Last month, IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold met up with renowned behavioral economist Richard Thaler at Town Hall Seattle to discuss Thaler’s theories about how people, not “rational actors,” drive real-world economics.

The two had a lively discussion that’s well worth the listen. You can listen to the program in Town Hall Seattle's media library here:

Unlike traditional economics, Thaler’s work seeks to incorporate human nature – including willpower, preference, and error. His most recent book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, tells the story of his relatively young field.

During their wide-ranging discussion, Nathan and Thaler addressed questions like:

  • Can economics be a science – like physics – or is it more like engineering?
  • How do “supposedly irrelevant factors,” like automatically opting-in employees to a retirement plan instead of asking them whether or not they want to enroll, impact rational behavior?
  • Why does pricing an object at $5.99 instead of $6.00 impact purchasing behavior?


  • When does economics work best?

To hear their take on these questions and more, listen to the audio above. And if you’re interested in hearing more from Nathan, check out his recent commencement speech at UCLA that, in part, deals with the importance of human fallibility.

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