We’re all very excited about the release of EconTalk host Russ Roberts’ new book, wild problem. It’s out now, and both Russ and I hope you all enjoy reading it! (How else do you catch Bill Belichick’s chapter?!?!?) This episode is icing on the cake, as Russ brings back Mike Munger—this time for an interview. him! (Ref a lot Other interviews with Russ are now available. Here’s a link to what he recently did with Tim Ferriss.)
What is the wild problem? the big ones Decisions where data don’t matter, where cost-benefit analysis can be misleading. It was a challenging kind of problem for Roberts to admit in his early Chicago-school training. (Don’t miss the part at the end when Munger asks him when he stopped being an economist!) Today, Roberts worries that our apparent obsession with “life hacks” can distract us from the important questions that make our lives worth living. how are you yours Coming along in search of a life well lived? Use the prompts below to help keep our conversation going
1- Roberts and Munger compare the approach of Frank Knight and James Buchanan to scholars such as Milton Friedman and Gary Baker. According to Munger, what is the difference between the process of becoming and the process of decision-making, and how does this difference come into play in Roberts’ thinking about wild problems? (And just for fun- how does this relate to the decision to become a vampire?)
2- In about 10 minutes, Munger and Roberts discuss the pool problem raised by Daniel Gilbert. Why does Munger insist that Gilbert’s conclusion is wrong, and how much do you agree? What about Roberts’ implicitly borrowed claim that the unexamined life isn’t worth living… you should teach your kids that? (Think back to the pool… would you rather have your children be happy for 23 hours and miserable for one, or vice versa?) Are today’s wild problems more difficult than in the past?
3- What is the secretary problem, and how is it related to the problem of finding a life partner? Relatedly, what is wrong with the way decision theorists think about this type of decision making? there is you Ever tried to apply “rational” decision making to a wild problem (or vice versa)? If so, we’d love to hear how it went!
4- What does it mean to “privilege your policies”? How can one develop a personality that privileges their principles?
5- Consider the story Russ tells about finding a wallet in San Francisco and the story Mike tells about his recent fender bender in a university parking lot. why you Think everyone liked them? How much has each story cost? In other words, how expensive does a virtue need to be to qualify as a virtue?