. But Biden, more so than most politicians, changes. And i...

What it means to be a "good" rich person
Vox columnist Anne Helen Petersen talks with sociologist Rachel Sherman about her research into the anxieties of wealthy people and their desire to be seen as "middle class." Sherman's work exposes the flawed stories we tell ourselves about who qualifies as middle class and who qualifies as "good" in the US. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...


Sam Sanders and Olivia Nuzzi on President Trump’s last days
New York magazine's Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi spent the past four years covering the Trump White House. In this inaugural episode of Vox Conversations, Nuzzi talks to guest host Sam Sanders, host of NPR's It’s Been a Minute, about the perils of anonymous sourcing, some unexpected job hazards (self-loathing), and why Trump didn’t ultimately create, but instead activated, the crowd of insurgents that breached the Capitol last week. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

Best of: We don’t just feel emotions. We make them.
How do you feel right now? Excited to listen to your favorite podcast? Anxious about the state of American politics? Annoyed by my use of rhetorical questions? These questions seem pretty straightforward. But as my guest today, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett, points out there is a lot more to emotion than meets the mind. Barrett is a superstar in her field. She’s a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and has ...

Best of: Ending the age of animal cruelty, with Bruce Friedrich
You often hear that eating animals is natural. And it is. But not the way we do it. The industrial animal agriculture system is a technological marvel. It relies on engineering broiler chickens that grow almost seven times as quickly as they would naturally, and that could never survive in the wild. It relies on pumping a majority of all the antibiotics used in the United States into farm animals to stop the die-offs that overcrowding would otherwise cause. A list like this could go on endlessly, but the po...


Best of: The moral philosophy of The Good Place
After creating and running Parks and Recreation and writing for The Office, Michael Schur decided he wanted to create a sitcom about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What does it mean to be a good person? That’s how NBC's The Good Place was born. Soon into the show’s writing, Schur realized he was in way over his head. The question of human morality is one of the most complicated and hotly contested subjects of all time. He needed someone to help him out. So, he recruited Pamela Hi...

Best of: Michael Lewis reads my mind
Michael Lewis needs little introduction. He’s the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short, The Blind Side, The Fifth Risk. He’s the host of the new podcast “Against the Rules.” He’s a master at making seemingly boring topics — baseball statistics, government bureaucrats, collateralized debt obligations — riveting. So how does he do it? What I wanted to do in this conversation was understand Lewis’s process. How does he choose his topics? How does he find his characters? How does he get them to tru...

Best of: Tracy K. Smith changed how I read poetry
It’s the rare podcast conversation where, as it’s happening, I’m making notes to go back and listen again so I can fully absorb what I heard. But this conversation with Tracy K. Smith was that kind of episode. Smith is the chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, and a two-time poet laureate of the United States (2017-19). But I’ll be honest: She was an intimidating interview for me. I often find myself frustrated by poetry, yearning for it to simply te...


What I’ve learned, and what comes next.
As strange as it is to write, this is my last podcast here at Vox. In January, I'll be starting at the New York Times as a columnist on the opinion page, doing a reported column on policy and launching an interview podcast. Meanwhile, Vox will be building something new and better atop this show's DNA in this feed. In this episode, I wanted to reflect on the almost five years I’ve spent doing this show. This project has changed my work, and my life, in unexpected ways. So here are the four lessons this sho...

Best of: An inspiring conversation about democracy with Danielle Allen
This conversation with Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen in fall 2019 is one of my all-time favorites.    Allen directs Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She’s a political theorist, a philosopher, the principal investigator of the Democratic Knowledge Project, and the co-chair of a two-year bipartisan commission of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, which just this year released “Our Common Purpose,” a report with more than 30 recommendations on how to reform American democracy. Her...

Michael Pollan on the psychedelic society
On November 3, as the country fixated on the incoming presidential election results, voters in Oregon approved a seemingly innocuous ballot measure with revolutionary potential. Proposition 109, which passed with 56 percent of the vote (the same margin by which Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the state), legalizes the use of psilocybin, the main psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms, in supervised therapeutic settings.    Multiple studies have found that use of psilocybin in a medical context ha...


Best of: Robert Sapolsky on the toxic intersection of poverty and stress
Robert Sapolsky is a Stanford neuroscientist and primatologist. He’s the author of a slew of important books on human biology and behavior, including most recently Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. But it’s an older book he wrote that forms the basis for this conversation. In Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Sapolsky works through how a stress response that evolved for fast, fight-or-flight situations on the savannah continuously wears on our bodies and brains in modern life. But stress isn’t...

Joe Biden and "the new progressivism"
It’s often said that Joe Biden has an instinct for finding the political center — that of his party, and that of the country. To understand how Biden has changed, and how he might govern, we need to understand how the ideological context of American politics is changing, and why.   Felicia Wong is the President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank that has done some of the best work on the way the ideological firmament of politics is shifting. Wong believes that the set of governing...

Best of: Frances Lee on why bipartisanship is irrational
There are few conversations I’ve had on this show that are quite as relevant to our current political moment as this one with Princeton political scientist Frances Lee. Joe Biden will occupy the White House come January, but pending the results of two runoff Senate elections in Georgia, Democrats either won’t control the Senate at all or will face a 50-50 split. In either case, an important question looms large over the incoming administration: Will Republican senators negotiate with Biden in good faith? Le...


The most important book I've read this year
If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.  Best known for the Mars trilogy, Robinson is one of the greatest living science fiction writers. And in recent years, he's become the greatest writers of what people now call cli-fi — climate fiction. The name is a bit of a misnomer: Climate fiction is less fictitious speculation than an attempt to envision a near future that we are likely to inhabit. It’s a...

Best of: Alison Gopnik changed how I think about love
Happy Thanksgiving! We will be back next week with brand new episodes, but on a day when so many of us are thinking about love and relationships I wanted to share an episode that has changed the way I think about those topics in a profound way.  Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California Berkeley. She’s published more than 100 journal articles and half a dozen books, including most recently The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Developm...

Best of: Vivek Murthy on America’s loneliness epidemic
At the holidays, I wanted to share some of my favorite episodes of the show with you (we’ll be back next week with brand new episodes). My conversation with Vivek Murthy tops that list, and it has particular force this Thanksgiving, when so many are alone on a day when connection means so much. As US surgeon general from 2014 to 2017, Murthy visited communities across the United States to talk about issues like addiction, obesity, and mental illness. But he found that what Americans wanted to talk to him ab...


What Democrats got wrong about Hispanic voters
Donald Trump has built his presidency on top of racial dog whistles, xenophobic rhetoric, and anti-immigrant policies. A core belief among liberals was that this strategy would help Trump with whites but almost certainly hurt him with Latinos, and people of color more broadly. Then the opposite happened: In 2020, Trump gained considerable support among voters of color, particularly Latinos, relative to the 2016 election. What happened? Ian Haney López is a legal scholar at UC Berkeley and the author of Dog ...

Antitrust, censorship, misinformation, and the 2020 election
I’ve been fascinated by the sharp change in how the tech platforms — particularly the big social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and to some degree, YouTube — are acting since the 2020 election. It’s become routine to see President Donald Trump’s posts tagged as misinformation or worse. Facebook is limiting the reach of hyper-viral stories it can’t verify, Twitter is trying to guard against becoming a dumping ground for foreign actors trying to launder stolen secrets, and conservatives are abandonin...

The crisis isn’t Trump. It’s the Republican Party.
If the past week — and past four years — have proven anything, it’s that we are not as different as we believed. No longer is the question, "Can it happen here?" It’s happening already. As this podcast goes to air, the current president of the United States is attempting what — if it occurred in any other country — we would call an anti-democratic coup. This coup attempt will probably not work. But the fact that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively does not mean it is not happening...


The Joe Biden experience
Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States. And — counting the votes of people, not just land — it won’t be close. If current trends hold, Biden will see a larger popular vote margin than Hillary Clinton in 2016, Barack Obama in 2012, or George W. Bush in 2004.  Commentary over the past few days has focused on the man he beat, and the incompetent coup being attempted in plain sight. But I want to focus on Biden, who is one of the more misunderstood figures in American politics — including, a...

Chris Hayes and I process this wild election
This is not the post-election breakdown I expected to have today, but it's definitely the one that I needed. Chris Hayes is the host of the MSNBC primetime show, “All In," and the podcast "Why is this Happening? With Chris Hayes." He's also one of the most insightful political analysts I know. We discuss the purpose of polling, the problems of polling-driven coverage, the epistemic fog of the results, the strategy behind Trump's inroads with Latino voters, how Democrats might have won the presidency but los...

Stacey Abrams on minority rule, voting rights, and the future of democracy
We’re one day away from the election, though who-knows-how-many days from finding out who won it. But there’s more at stake than whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be our next president.  There is a fight behind the fight, a battle that will decide all the others. America is not a democracy, and Republicans want to keep it that way. America is not a democracy, and Democrats — at least some Democrats — want to make it more of one.  Democracy has, in particular, become Stacey Abrams’ animating mission. ...


Nate Silver on why 2020 isn't 2016
As you may have heard, there's a pretty important election coming up. That means it's time to bring back the one and only Nate Silver.  Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, boasts one of the best election forecasting records of any analyst in the last 15 years. His forecasting models successfully predicted the outcomes in 49 of the 50 states in the 2008 US presidential election and all 50 states in 2012. And in 2016, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gave Donald Trump a 28 percent chance of v...

Sarah Kliff grades Biden and Trump's health care plans
There are few issues on which the stakes in this election are quite as stark as on health care. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden plans to pass (and Democrats largely support) a massive health care expansion that could result in 25 million additional individuals gaining health insurance. The Trump administration, as we speak, is pushing to get the Supreme Court to kill the Affordable Care Act, which would strip at least 20 million Americans of health care coverage.    There's no one I'd rather have ...

Trumpism never existed. It was always just Trump.
In 2016, Julius Krein was one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. In Trump’s critiques of the existing Republican and Democratic establishments, Krein saw the contours of a heterodox ideology he believed could reshape American politics for the better. So he established a pro-Trump blog and, later, a policy journal called American Affairs, which his critics claimed was an attempt to “understand Trump better than he understands himself.” Today Krein finds himself in an unusual position. Upon realizing ...


What should Democrats do about the Supreme Court?
If Democrats win back power this November, they will be faced with a choice: Leave the existing Supreme Court intact, and watch their legislative agenda — and perhaps democracy itself — be gradually gutted by 5-4 and 6-3 judicial rulings; or use their power to reform the nation’s highest court over fierce opposition by the Republican party. Ganesh Sitaraman is a former senior advisor to Elizabeth Warren and a law professor at Vanderbilt. He’s also the author of one of the most hotly debated proposals for Su...

Marilynne Robinson on writing, metaphysics, and the Donald Trump dilemma
Marilynne Robinson is one of the greatest American novelists alive today. She’s the author of the Pulitzer-prize winning Gilead — one of my favorite books, ever — as well as Housekeeping, Home, Lila, and her latest, Jack. She’s also produced four brilliant collections of nonfiction essays.  But Robinson is not simply a beautiful writer; her work is inextricably bound up with the most important issues of our times: race, religion, education, geography, and democracy — so much so that in 2015, Barack Obama ch...

The case for Trump’s foreign policy
As we approach the 2020 election, I want to make sure the conversation on this show reflects the actual choice the country is facing. So we are going to be doing a few episodes, including this one, with guests who believe Donald Trump is the better candidate this November.  I wanted to start with foreign policy because that’s where Trump has been most influential. Trump has successfully broken the previous bipartisan consensus on key foreign policy issues. The way Republicans — and now even Democrats — tal...


Fareed Zakaria on how Biden and Trump see the world
Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, a columnist for the Washington Post, and one of the most astute foreign policy thinkers of our time. So much of this conversation is focused on just that: How Biden and Trump respectively see the world and want to shape it. In particular, the ways Biden’s foreign policy differs from Obama’s and has changed over the years, whether Trump has a coherent foreign policy at all, and why the most important US foreign policy question is “What is an acceptable ...

How a climate bill becomes a reality
Helluva week in politics, huh? And yet, in the background, the world is still warming, the fires still burning, the future still dimming. There will be plenty of episodes to come on the election. But I wanted to take a step back and talk about a part of policymaking that is often ignored, but which our world may, literally, depend on. In campaign season, candidates make extravagant promises about all the bills they will pass. The implicit promise is the passage of those bills will solve the problems they’r...

The meat we eat affects us all
In this special episode of the Future Perfect podcast, neuroscientist Lori Marino helps us understand how arbitrarily we draw the lines between animals as pets and animals as food, and how we might redraw those lines. Subscribe to Future Perfect on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app to automatically get new episodes of the latest season each week. Further listening and reading:  Lori Marino has done in-depth round-ups of all the research on chicken cognition and pig cognition. You mi...


A dark, dangerous debate
In a special, post-debate episode, I'm joined by Matt Yglesias to discuss the most unnerving presidential debate I've ever seen. Hosts: Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Senior correspondent, Vox Ezra Klein (@ezraklein), Editor-at-large, Vox Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra...

A radical — or obvious? — plan to save American democracy
We talk a lot on this show about the problems with American political institutions. But what if all those problems are actually just one problem: the two-party system. Lee Drutman is a political scientist, senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, co-host of the podcast Politics in Question, and most recently the author of Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America, which makes the best case against America’s two-party system that I’ve ever read.  In...

RBG, minority rule, and our looming legitimacy crisis
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just weeks before a presidential election, leaves us in dangerous waters. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which the election outcome is contested by one side and is ultimately determined by a Supreme Court with the deciding vote cast by Trump's recent appointee. Indeed, both Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump have named this scenario as driving their urgency to replace Ginsburg. At that point, a legitimacy crisis looms. Suzanne Mettler is the John L. Senior Profes...


David French and I debate polarization, secession, and the filibuster
David French is a senior editor at the Dispatch, a columnist at Time, and one of the conservative commentators I read most closely. French and I have rather different politics — he's a Christian conservative from Tennessee and I’m a secular liberal from California — but his upcoming book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, tracks some of the same problems that I’ve been obsessing over for years: political polarization and the way it's cracking America apart.   But Fre...

The Matt Yglesias Show
Matt Yglesias is a co-founder and senior correspondent at Vox, my co-host on The Weeds podcast, and my oldest friend in journalism. Matt’s college blog was an inspiration for my own, and since then we’ve worked together, podcasted together, and even started Vox together. I've learned an enormous amount from him, both when we agree and when we disagree. A lot has changed since Matt and I started blogging in the early 2000s — and we’ve changed, too. So we start this conversation by discussing how social medi...

Race, policing, and the universal yearning for safety
Our conversation over race and policing — like our conversations over virtually everything in America — is shot through with a crude individualism. Talking in terms of systems and contexts comes less naturally to us, but that means we often miss the true story. Phillip Atiba Goff is the co-founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity, as well as a professor of African-American studies and psychology at Yale University. At CPE, Goff sits atop the world’s largest collection of police behavioral data. So ...


How to think about coronavirus risk in your life
Coronavirus has turned life into an endless series of risk calculations. Can I take my child to see his grandparents, even if it means getting on a plane? Is it okay to begin seeing friends or dating? Should I attend religious services even if they are held inside? Do I have to wear a mask around my roommates? The profusion of these questions reflects public health failures, but we live in the wreckage of those failures. So how are we best to live? Julia Marcus is an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical Schoo...

Black Republicans, Donald Trump, and America's "George Floyd moment"
The Republican Party began losing the Black vote around 1936. Since then, Republicans have commissioned reports, hired consultants, and spent huge sums of campaign dollars trying to win back Black voters. The project continues today: This year’s Republican National Convention presented a lineup of speakers far more diverse than the Republican Party itself, making the case for the “Party of Lincoln.” A third of African Americans, after all, self-identify as “conservative.” And yet, no Republican presidential...

Andrew Yang on UBI, coronavirus, and his next job in politics
The last time Andrew Yang was on the podcast, he was just beginning his long shot campaign for the presidency. Now, he’s fresh off a speaking slot at the Democratic convention, and, as he reveals here, talking to Joe Biden about a very specific role in a Biden administration.  Which is all to say: A lot has changed for Andrew Yang in the past few years. And even more has changed in the world. So I asked Yang back on the show to talk through this new world, and his possible role in it. Among our topics: - Co...


Why the hell did America invade Iraq?
In 2003, America invaded Iraq. The war cost trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and destabilized the both the US and the Middle East. And for what? Iraq had no WMDs. Even if they had, they posed no threat to us. Why did we do it? What do we need to learn from it? That’s the question Robert Draper has spent years trying to answer. In 2007, Draper wrote Dead Certain, a study of the Bush administration with access to the President himself. But there was a h...

How to decarbonize America — and create 25 million jobs
Saul Griffith knows the US energy system better than just about anyone on this planet. He’s an inventor, a MacArthur genius fellow, and the founder and CEO of Otherlab where his team was contracted by the Department of Energy to track and visualize the entirety of America’s energy flows. I had Griffith on the show last year for our climate series to lay out what it would look like for America to decarbonize. It was an awesome episode, but it was just a start.    Last month, Griffith formed an organization c...

Isabel Wilkerson wants to change how we understand race in America
Isabel Wilkerson is an intimidating guest. She’s a former New York Times reporter, Pulitzer Prize recipient, Guggenheim fellow, and hands-down one of the best writers of our time. Her 2010 book The Warmth of Other Suns, a beautiful narrative history of the Great Migration, was a landmark achievement, and remains one of the all-time most recommended books on this show.    Wilkerson worked for years on her new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, which grapples with a question that has become all the ...


What it would take to end child poverty in America
In 2019, about one in six children in America — 12 million kids nationwide — lived in poverty. That’s a rate about two or three times higher than in peer countries. And that was before the worst economic and public health crisis in modern history.    The scale of child poverty in America is a disgrace, not only because of the suffering it creates and the potential it drains from our society, but because it’s easily avoidable. Child poverty is not an inevitability; it’s a policy choice. And we’ve been making...

Hannah Gadsby on comedy, free speech, and living with autism
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby became a global star with her Netflix special Nanette. It’s a remarkable piece of work, and it does what great art is supposed to do: Give you a sense, however fleeting, of what it is like to live inside another human’s experience. Gadsby’s new special, Douglas, takes that a step further: It explores her autism diagnosis and gives you a sense of what it is like to experience the world through another person’s mind.  The first half of my episode with Gadsby is about her exp...

What would Keynes do?
The novel coronavirus — and America’s disastrously inept response — has shuttered the economy, leaving factories quiet, businesses closed, workers unable to do their jobs. Pulling out of this hole will require an economic effort unlike anything in recent history. We don’t just need a bit of stimulus. We will need a remobilization. But towards what end? This is the first episode in a four-part series exploring how to rebuild the economy after COVID. Future episodes will look at a Green New Deal, a children-...


A devastating indictment of the Republican Party
For 30 years, Stuart Stevens was one of the most influential operatives in Republican politics. He was Mitt Romney’s top strategist in 2012, served in key roles on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, and worked on dozens of congressional and gubernatorial campaigns — building one of the best winning records in politics. Then Stevens watched his party throw its support behind a man who stood against everything he believed in, or thought he believed in.  Most dissidents from Trumpism take a fami...

How inequality and white identity politics feed each other
Conservative parties operating in modern democracies face a dilemma: How does a party that represents the interests of moneyed elites win mass support? The dilemma sharpens as inequality widens — the more the haves have, the more have-nots there are who want to tax them. In their new book, Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue that three paths are possible: Moderate on economics, activate social divisions, or under...

Best of: Jia Tolentino on what happens when life is an endless performance
The introduction to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, hit me hard. In her investigation of how American politics and culture had collapsed into “an unbearable supernova of perpetually escalating conflict,” she became obsessed with five intersecting problems: “First, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarit...


Best of: Jia Tolentino on what happens when life is an endless performance
The introduction to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, hit me hard. In her investigation of how American politics and culture had collapsed into “an unbearable supernova of perpetually escalating conflict,” she became obsessed with five intersecting problems: “First, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarit...

Dadding out with Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia is one of my favorite comedians. He’s behind the specials. “Thank God for Jokes” and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” the movies “Sleepwalk With Me” and “Don’t Think Twice,” and now the book The New One. The New One is on a subject close to my heart: Fatherhood. Birbiglia didn’t intend to be a father. He didn’t want to be a father. But he became one. And it was hard — on him, on his wife, on his marriage. The New One is a memoir of that time — funny, but brutally honest, and touching on some of ...

A rabbi explains how to make sense of suffering
In this special crossover episode of Vox's Future Perfect series, The Way Through, Co-host Sean Illing talks to David Wolpe, senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, about God and how to make sense of suffering in human life. Relevant resources:  Making Loss Matter : Creating Meaning in Difficult Times by Rabbi David Wolpe Religion without God: Alain de Botton on "atheism 2.0." by Sean Iling Featuring: David Wolpe (@RabbiWolpe), senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles Host: Sean Illing (@Seanilli...


The crisis in the news
There’s been a lot of discussion lately — including on this show — of the problems facing national news. Cries of fake news, illiberalism in the administration, fractured audiences, the cancel culture debate, shaky business models, and more. But the truest crisis in news isn’t in national news. It’s in local news.  American newspapers cut 45 percent of newsroom staff between 2008 and 2017. From 2004 to 2015, the U.S. newspaper industry lost over 1,800 print outlets to closures and mergers. And it’s only go...

Bryan Stevenson on how America can heal
What would it take for America to heal? To be the country it claims to be? This is the question that animates Bryan Stevenson’s career. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a clinical professor at the New York University School of Law, a MacArthur genius, and the author of the remarkable book Just Mercy — which was recently turned into a feature film, where Stevenson was played by Michael B. Jordan.  I admire Stevenson tremendously. He has lived a life dedicated...

What a post-Trump Republican Party might look like
Five years ago, Oren Cass sat at the center of the Republican Party. Cass is a former management consultant who served as the domestic policy director for the Mitt Romney campaign and then as a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. But then he launched an insurgency.  Today, Cass is the founder and executive director of American Compass, a new think tank created to challenge the right-wing economic orthodoxy. Cass thinks conservatism has lost its way, becoming obsessed with low tax rates a...


Free speech, safety, and ‘the letter’
Last week, Harper’s published an open letter arguing that “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” The letter had a long list of signatories, and triggered an instant controversy, not so much for what it said as a text as for how it was being used as a political document. This is a hot debate on both sides because it traces the issue most central not just to journalists’ hearts, but to our jobs: Can we speak the truth, as best we u...

The frightening fragility of America's political institutions
Masha Gessen grew up in the Soviet Union and spent two decades covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, before being driven from the country by policies targeting LGBT people. Watching Donald Trump win in 2016, Gessen felt like they had seen this movie before. Within forty-eight hours of Trump’s victory, Gessen’s essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” had gone viral, including lessons that in hindsight read as prophetic: Believe the autocrat. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Insti...

Can artificial intelligence be emotionally intelligent?
When we talk about AI, we’re often talking about a very particular, narrow form of intelligence — the sort of analytical competence that can win you games of GO or solve complex math equations. That type of intelligence is important, but it’s incomplete. Human affairs don’t operate on reason and logic alone. They sometimes don't operate on reason and logic at all. In 1995, computer scientist Rosalind Picard wrote a paper and subsequent book making the case that the fields of computer science and AI should ...


Danielle Allen on the radicalism of the American revolution — and its lessons for today
My first conversation with Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen in fall 2019 was one of my all-time favorites. I didn’t expect to have Allen on again so soon, but her work is unusually relevant to our current moment. She’s written an entire book about the deeper argument of the Declaration of Independence and the way our superficial reading and folk history of the document obscures its radicalism. (It’ll make you look at July Fourth in a whole new way). Her most recent book, Cuz, is a searing indictme...

Land of the Giants: The Netflix Effect
Land of the Giants is a podcast from our friends at Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network that examines the most powerful tech companies of our time.   The second season is called The Netflix Effect, and it’s hosted by Recode editors Rani Molla and Peter Kafka.   The Netflix Effect explores how a company that began as a small DVD-by-mail service ultimately upended Hollywood and completely changed the way we watch TV.   It’s a fascinating look at what really goes on behind the scenes at Netflix, one of th...

Nicholas Carr on deep reading and digital thinking
In 1964, the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote his opus Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In it, he writes, “In the long run, a medium's content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act." Or, put more simply: "Media work their magic, or their mischief, on the nervous system itself." This idea — that the media technologies we rely on reshape us on a fundamental, cognitive level — sits at the center of Nicholas Carr's 2010 book The Shallows: What the Interne...


Your questions, answered
Believe it or not, we’re already halfway through 2020. What a great year so far, huh? Just a delight. That means it’s time for an AMA. Among the questions you asked: If Joe Biden is elected president, what should his administration's first legislative priority be?  What were the best critiques of Why We’re Polarized?  How much of today's political conflict comes down to the Boomer/Millennial divide? What’s your reading process? What does preparation for EK Show episodes look like? If you were only int...

Which country has the world's best healthcare system?
I got my start as a blogger. But more specifically, I got my start as a health policy blogger. My first piece of writing I remember people really caring about was a series called “The Health of Nations,” in which I checked out books from college library, downloaded international reports, and profiled the world’s leading health systems. It was crude stuff, but it taught me a lot. The way we do health care isn’t the only way to do health care. It’s not the best way, or the second best, or the third. Ezekiel...

The transformative power of restorative justice
The criminal justice system asks three questions: What law was broken? Who broke it? And what should the punishment be? Upon that edifice — and channeled through old bigotries and fears — we have built the largest system of human incarceration on earth. America accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its imprisoned population.  Restorative justice asks different questions: Who was harmed? What do they need? And whose obligation is it to meet those needs? It is a radically differe...


Ross Douthat and I debate American decadence
In his new book, The Decadent Society, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat diagnoses America’s core problems as decadence: “a situation in which repetition is more the norm than innovation; in which sclerosis afflicts public institution and private enterprises alike; in which intellectual life seems to go in circles; in which new developments in science, new exploratory projects, underdeliver compared with what people recently expected.” Douthat argues that there is a kind of ideological exhaustion, a sp...

A serious conversation about UFOs
You may have been following — I hope you are following — the New York Times's recent UFO reporting. Videos that the Navy confirms are real show pilots seeing and marveling over craft they can't explain. And as former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it, those videos “only scratch the surface” of the Pentagon's UFO research. UFOs are one of those topics that it’s hard to take seriously because they’re covered in kitsch and conspiracy. But there are those who take them seriously, which means approaching...

A former prosecutor's case for prison abolition
In 2017, Paul Butler published the book Chokehold: Policing Black Men. For Butler the chokehold is much more than a barbaric police tactic; it is also a powerful powerful metaphor for understanding how racial oppression functions in the US criminal justice system.  Butler describes a chokehold as “a process of coercing submission that is self-reinforcing. A chokehold justifies additional pressure on the body because a body does not come into compliance, but a body cannot come into compliance because of the...


Why Ta-Nehisi Coates is hopeful
The first question I asked Ta-Nehisi Coates, in this episode, was broad: What does he see right now, as he looks out at the country? “I can't believe I'm gonna say this,” he replied, “but I see hope. I see progress right now.” Coates is the author of the National Book Award-winner Between the World and Me and The Water Dancer, among others. We discuss how this moment differs from 1968, the tension between “law” and “order,” the contested legacy of MLK, Trump's view of the presidency, police abolition, why ...