TranscribeMe audio exams Part A
0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Yes, actually, my story starts with somebody from MIT way back, a professor here who went on to win the McArthur prize and a whole variety of other things came to me and he said, “Look, I had to stop running the marathon, training for the marathon.” He was one of the early marathoners because he hurt his ankle, and then his knee, and he came and he said, “Look, I have adult-onset Attention Deficit Disorder.” He said, “I’ve never had a problem with attention because I’ve always been running,” and that’s what stimulated me to get more into attention with my patients. And then I came back to the whole idea about exercise and its effect on the brain, and I bring my dog who’s a Jack Russell, and when I got this dog, I took him to the vet.
0:00:47.4 S1: The vet said, “You gotta put him on Ritalin.” So my understanding, I think our understanding in neuroscience is that we need to move. We are born movers. So that’s one of the key concepts in meaning if we didn’t move, we wouldn’t be thinkers. If we weren’t the queens and kings of movement, we wouldn’t be the kinds of thinkers. Now, if you read the New York Times, you see these warnings all the time, “Don’t sit. Sitting is the new smoking okay,” and that’s a neat phrase, it encapsulates it, and everybody is talking about this and studying it, seeing how much mortality, morbidity is increased as we sit.
0:01:29.4 S1: And then what we know from studies that when we stand our brains or that a little bit better than we are when we’re sitting, so that’s why as a lecture, it’s very hard to sit and lecture from… Or even with me, I have to move around. So that keeps me focused, and what it does is because we’re using muscles to stand, we’re using the large skeletal muscles, the core muscles, all that, it feeds back to the brain, switches the brain on which feeds forward to the prefrontal cortex which is where we generate our thoughts and this talk and where we learn as well as perform. Now we’re getting more and more data, more and more laboratories are picking up on the effect of movement on the brain.
0:02:16.4 S1: It’s a watershed event was 1995 coming from worrying about the growing problem down the road with us boomers of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, there was a big MacArthur Study, multi-countries looking at what were the things that prevented the onset of cognitive decline in aging. Well, there are three, one was optimal weight, two was continuous learning, three was exercise. Now, even when they factored out the effect on the cardiovascular system, the prevention of stroke, exercise was really the most robust prevention for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. So this started a whole series of reports that really was flowering right in the midst of when neuroscience was beginning to really take off.
0:03:01.8 S1: So everyone’s interested in it now because we know that the… A major effector on our brain, in fact, probably the most effective thing that we can do, and now we look at our brain is not as… We look at it as a muscle, so the more we use it, the better it is, the better it grows. So when we exercise, we’re using those nerve cells that we use to think and learn and all of that.
TranscribeMe audio exams Part B
0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: I’m enough of a nerd to enjoy digging data out of the Zucman Saez database. And when I do, I see two very different chapters in American history from 1945 to 1981. I see a chapter of prosperity capitalism, where incomes rose for the entire workforce, and from 1981 forward, I see a chapter I would call enrichment capitalism. I wonder if that contrast between prosperity capitalism up to Reagan and enrichment capitalism from Reagan forward has caught other people’s attention too.
0:00:32.7 Speaker 2: Oh, yeah, people like me have been talking about that for decades, literally. I had a 1992 article about that transition. If you look at it as a bar graph, the first post-war generation is this picket fence, and the second generation is a step ladder with for the first step of it being below ground in terms of rates of change of income, so no. There’s a total transition. Everything changes around 1980. Now, if you go a little bit further back, however, and I think this is also relevant, that middle class society, the one I grew up in, that period of broadly shared growth, that’s not the way America always was.
0:01:13.2 S2: America was a very unequal society in 1929, but it’s a quite equal society by 1947. And a closer up look at the data says that that happened quite suddenly, happened really largely during World War II. It’s what Claudia Goldin calls the great compression. So the middle class society that we had for a generation after World War II was created by the rise of unions in a favorable political environment, by the use of government power to equalize wages, by high taxes on top of incomes.
0:01:45.7 S2: So it’s actually telling you that the kind of society we have now is a choice, and I think that’s the point we’re accustomed to, which is that growth is very much concentrated in the hands of a few people is not a necessity, and in fact, it’s not something that’s beyond the reach of the political system. We re-made ourselves away from a plutocratic society once, and we could do it again.
0:02:10.4 S1: The question is, how does the race question fit in as an overlay to all of this. And when we talk about the prosperity society, was that truly a prosperity society in terms of distribution? We can talk about capital accumulation during 200 years of slavery, there’s a new debate about reparations, which is going to permeate a lot of the political discourse, how do you play that out in terms of an analysis and then obviously a political program?
0:02:34.3 S2: Yeah. The truth is that despite a lot of overt racism, that post-war period of prosperity was even, even Blacks benefited from it, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t also a horrific amount of raw racism in the society, but there were benefits for just about everybody. Race played a crucial role in the political transition. If you ask why did… Why did politics turn so suddenly rightwards in the United States, and the answer is basically it’s the late effects of the Civil Rights Act. The New Deal coalition, sad to say, was a coalition between a pretty liberal, social and racial as well, group in the North and Southern segregationists who were willing to sign on to a bigger government as long as it didn’t endanger white supremacy, because at that point, the South was still quite poor.
0:03:37.8 S2: And so what’s happened now is the race issue is critical to everything. Race is why the United States doesn’t look like other advanced countries in terms of a social safety net, it’s central to everything, but maybe we can transcend that. That’s one of the big unanswered questions in American politics.
TranscribeMe audio exams For US Only
0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Good morning. So I thought one of the things we’re gonna do today is have a little… We’re gonna be talking about food, but also a little primer on economics and the economic perspective on our food system.
0:00:13.2 S1: Yesterday, we were talking a lot about eating, that was the day devoted to actually consuming food, and driving up this morning, I was thinking, well, there’s an economic perspective on what an eater is, maybe you could give us a little primer on what behavioral economics is, and then how a behavioral economist would look at somebody who’s eating.
0:00:35.0 Speaker 2: Okay, so behavioral economics is… It’s basically economics as if you were talking about real people, which is kind of a strange thing, but textbook economics has the idealized notion of homo economicus, of people who know what they want and are hyper rational about getting what they want and make rational choices, and it’s all for the best. Our baseline assumption in modern America is that people are rational, consumer choice should be entirely unconstrained. Behavioral economics said, well, actually, people are not these type of rational calculating machines, you have urges, you have a limited capacity to think things through, you have problems of self-control, and so people are not perfectly rational and they are imperfectly rational in predictable ways. So that’s basically what behavioral economics is about.
0:01:20.7 S2: And that maybe this has implications for policy, maybe for the way that markets work, these deviations from the idealized, perfectly rational consumer are pervasive in our system. People out to make a profit exploit these. On food, we know, it’s actually kind of funny that the notion of consumer choice being always right can be so universally accepted, when every time we walk past a fast food place, every one of us knows that, right, life is either a constant struggle to control your eating or if it isn’t, then it’s even worse. Food would almost be your base case for the importance of behavioral economics, because it’s part of everything around us.
0:01:58.7 S1: We were also talking yesterday about, it came up a number of times, the price of food. We were good at creating cheap food that often isn’t very good for us, but that good food, healthy food is often out of reach in a price perspective for a lot of our citizens. So how does price come about in the sort of purest economic… Why is cheaper food cheap and why is more expensive food more expensive?
0:02:29.1 S2: Okay, so I think there’s a couple of… And I’m not sure I have this fully sorted out even in my own head. There are a couple of different dimensions here. The way that we produce food for the most part in America is in an industrial production process. And that is cheap, if you basically poison all of the tests and slather on fertilizer, that is a way to produce food very cheaply.
0:02:51.9 S2: Now, there are reasons not to be doing that. Healthy eating is actually probably not the first reason that applies. The food that also happens to be unhealthy for dietary reasons is produced with this industrial system that has all of these other costs. If we didn’t do all of that, it would be more expensive. I’m not sure that that good food would be cheaper, but in general, food is cheaper than it should be, or bad food is way cheaper than it should be, because we’re not actually making people pay the costs that are imposed by that system.
0:03:20.4 S2: So I think there is something, even aside from the behavioral economics, the bad choices we make, we just… If we really made people… If we really made someone buying stuff that’s produced in our industrial agricultural system pay the cost of eutrophication, the runoff from the farms and all of that, it would be a lot more expensive. So that’s at least part of what’s going on. People have bad instincts on… All of us have bad instincts on food, and there’s a large profit-making sector that does its best to exploit that. That profit-making sector also has lobbyists, it has money, and it has all kinds of things, so there is a fair bit of research out there questioning, questioning both the causes and the effects of obesity.
0:03:57.0 S2: So we know that there are some researchers who suggest that eating has less to do with obesity in America, and it’s really about exercise, and there are other researchers who suggest obesity isn’t really the health hazard that we think and being somewhat overweight might even be good for you. Who’s funding that research? Well, quite a lot of it is in fact Coca-Cola. So there’s this whole of the usual interest group thing, but this case applied to doing its best to make sure that we eat fattening stuff, ’cause there’s more money to be made in selling fattening stuff. And there’s got to be a lot of that going on.
0:04:26.9 Speaker 3: You started talking about externalities and how important that is in terms of adding costs that aren’t absorbed. How do we get those externalities reflected in the prices so people can make more rational choices?
0:04:40.4 S2: Okay. Alright, the classic economist answer is, charge people for the damage they’re doing, so you have an effluent tax or you have a licensing system with tradable licenses, so that someone who wants to do this stuff has to buy them, or sometimes you just ban the really destructive practices.