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Saturday, December 22, 2012

EconTalk with Charts: A New Idea Well Executed

This week Russ Roberts released the third episode in his innovative new interview series called “The Numbers Game.” The innovation is to add graphs and other visuals—and thereby helpful numerical information—to his popular podcast interview series EconTalk.

The first three episodes go together to form a three part series on the economy and in particular on the nature and cause of the weak recovery from the 2007-2009 recession. The episodes also go together in that I was Russ's guest on all three—yes, a volunteer subject for Russ’s new experiment.

All the episodes are on YouTube.The first episode establishes that the recovery actually has been weak—even compared to other recoveries following deep recessions and financial crises. The second episode examines the possible causes of the weakness, and the third episode concentrates on what, in my view, is the main cause—economic policy.

It’s challenging to integrate charts effectively into a podcast of an interview, but it’s very worthwhile, especially in economics.  Charts give the interviewee a chance to show the facts behind the arguments and then the interviewer can ask about and debate those facts. And it is even possible for the interviewer to add some challenging new charts as Russ did with a bar chart on a survey of economists in the third episode. Charts are also an invaluable way to convey ideas, and, speaking as a teacher, that’s why I love charts.

I think that Russ and his collaborator in this new endeavor, Shana Farley, have done a fantastic job. They have thought about everything, including putting up little caricatures of Russ and his guests like the one of me here. I hope they keep it up with many more episodes of The Numbers Game.