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.

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...

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 ...

Are humans fundamentally good? (with Rutger Bregman)
Dutch historian and De Correspondent writer Rutger Bregman got famous for the lashings he gave Tucker Carlson and the assembled plutocrats of Davos. But his work is far more utopian than polemical. The conversation we had on this show almost a year ago on his previous book Utopia for Realists is still one of my favorites. Bregman's new book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, is even more ambitious: it's an effort to establish that human beings, human nature, is kinder, friendlier, more decent, than we are give...

From politician to priest
I first met Cyrus Habib at a conference a few years ago. You don't forget him. He's a Rhodes scholar. Iranian-America. As lieutenant governor of Washington state, he was the youngest Democrat elected to statewide office in the country. And he's blind. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the New York Times that I didn't expect: Habib, who had a clear shot to be the next governor of Washington, is leaving politics to become a Jesuit. He is going to take a vow of obedience, of poverty, of chastity....


Robert Frank's radical idea
I’ve known Cornell economist Robert Frank for almost 15 years. And for as long as I’ve known him, Frank has been trying to convince his fellow economists of an idea that’s simple to state, but radical in its implications: social pressure is a fundamental economic force. We are not rational, individual economic agents; we are social animals trying to mimic, and best each other — oftentimes without even knowing it. The failure of the economics profession to see this is, in Frank's view, a crime against public...

Why “essential” workers are treated as disposable
Grocery store clerks. Fast food cashiers. Hospice care workers. Bus drivers. Farm workers. Along with doctors and nurses, these are the people who are putting their own lives at risk to keep our society functioning day in and out amid the worst crisis of our lifetimes. We call them heroes, we label them “essential,” and we clap for their brave efforts -- even though none of them signed up for this monumental task, and many of them lack basic healthcare, paid sick leave, a living wage, cultural respect and d...

"The world’s scariest economist” on coronavirus, innovation, and purpose
The Times of London called Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist.” Quartz describes her as “on a mission to save capitalism from itself.” Wired says she has “a plan to fix capitalism,” and warns that “it’s time we all listened. ”Mazuccato is an economist at University College London and Founder and Director of UCL's Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s the author of The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything — two books that, together, critique some of the most fundamen...


A mind-bending conversation about quantum mechanics and parallel worlds
While you read these words, the universe is splitting into countless copies. New realities, all with a version of you, exactly like you are now, but journeying off into their own branch of the multiverse. Maybe. Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at CalTech, the host of the Mindscape podcast, and author of, among other books, Something Deeply Hidden, which blew my mind a bit. He is also a believer in, and defender of, the “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which has to be one of the fiv...

Why the coronavirus is so deadly for black America
In Michigan, African Americans represent 14 percent of the population, 33 percent of infections, and 40 percent of deaths. In Mississippi they represent 38 percent of the population, 56 percent of infections, and 66 percent of deaths. In Georgia they represent 16 percent of the population, 31 percent of infections, and just over 50 percent of deaths. The list goes on and on: Across the board, African Americans are more likely to be infected by Covid-19 and far more likely to die from it. This doesn’t reflec...

Jenny Odell on nature, art, and burnout in quarantine
One of my favorite episodes of this show was my conversation with Jenny Odell, just under a year ago. Odell, a visual artist, writer, and Stanford lecturer, had just released her book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy and we had a fascinating conversation about the importance of maintenance work, the problem with ceaseless productivity, the forces vying for our attention, the comforts of nature, and so much more.  A lot has changed since then. Odell’s book became a sensation: it captured a ...


An unusually honest conversation about wielding political power
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is the co-chair of the 95-member House Progressive Caucus. That means, in the aftermath of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, she leads the most influential bloc of progressive power in the federal government. And one thing that separates Jayapal from other elected officials: She’s actually willing to talk about it. I know some of you skip over episodes with politicians because they’re interviews, not conversations. This one is a conversation, and it’s broadly about two...

What should the media learn from coronavirus?
The coronavirus is “a nightmare scenario” for media, wrote New York Times columnist Charlie Warzel. “It is stealthy, resilient and confounding to experts. It moves far faster than scientists can study it. What seems to be true today may be wrong tomorrow.” Warzel is right. We’ve talked a lot in recent years about fake news. But combatting information we know is false is a straightforward problem compared to covering a story where we don’t know what’s true, and where yesterday’s expert consensus becomes tomo...

Bill Gates’s vision for life beyond coronavirus
In 2015, I asked Bill Gates a simple question: What are you most afraid of?  He replied by telling me about the death chart of the 20th century. There’s the spike for World War I. The spike for World War II. But between them sat a spike as big as World War II. That, he said, was the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 65 million people. Gates’s greatest fear was a flu like that, ripping through our hyperglobalized world.  Gates saw this coming, and he tried to warn the world. But the virus came, and we w...


An epic conversation with Madeline Miller
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to introduce a conversation on this show as fun. But this one was. I needed it. Maybe you do, too. Madeline Miller has written some of my favorite novels of the past few years. Her books — the Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles and the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Circe, soon to be an HBO series — are brilliant reimaginings of some of the most revered texts in the Western canon. Miller’s also a trained classicist, a Shakespeare director, a Latin teacher, and ...

The loneliness pandemic/Betraying “essential workers”
We have something a bit different today. Two episodes from our extraordinary colleagues at Today, Explained, both of them close to my heart.  The first is an episode that I worked with them on, and appear in: The Loneliness Pandemic. It’s about the social consequences of social distancing, and the toll that isolation and loneliness takes on our health. It's about how the people most vulnerable to isolation are being told to quarantine, and what that will do to their lives. And it's about what the rest of us...

Why Bernie Sanders lost and how progressives can still win
The Democratic presidential primary is over. Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee heading into the fall. And this week, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren endorsed their former competitor. On the left, the question is: What went wrong? How did Sanders lose to Biden? Why didn’t Warren catch fire? But too few of these postmortems have had sufficient data to build out their theories. And too many of them explain away strategic and tactical failures as media or establishment conspiracies. Sean McElwee has a di...


Scott Gottlieb on how, and when, to end social distancing
When will social distancing end? When will life return to “normal”? And what will it take to get there?  Scott Gottlieb is a physician and public health expert who served as Donald Trump’s first FDA commissioner, where he was the rare Trump appointee to win plaudits from both the left and the right. Now he’s a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he’s emerged as a leading voice on the coronavirus response.  Gottlieb is one of the lead authors of a comprehensive roadmap for what it woul...

Toby Ord on existential risk, Donald Trump, and thinking in probabilities
Oxford philosopher Toby Ord spent the early part of his career spearheading the effective altruism movement, founding Giving What We Can, and focusing his attention primarily on issue areas like global public health and extreme poverty. Ord’s new book The Precipice is about something entirely different: the biggest existential risks to the future of humanity. In it, he predicts that humanity has approximately a 1 in 6 chance of going completely extinct by the end of the 21st century. Wait! Stay with me! The...

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for this, too
In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the first presidential candidate to release a plan for combatting coronavirus. In March, she released a second plan. Days later, with the scale of economic damage increasing, she released a third. Warren’s proposals track the spread of the virus: from a problem happening elsewhere and demanding a surge in global health resources to a pandemic happening here, demanding not just a public health response, but an all-out effort to save the US economy. Warren’s penchant for ...


What social solidarity demands of us in a pandemic
There is no doubt that social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But the efficacy of social distancing (or really any other public health measure) relies on something much deeper and harder to measure: social solidarity.  “Solidarity,” writes Eric Klinenberg, “motivates us to promote public health, not just our own personal security. It keeps us from hoarding medicine, toughing out a cold in the workplace or sending a sick child to school. It compels us to let a ship of strand...

Coronavirus has pushed US-China relations to their worst point since Mao
The COVID-19 pandemic is a grim reminder that the worst really can happen. Tail risk is real risk. Political leaders fumble, miscalculate, and bluster into avoidable disaster. And even as we try to deal with this catastrophe, the seeds of another are sprouting. The US-China relationship will define geopolitics in the 21st century. If we collapse into rivalry, conflict, and politically opportunistic nationalism, the results could be hellish. And we are, right now, collapsing into rivalry, conflict, and polit...

Is the cure worse than the disease?
"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself!" That was President Donald Trump, this week, explaining why he was thinking about lifting coronavirus guidelines earlier than public-health experts recommended. The "cure," in this case, is social distancing, and the mass economic stoppage it forces. The problem, of course, is COVID-19, and the millions of deaths it could cause. This is a debate that needs to be taken seriously. Slowing coronavirus will impose real costs, and immense suffering, on s...


An economic crisis like we’ve never seen
“What is happening,” writes Annie Lowrey, “is a shock to the American economy more sudden and severe than anyone alive has ever experienced.”   It’s also different from what anyone alive has ever experienced. For many of us, the Great Recession is the closest analogue — but it’s not analogous at all. There, the economy’s potential was unchanged, but financial markets were in crisis. Here, we are purposefully freezing economic activity in order to slow a public health crisis. Early data suggests the economic...

"The virus is more patient than people are"
Ron Klain served as the chief of staff to vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. In 2014, President Barack Obama tapped him to lead the administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He successfully oversaw a hellishly complex effort preparing domestically for an outbreak and surging health resources onto another continent to contain the disease.  But Klain is quick to say that the coronavirus is a harder challenge even than Ebola. The economy is in free fall. Entire cities have been told t...

A master class in organizing
The Bernie Sanders campaign is an organizing tour-de-force relative to the Joe Biden campaign; yet the latter has won primary after primary — with even higher turnouts than 2016. So does organizing even work? And, if so, what went wrong? Jane McAlevey has organized hundreds of thousands of workers on the frontlines of America’s labor movement. She is also a Senior Policy Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center and the author of three books on organizing, including, most recently, A Collective Bargain: Unions, ...


Weeds 2020: The coronavirus election
This week, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders each gave separate speeches in response to a rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak in the United States. What did they say? How do their responses differ? And what do those speeches tell us about how their future (or current) administrations? Vox’s Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias discuss on this week’s 2020 election edition of The Weeds. Then, how will coronavirus impact the general election in November? Mat...

Dan Pfeiffer on Joe Biden, beating Trump, and saving democracy
Before becoming the co-host of Pod Save America, Dan Pfeiffer spent most of his adult life in Democratic Party politics, which included serving as White House communications director for President Barack Obama. But in his new book Un-Trumping America, the former operative levels some sharp criticism toward the party he came of political age in.  Contrary to the rhetoric of the leading Democratic presidential candidate, Pfeiffer doesn’t think of Donald Trump as the source of our current social and political ...

Are you a "political hobbyist?" If so, you're the problem.
Obsessively following the daily political news feels like an act of politics, or at least an act of civics. But what if, for many of us, it’s a replacement for politics — and one that’s actually hurting the country? That is the argument made by Tufts University political scientist Eitan Hersh. In his incisive new book Politics is for Power, Hersh draws a sharp distinction between what he calls “political hobbyism” — following politics as a kind of entertainment and expression of self-identity — and the actu...


What would a Sanders or Biden presidency look like?
Super Tuesday winnowed the 2020 Democratic primary race down to two candidates: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. So how would their presidencies actually differ? Who would staff their administrations? How would they handle Congress? How would they handle key foreign policy decisions? What are their likely points of failure? How would they change the Democratic Party? I asked my friend, colleague, and Weeds co-host Matt Yglesias to join me for this conversation, and it was a good one. We’ve both covered Biden a...

Rebecca Solnit on Harvey Weinstein, feminism, and social change
Rebecca Solnit is one of the great activist-essayists of our age. Her books and writing cover a vast amount of human existence, but a common thread in her work — and a focus of her upcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence — is what it means to be voiceless, ignored, and treated as a unreliable witness to the events of your own life.  “We always say nobody knows, and that means that everyone who knows was nobody,” Solnit says. “Everyone who was nobody knew about Harvey Weinstein.” This conversation ...

Weeds 2020: The Bernie electability debate
Welcome to Weeds 2020! Every other Saturday Ezra and Matt will be exploring a wide range of topics related to the 2020 race.  Since the Nevada caucuses, Bernie Sanders has become the clear frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary, spurring lots of debate over whether he could win in the general election. We discuss where the electability conversation often goes off-the-rails, why discussing electability in 2020 is so different than 1964 or 1972, the case for and against Bernie’s electability prospects, an...


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 is that kind of episode. Tracy K. 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 tell me what it wants to say...

Barbara Ehrenreich on UBI, class conflict, and collective joy
In the late 90s Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover as a waitress to discover how people with minimum wage full-time jobs were making ends meet. It turned out, they weren’t. Ehrenreich’s book Nickled and Dimed revealed just how dire the economic conditions of everyday working people were at a time when the economy was supposedly booming. It was a wake up call for many Americans at the time, including me who picked up the book as a curious college student.  Since then Ehrenreich, a journalist by trade, has wr...

What Donald Trump got right about white America
Hello! I’m Jane Coaston, filling in for Ezra. My guest today is Tim Carney, a commentary editor at the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.  In the wake of the 2016 election, Carney began traveling across the country and poring through county-level data in an attempt to understand the forces that led to Donald Trump’s victory. The culprit, he argues, is not racism or economic anxiety, it's the breakdown of social institutions. In his new book Alienated America: Why...


Ta-Nehisi Coates on my “cold, atheist book”
This one was a pleasure. Ta-Nehisi Coates joined me in Brooklyn for part of the “Why We’re Polarized” tour. His description of the book may be my favorite yet. It is, he says, “a cold, atheist book.” We talk about what that means, and from there, go into some of the harder questions raised not so much by the book, but by American history itself. Then Coates asked me a question I never expected to hear from him: Is there anything I could say to leave him with some hope? Don’t miss this one. New to the show?...

If God is dead, then … socialism?
Hello! I’m Sean Illing, Vox’s interviews writer filling in for Ezra while he’s on book tour. My guest today is Martin Hägglund, a philosopher at Yale and the author of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, which I consider to be one of the most ambitious and important books in the last several years. We begin by discussing what it means to live a free and purposeful life without regret or illusion. For Hägglund, this life is all we have. There is no heaven, no afterlife, no eternal beyond. We live...

Tim Urban on humanity’s wild future
I’ve been a fan of Tim Urban and his site Wait But Why for a long time. Urban uses whimsical illustrations, infographics, and friendly, nontechnical language to explain everything from AI to space exploration to the Fermi Paradox.  Urban's most recent project is an explainer series called “The Story of Us." It began as an attempt to understand what is going on in American politics today, and quickly turned into a deep exploration into humanity's past: how we evolved, the history of civilization, and the way...


Jill Lepore on what I get wrong
Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian, a New Yorker contributor, the author of These Truths, and one of my favorite past guests on this show. But in this episode, the tables are turned: I’m in the hot seat, and Lepore has some questions. Hard ones. This is, easily, the toughest interview on my book so far. Lepore isn’t quibbling over my solutions or pointing out a contrary study — what she challenges are the premises, epistemology, and meta-structure that form the foundation of my book, and much of my work. He...

Is Tom Steyer the solution to our dysfunctional politics?
Tom Steyer has worked for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. He made his billions running a hedge fund for decades before moving into progressive activism on causes like democratization, climate change, and impeaching Donald Trump. Now, he is running for president of the United States.  Steyer’s primary message on the campaign trial is that we need to get money, lobbyists and corporate influence out of politics. At the same time, he is the living embodiment of much of what he thinks is broken about our syste...

Why We're Polarized, with Jamelle Bouie (live!)
The Why We’re Polarized book tour kicked off this week with a wonderful event at Sixth and I in Washington, DC. My conversation partner for this one was New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie. Our interview was great, and then the audience questions were so good we had to keep them in as well. We discuss:   • Why things were far worse in the “golden age” of the 1950s and ’60s than they are today • Why the key question isn’t so much “why are we polarized?” as “why weren’t we polarized?” • Why “moderate” Repu...


Antisemitism now, antisemitism then
“The bad days are back” wrote Batya Ungar-Sargon in the Forward in December, “Orthodox Jews are living through a new age of pogroms. This week, as we celebrated the Festival of Lights, there were no fewer than 10 anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area alone.”  Antisemitism is occasionally called “the oldest hatred.” It thrums across continents and eras, finding new targets for old prejudices. But where, exactly, does it come from? Why is it such a hardy weed? And why does this era feel so thick with it? ...

Book excerpt: A better theory of identity politics
This is a podcast episode literally years in the making. It’s an excerpt — the first anywhere — from my book Why We’re Polarized. A core argument of the book is that identity is the central driver of political polarization. But to see how it works, we need a better theory of how identities form, what happens when they activate, and where they fit into our conflicts. We’ve been taught to only see identity politics in others. We need to see it in ourselves. If you’re a longtime listener, this excerpt — like t...

The war on Muslims (with Mehdi Hasan)
With “reeducation" camps in China, religious disenfranchisement in India, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, street violence in Sri Lanka, mass shootings in New Zealand, the flourishing of far-right parties across Europe, and the mainstreaming of Islamophobia in America, there’s been a global surge in anti-Muslim bigotry — often supported by the full power and might of the state. It’s one of the most frightening and undercovered political stories of our time. Mehdi Hasan is a senior writer for the Intercept, the ...


Post-debate special!
Vox's Matt Yglesias and I unpack the debate that did, and didn't, happen. Related reading: "Joe Biden will never give up on the system" by Ezra Klein "4 winners and 3 losers from the January Democratic debate" Vox Staff "The case for Elizabeth Warren" by Ezra Klein "Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020" by Matthew Yglesias "Joe Biden skates by again" by Matt Yglesias "Elizabeth Warren’s new plan to reform bankruptcy law, explained" by Matt Yglesias "The Third Rail of Calling ‘Sexism’ Wa...

An “uncomfortable” conversation with Cory Booker
There is a moral radicalism to the way Cory Booker lives out his politics. He lived for years in a housing project. He leads hunger strikes. He challenges political machines. He’s a vegan. He has a more ambitious policy vision than is often discussed. But beneath that is a far more radical ethical vision than he gets credit for. I think there’s a reason for that. When Booker turns his politics turn outward, they lose clarity. He shies away from drawing bright lines, his answers double back to blur out poten...

The conservative mind of Yuval Levin
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is the way we often conflate two very distinct things when we assign political labels. The first is ideology, which describes our vision of a just society. The second is something less discussed but equally important: temperament. It describes how we approach social problems, how fast we think society can change, and how we understand the constraints upon us.  Yuval Levin is the director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterpr...


How an epidemic begins and ends
Introducing season 3 of The Impact! The 2020 candidates have some bold ideas to tackle some of our country's biggest problems, like climate change, the opioid crisis, and unaffordable health care. A lot of their proposals have been tried before, so, in a sense, the results are in.  This season, The Impact has those stories: how the big ideas from 2020 candidates succeeded — or failed — in other places, or at other times. What can Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposal to fight the opioid crisis learn from what t...

Nathan Robinson’s case for socialism
“Socialism” is simultaneously one of the most commonly used and most confusing terms in American politics. Does being a socialist mean advocating for the complete abolition of capitalism, markets, and private property? Does it mean supporting a higher tax rate, Medicare-for-all, and Sen. Bernie Sanders? Or does it simply mean a deep hatred of systemic injustice and the institutions that perpetuate it?  In his new book Why You Should be a Socialist Nathan J Robinson, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Cu...

How to topple dictators and transform society (with Erica Chenoweth)
The 2010s witnessed a sharp uptick in nonviolent resistance movements all across the globe. Over the course of the last decade we’ve seen record numbers of popular protests, grassroots campaigns, and civic demonstrations advancing causes that range from toppling dictatorial regimes to ending factory farming to advancing a Green New Deal.   So, I thought it would be fitting to kick off 2020 by bringing on Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard specializing in nonviolent resistance. At the beginnin...


Ask Ezra Anything
It’s here. The final AMA of 2019. Among the questions you asked: - If you believe that changing someone's mind about a topic, any topic is difficult, how do you function as a journalist? - What’s your opinion on capitalism? - What have you learned about yourself since being a dad that has surprised you the most? - You talk a lot about polarization. But it seems your audience leans liberal. So how do you reconcile that? - Do you believe in free will? - What’s your take on the left/liberal divide? - Red wine ...

Best of: Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle
Here, at the end of the year, I wanted to share one of my favorite episodes of 2019 with you. Earlier this year, two essays on America’s changing relationship to work caught my eye. The first was Anne Helen Petersen’s viral BuzzFeed piece defining, and describing, “millennial burnout.” The second was Derek Thompson’s Atlantic article on “workism.” The two pieces speak to each other in interesting ways, and to some questions I had been reflecting on as my own relationship to work changes. So I asked the auth...

Republicans vs. the planet
Dave Roberts is an energy and climate writer at Vox and a senior fellow at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He started as his career covering climate science and clean energy technology, but -- for reasons we discuss here -- he now writes just as much about political psychology, media ecosystems, political institutions, and how they intersect with climate change. We cover a lot in this conversation, including: “Tribal epistemology,” and why it’s crucial to climate pa...


The geoengineering question
Most analyses of how to “solve” climate change start from a single, crucial assumption: that carbon emissions and global warming are inextricably linked. Geoengineering is a set of technologies and ideas with the potential to shatter that link.  Can we use them? Should we? Could they be used in concert with other solutions, or would simply opening the door drain support from those ideas? Even if we did want to deploy geoengineering, who would govern its use? And is mucking with the earth at this level more ...

How to solve climate change and make life more awesome
The climate series is back! The reason for the delay is that I wanted to make sure that this episode was next up in the series. Once you start listening, you’ll understand why.  So far, we’ve spent the series talking about the problem we're facing and what the world will ultimately look like if we fail. Today’s conversation is different: It is about what it will take to solve climate change and what kind of world we can build if we succeed.  Saul Griffith is an inventor, a MacArthur genius fellow, and the f...

Paul Krugman on climate, robots, single-payer, and so much more
It’s cliché to call podcasts wide-ranging. But this conversation, with Nobel-prize winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, really is. A sample of what we discuss: - How economists mucked up the climate debate - What a Democratic president should pass first - The politics and policy of Medicare-for-all - Krugman’s three-part test to determine whether a program needs to be paid for (don’t miss this!) - Why Pete Buttigieg is wrong on tuition-free college  - Why Andrew Yang is wrong on automation...


The moral philosophy of The Good Place (with Mike Schur and Pamela Hieronymi)
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 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 Hieronymi...

When doing the right thing makes you a criminal
For most of his life, Wayne Hsiung was a typical overachiever. He attended the University of Chicago, started his PhD in Economics, became a law professor at Northwestern, was mentored by Cass Sunstein. But then, something snapped. In the midst of a deep, overwhelming depression, Hsiung visited a slaughterhouse and was radicalized by the immense suffering he saw. He now faces decades in prison for rescuing sick, injured animals from slaughterhouses. Hsiung is the founder of Direct Action Everywhere, an orga...

Peter Singer on the lives you can save
Imagine you’re walking to work. You see a child drowning in a lake. You’re about to jump in and save her when you realize you’re wearing your best suit, and the rescue will end up costing hundreds in dry cleaning bills. Should you still save the child? Of course you should. But this simple thought experiment, taken seriously, has radical implications for how you live your life. It comes from Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, one of the most influential modern works of ethical philosophy. Singer is perha...


Best of: The age of "mega-identity" politics
Happy Thanksgiving! Please enjoy a re-air episode from April 2018 with Lilliana Mason. Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it. In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now tha...

Because podcast
Gretchen McCulloch is a self-described “internet linguist,” host of the podcast Lingthusiasm, and author of the recent book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. In it, she demonstrates that the way we've come to speak on the internet -- from emojis to exclamation points -- is not random or arbitrary, but part of a broader attempt to make our written communication more vibrant, meaningful, and, genuinely human. Far from ‘ruining’ the written English language, internet-speak, McCulloch a...

There’s more to life than profit
Yancey Strickler is the co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, and he’s just released a new book, This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. In Strickler’s telling, our society has been so thoroughly captured by the value-system of financial maximization, that we don’t even view it as such. Kickstarter was an affront to that value-system, a way that groups could fund ideas outside of the realm of profit. And this new book is trying to dig deeper into that worldview, unveil its falli...


Having a bad day? Dave Eggers can help.
I’ve wanted to have Dave Eggers on the show for a while now. Eggers has not only written a vast range of books (a deeply ironic personal memoir, a heartwarming novel about a Sudanese refugee, a futuristic story about a tech dystopia) but he's also founded the national tutoring nonprofit 826 Valencia, started the literary magazine McSweeney’s, co-authored the screenplay of Where the Wild Things Are, and much more. I’m fascinated by people who are able to do a variety of wildly different things, all successfu...

How Whole Foods, yoga, and NPR became the hallmarks of the elite
If you're anything like me, this episode will make you think about the way you shop, learn, eat, parent, and exercise in a whole new way. My guest today is Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California whose most recent book The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class documents the rise of a new, unprecedented elite class in the United States. Previously, the elite classes differentiated themselves from the rest by purchasing expensive materi...

How social media makes us antisocial
Andrew Marantz is a writer at the New Yorker who, for years, has been deeply immersed in the world of conservative trolls, alt-right social media personalities, and online conspiracy theorists. His most recent book Antisocial has been viewed as a brilliant ethnography of the bizarre universe that is the alt-right.  But I’m interested in it for a different reason: Somehow, these folks have figured out how to manipulate the social media ecosystem that frames our political discourse. Thus, they represent an im...


ICYMI: Edward Norton’s theory of mind, movies, and power
Due to a technical glitch this interview with Edward Norton did not find it’s way into most people’s feeds. If you were able to download the first one this is indeed the exact same interview, but if you missed it please give a listen and enjoy - we had a lot of fun with this one. You’ve heard of Edward Norton. He’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman, been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and, most recently, wrote, directed, and starred in Motherless...

Introducing Reset
Thanks for listening to Reset from Recode and the Vox Media Podcast Network. Today's episodes were Can A.I. Tech You To Write Better and Quantum Supremacy, WTF. If you enjoyed these episodes, subscribe to Reset for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app to get new episodes every week. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

What a smarter Trumpism would sound like
Michael Lind is a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the co-founder of the New America Foundation, and an important contributor to American Affairs, a journal originally created to imagine a more Trumpist conservatism. Lind is by no means a supporter of Trump. But, for decades now, he has been developing a coherent intellectual worldview around many of the same issues that Trump intuited, however crudely, during his campaign. He’s one of the intellectuals that the nationalist conservat...


The climate crisis is an oceans crisis
Welcome to episode 2 of our climate cluster. The more I prepared for this series, the more I realize there was a big blue gap in my understanding of climate change. Oceans cover 70% of the earth, absorb 93% of the heat from the sun, and capture 30% of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forty percent of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the coast, and half a billion people rely on oceans as their primary food source. As go the oceans, so goes humanity. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is the fo...

We live in The Good Place. And we’re screwing it up.
Welcome to the first episode of our climate cluster. This isn’t a series about whether “the science is real” on climate change. This is a series about what the science says — and what it means for our lives, our politics, and our future. I suspect I’m like a lot of people in that I accept that climate change is bad. What I struggle with is how bad. Is it an existential threat that eclipses all else? One of many serious problems politics must somehow address? I wanted to kick off the series with someone who ...

Neoliberalism and its discontents
“Neoliberalism” is one of the most confusing phrases in political discourse today. The term is often used to describe the market fundamentalism of thinkers like Milton Friedman and Frederich Hayek or politicians like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. At the same time, critics often place more progressive figures like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Elizabeth Warren under the neoliberal banner. This raises an important question: what the hell is neoliberalism? I decided to bring on two guests today t...


The four words that will decide impeachment
Hey EK Show listeners! Something different today. The first episode of my new podcast: Impeachment, Explained. This was the week of confessions. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to a Trump administration quid quo pro with Ukraine, with cameras rolling. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland confirmed that President Trump made Rudy Giuliani the hinge of America’s Ukraine policy. And then the administration announced that the location for the upcoming G7 summit: Trump’s own resort in Doral, Flo...

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 ...

How politics became a war against reality
In his brilliant 2014 book Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Soviet-born TV producer turned journalist Peter Pomerantsev described 21st-century Russia as a political anomaly. He wrote about “a new type of authoritarianism” that waged war on reality by peddling conspiracy theories, disregarding the notion of truth, and framing all political opposition as the enemy of the people. Sound familiar? Upon leaving Russia, Pomerantsev found that the world around him had been infected with the same post-tru...


The loneliness epidemic
As US surgeon general from 2014 to 2017, Vivek 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 about the most was loneliness. Loneliness isn’t simply painful, it’s lethal. Several meta-studies have found the mortality risk associated with loneliness is higher than that of obesity and equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. So, Murthy decided to label loneliness a public health “e...

Ibram X. Kendi wants to redefine racism
Racism is one of the most morally charged words in the English language. It is typically understood as a form of deep inner prejudice — something that people actively feel and consciously express. My guest today, Ibram X. Kendi, wants to redefine racism. He defines the idea simply: support for policies that widen racial inequality. Kendi is a professor of African-American Studies and director of the Antiracist Policy Center at American University. His National Book Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning a...

Malcolm Gladwell’s Stranger Things
Malcolm Gladwell’s work is nothing short of an intellectual adventure. Sometimes, as in his podcast Revisionist History, he takes something small and mundane — a hockey statistic, a semicolon, a verbal tic — and draws a broad, sweeping conclusion that shatters your worldview. Other times, as in his new book Talking to Strangers, he takes something big and contentious — the death of Sandra Bland, the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox, the ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff — and produces insights that challeng...


An inspiring conversation about democracy
Danielle Allen directs Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She’s a political theorist, and a philosopher, and the principal investigator of the Democratic Knowledge Project. I talk about democracy a lot on this show, but it’s her life’s work. I've tried a bunch of different descriptions here, but they fail the conversation. I loved this one. Don’t make me cheapen it by describing it. Just download it. References: Talking to Strangers by Danielle Allen "Building a Good Jobs Economy" by Dani Rodrik...

Samantha Power’s journey from foreign policy critic to UN ambassador
Samantha Power reported from the killing fields of Bosnia. She watched a genocide that could’ve been stopped years earlier grind on amidst international indifference. What she saw there led to A Problem From Hell, her Pulitzer-prize winning exploration of why the world permits genocide to happen. She emerged as a fierce critic of America’s morally lax foreign policy, a position that led to a friendship with Barack Obama, and then a series of top jobs in his administration, culminating in ambassador to the U...

When meritocracy wins, everybody loses
In The Meritocracy Trap, Daniel Markovits argues that meritocracy — a system set-up to expand opportunity, reduce inequality and end aristocracy — has become exactly what it was set up to combat: a mechanism for intergenerational wealth transfer that leaves everyone worse off in the process. Markovits isn’t only challenging a system; he is challenging the system that I (and probably most of you) have been part of for our entire lives. For better or worse, Meritocracy is the water we swim in. We implicitly a...


Nikole Hannah-Jones on the 1619 project, choosing schools, and Cuba
“The truth is that as much democracy as this nation has today” writes Nikole Hannah-Jones “it has been borne on the backs of black resistance.” Hannah-Jones is an investigative journalist at the New York Times Magazine, the winner of MacArthur Genius Grant (among countless other awards), and, most recently, the creator of the New York Times’ 1619 project, which explores the ways slavery shaped America. As Hannah-Jones points out, no group in American history has more to teach us about what it means to live ...

Randall Munroe, the genius behind XKCD
I’m not usually a fanboy on this podcast, but this episode is the exception. I love the web-comic XKCD. I’ve had prints of it hanging in my house for years. It’s nerdy and humane, curious and kind. And every so often, it’s explosively, crazily creative, in ways that leave me floored. Like the Hugo-award winning “Time,” a 3,099 frame animation that unspooled every hour for over four months. Or the book Thing Explainer, which used only the 1,000 most common words in the English language to explain some of the...

Julián Castro's quiet moral radicalism
I’m careful about inviting politicians onto this podcast. Too often, questions go unanswered, and frustrated emails flood my inbox. So I only bring on candidates now if there’s a conversation directly related to themes of this show. In this case, there is. There’s a quiet moral radicalism powering Julián Castro’s presidential campaign. Laced through his policy agenda are proposals to decriminalize the movements of undocumented immigrants, to involve the homeless in housing policy, to establish American obli...


Political animals (with Leah Garcés)
Imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to be an animal rights activist. Tens of billions of animals are being tortured and slaughtered every year. It is, to you, a rolling horror. But to the people you love, the world you live in — it’s normal. You’re the weird one. So what do you do? How do you engage, politically and personally, when so few see what you see? Leah Garcés is the Executive President of Mercy for Animals and the author of Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry ...

John McWhorter thinks we're getting racism wrong
Hello everyone. I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism (Ezra will be back from vacation next week). "Antiracism… is now a new and increasingly dominant religion” writes John McWhorter, “it is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus.” McWhorter is a Professor of English at Columbia University, a contributing editor to The Atlantic, and an outspoken critic of what he calls “third-wave antiracism.” He believes that our increasingly reli...

The rocky marriage between libertarians and conservatives
Hello, everybody! I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism. Today, I'm speaking with Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer for the Atlantic, who has been navigating the fractious divides within the conservative movement since long before 2016. Friedersdorf is extremely hard to pin down. His intellectual hero is Friedrich Hayek and he believes the Supreme Court “ought to thwart the will of democratic and legislative majorities.” He’s also staunchly anti-war, an outspoken cr...


A mind-bending, reality-warping conversation with John Higgs
I don’t usually begin interviews with the question “who the hell are you?” But, then again, not every guest is John Higgs. I fell into Higgs’s work by accident. An offhand recommendation of his book on the KLF, a British band that burnt a million pounds but couldn’t explain why they did it. What’s unusual is that I’ve not quite been able to climb back out of it. Higgs’s work is reality-warping. Once you put on his lenses, it’s hard to take them back off. At the center of Higgs’s strange, brilliant books — h...

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...

The original meaning of “identity politics” (with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an associate professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University and the author of multiple books, including most recently How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, which traces the origins of the term “identity politics” back to its very first use. “Since 1977,” she writes, “that term has been used, abused, and reconfigured into something foreign to its creators.” Taylor’s intellectual history is driven by more than curiosity: it’s part of a lar...


Are bosses dictators? (with Elizabeth Anderson)
Imagine a society whose rulers suppress free speech, free association, even bathroom breaks. Where the government owns the means of production. Where the leader is self-appointed or hand-selected by a group of wealthy oligarchs. Where exile or emigration can have severe, even life-threatening, consequences. My guest today, University of Michigan Philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, writes that workplaces are “communist dictatorships in our midst.” Her book Private Government: How Employers Rule our Lives (and Wh...

The Constitution is a progressive document
“The Constitution must be adapted to the problems of each generation,” writes Erwin Chemerisnky, “we are not living in the world of 1787 and should not pretend that the choices for that time can guide ours today.” Does that sentence read to you as obvious or offensive? Either way, it’s at the core of the constitutional debate between the left and the right — a debate the left all too often cedes to the right through disinterest. Chemerinsky is trying to change that. He’s the dean of UC Berkeley’s School of ...

Matt Bruenig’s case for single-payer health care
The Democratic primary has been unexpectedly dominated by a single question: Will you abolish private health insurance? Wrapped in that question are dozens more. Why, if private health insurance is such a mess, do polls show most Americans want to keep it? What lessons should we take from the failure of past efforts at health reform? What does it mean to say “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it?” Matt Bruenig, the founder of the People’s Policy Project, is firmly in support of true singl...


Can Raj Chetty save the American dream?
I don’t ordinarily find myself scrambling to write down article ideas during these conversations, but almost everything Raj Chetty says is worth a feature unto itself. For instance: - Great Kindergarten teachers generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in future earnings for their students - Solving poverty would increase life expectancy by more — far more — than curing cancer - Public investment focused on children often pays for itself - The American dream is more alive in Canada than in America - Maps o...

Astra Taylor will change how you think about democracy
Astra Taylor’s new book has the best title I’ve seen in a long time: Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone. I talk a lot about democracy on this show, but not in the way Taylor talks about it. The democracy I discuss is bounded by the assumptions of American politics. This, however, is not a conversation about the filibuster, the Senate, or the Electoral College — it is far more diverse and far more radical. Taylor and I cover a lot of ground in this interview. We discuss how what it wou...

Is big tech addictive? Nir Eyal and I debate.
“How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?” That’s the opening line of the description for Nir Eyal’s bestselling 2014 book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Hooked became a staple in Silicon Valley circles — it was even recommended to me when I started Vox — and Eyal became a celebrity. Today, Silicon Valley’s skill at building habit-forming products is looked on more skeptically, to say the least. So I was interested to see him releasing a second book that seemed a hard...


Generation Climate Change
This is one of those episodes I want to put the hard sell on. It’s one of the most important conversations I’ve had on the show. The fact that it left me feeling better about the world rather than worse — that was shocking. Varshini Prakash is co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement. Sunrise is part of a new generation of youth-led climate-change movements that emerged out of the failure of the global political system to address the climate crisis. They’re the ones who made the Green New D...

Is the media amplifying Trump’s racism? (with Whitney Phillips)
Some podcasts I do are easy. There’s a problem and, hey look, here’s a great answer! Some are hard. There’s a problem and, well, there may not be a good answer. This is one of those. When Donald Trump tweeted that four new Democratic members of Congress (commonly known as ‘the Squad’) should “go back” to the “corrupt” countries he said they are from, the media went into frenzy. When he said he didn’t worry if the comment was racist, because “many people agree with me,” it got worse. Trump’s racism — and his...

Rutger Bregman’s utopias, and mine
Universal basic income. A 15-hour work week. Open borders. These ideas may strike you as crazy, fantastical, maybe even utopian... but that’s exactly the point. My guest today is Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, whose book Utopia for Realists is not only about utopian visions but about the importance of utopian thinking. Imagining utopia, he writes, “isn’t an attempt to predict the future. It’s an attempt to unlock the future. To fling open the windows of our minds.” He’s right. And so this isn’t just a conv...


How white identity politics won the Republican civil war
Tim Alberta’s new book American Carnage documents “the Republican Civil War”: a decade-plus struggle over whether the Republican Party would build itself around white identity politics or try to reach out to a changing America. Trump’s election settled the argument, and Alberta’s book tracks the way top Republicans processed that resolution — and submitted to their new reality — in real time. The profiles in courage are few and far between; the capitulations, however, are everywhere. Alberta takes us deep i...

George Will makes the conservative case against democracy
It’s a good time to be a Republican. But it’s a bad time, George Will argues, to be a conservative. Hence his new, 700-page manifesto, The Conservative Sensibility, which tries to rescue conservatism from the perversions of the Trumpist GOP. Will’s conservatism is rooted in a deep mistrust of majority rule, and an almost religious veneration of the Founding Fathers, or at least a certain understanding of them. Remember, he writes, “the Constitution of the first consciously modern nation, the United States, ...

What deliberative democracy can, and can’t, do (with Jane Mansbridge)
Every time I do an episode on polarization, I get a few emails asking: What about deliberative democracy? Couldn’t that be an answer? Deliberative democracy, if you’re not familiar, refers to a broad set of approaches in which citizens get together, with or without their representatives, to deliberate on political questions. Not just vote, or donate money, but actually work through hard questions, in a structured process, together. Jane Mansbridge is the Charles F. Adams professor of political leadership an...


Rod Dreher on America’s post-Christian culture war [CORRECTED]
[A quick note about this episode - we have fixed an error that caused some listeners to hear overlapping audio in the first portion of the show. Thank you for your understanding, and we're sorry for the issue] In 2017, Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option, a book arguing that America has grown so hostile to Orthodox Christian practice and morals that believers need to retreat into sealed communities to wait out the cultural storm. It’s a window into a mindset that is increasingly powerful in politics bu...

White threat in a browning America (Jennifer Richeson re-air)
This conversation with Yale psychologist and MacArthur genius Jennifer Richeson first appeared a year ago, and it’s one of my favorites. But I wanted to repost it now for two reasons. First, it’s as a necessary companion to Monday’s conversation with Robert Jones over changing religious dynamics. Richeson focuses on racial demographic change, and in particular, how the perception of losing demographic power pushes people’s politics in a sharply conservative direction. I don’t think it’s possible to understa...

Behind the panic in white, Christian America
About seven in 10 American seniors are white Christians. Among young adults, fewer than three in 10 are. During the span of the Obama administration, America went from a majority white Christian nation to one where white Christians are a minority. That’s an earthquake, and we’re living in the aftershocks. This is a story that Robert Jones, the head of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells in his book The End of White Christian America. Much of Donald Trump’s support is driven by a sense of religious...


An enlightening, frustrating conversation on liberalism (with Adam Gopnik)
“Liberalism is as distinct a tradition as exists in political history, but it suffers from being a practice before it is an ideology, a temperament and a tone and a way of managing the world more than a fixed set of beliefs.” That’s from Adam Gopnik’s new book A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. It is, by turns, a bracing, charming, insightful, irksome defense of the most successful political movement of our age. Liberalism is so successful, in fact, that its achievements are taken...

The cognitive cost of poverty (with Sendhil Mullainathan)
If you’re a Parks and Rec fan, you’ll remember Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. Right there at the base sits “Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.” It’s a joke, but not really. Few want to justify the existence of poverty, but when they do, that's how they do it. People in poverty just aren’t smart enough, or hard-working enough, or they’re not making good enough decisions. There’s a moral void in that logic to begin with — but it also gets the reality largely backward. “The...

Failing towards Utopia
Nice Try! is a new podcast from Curbed and the Vox Media Podcast Network that explores stories of people who have tried to design a better world, and what happens when those designs don't go according to plan. Season one, Utopian, follows Avery Trufelman on her quest to understand the perpetual search for the perfect place. Enjoy this special conversation between Ezra and Avery and an excerpt from the recent episode Oneida: Utopia, LLC, and subscribe to Nice Try! for free in your favorite podcast app. Learn...


Why liberals and conservatives create such different media (with Danna Young)
The debate over polarized media can make the two ecosystems sound equivalent. One is left, the other right, but otherwise they’re the same. That couldn’t be more wrong. They’re structured differently, they work differently, they value different things, they’re built atop different aesthetics. And behind all these differences is something we don’t talk about enough: their audiences, and what those audiences demand. Danna Young is an associate professor of communications at the University of Delaware and auth...

Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo (Live!)
“The phrase ‘identity politics’ is a weaponization of the Democrats’ structural advantage in elections from now until eternity,” says Stacey Abrams. In this live interview from 2019’s Code conference, Kara Swisher and I sat down with Abrams and her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo. Abrams lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, but became a Democratic superstar in the process. She was tapped to give the party’s response to Trump’s State of the Union, and she’s mentioned often as a top-tier vice pre...

This changed how I think about love (with Alison Gopnik)
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. She runs a cognitive development and learning lab where she studies how young children come to understand the world around them, and she’s built on that research to do work in AI, to understand how adults form bonds with both children and each other, and to examine what creativity is and how we can nurture it in ourselves and — more import...