#36 The Risks of Safety: Greg Ip: How Do We Fix It?

Anti-lock brakes make many motorists drive faster.  Introducing helmets and face masks in football raised the risk of concussions.  Financial regulators and central bankers played a role in creating conditions that led to the 2008 mortgage meltdown.

The illusion of safety can lead to reckless behavior. These fascinating insights are part of "Foolproof- Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe", the recently published book by Greg Ip, chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal.

"Life is about risk," Greg tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" When we believe the world is safe, it affects our behavior.  "Many positive things happen from taking risks and we should not let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side - trying to eliminate all risks from our lives."

Our collective aim to make life safer comes into conflict with the equally strong desire to make things bigger and more complicated.  It is in our nature to safeguard our world - and yet sometimes, more often than we realize, protections end up being the things that threaten our safety and well-being.

Accidents will always happen, says Greg.  Among the solutions he calls for are safe spaces: allowing banks to fail without taking down the entire financial system and creating flood plains that all rivers and coastal waters to rise without creating havoc in nearby communities.

Greg argues for a balance between independence, risk and safety.  Regulate too much and we reduce the opportunities for innovation and create a sense of potential
 complacency. "Black swan" events are inevitable.  Our systems of governance and rule-making should recognize that we cannot plan for every eventuality.

#31: 2015 in Review: Some of Our Best Moments

If you want to get of sense of what we're about, this highlights show may be a good place to start.  We've put together a "best of" podcast that reflects our values and makes the argument for why we're worth listening to.
 

From Episode 4, released in June, reformer Philip K. Howard made the case for better government and simpler, shorter laws, instead of all the red tape and tangled mess that we have today. In his Ted Talk lecture and his latest book, “The Rule of Nobody,” Philip argues passionately for legal and government reform.
 

Not many parents can say their lives were changed by an uneventful subway ride. Lenore Skenazy, our guest in Episode 20, tells us about the uproar that followed her decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the subway on his own.  Her column about it led to the movement, "Free Range Kids."

Other guests on this highlights show include Hara Marano of Psychology Today, who says there's a mental health crisis on American college campuses and Greg Lukianoff spoke to us in September. His groundbreaking article in The Atlantic alerted us to why trigger warnings are part of a threat to free speech at colleges.

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It" fame on CNN made the case for a change in emphasis in education, giving greater pride of place to training and knowledge about skilled trades occupations.  Our best of 2015 also includes an excerpt from Episode 13, a show every parent should listen to.  Elizabeth Green, author of "Building a Better Teacher," argues for teacher training reform and understanding the importance of the craft of teaching. 

University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds who runs the popular blog, Instapundit.com, was on Episode 10, talking about his proposal for a revolving door surtax. The aim is reduce influence peddling by current and former government officials in Washington D.C.  

All of our guests came armed with thoughtful, constructive and independent ideas with the aim of making the world a better place.

 

#24 Why The Federal Reserve Is So Unpopular Roger Lowenstein: How Do We Fix It?

The Federal Reserve plays a fundamental role in our economy.  But many Americans loathe The Fed - furious that it bailed out banks and other huge financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis.

Our guest, Roger Lowenstein, is the author of "America's Bank - The Epic Struggle to Create The Federal Reserve." His book is a dramatic account of the chaotic years before The United States became the last major industrialized nation to form a central bank.

Our podcast features a lively discussion about American history as well as the present day, with Roger giving us insights that demystify the work of The Fed.

The job of the central bank is to ensure the smooth operation of the money supply, while keeping inflation and unemployment low.  But there are many who are suspicious of the Fed's independence and want to bring it under the tight control of Congress.  

According to opinion polls, only The IRS is a more unpopular government agency than the Federal Reserve. "You've got two candidates running for President - Rand Paul and Ted Cruz - who want to basically abolish The Fed," says Roger.

"Had the Fed failed to come in and be the lender of last resort and save the system (in 2008) I think the anger would be very understandable," Roger tells us. But in this case there was the equivalent of a big fire that nearly burned down the financial system, taking the economy with it.  

"The fireman comes. He puts out the fire and people want to do away with the fire department." 

Roger Lowenstein explains the need for The Federal Reserve and suggests how it could be less controversial in the future.