Our latest full-length podcasts are “You Eat What You Are,” Parts 1 and 2. They were inspired in part by Tyler Cowen‘s latest book An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies. Here’s what I had to say about the book in a blurb: “Tyler Cowen’s latest book is a real treat, probably my favorite thing he’s ever written. It does a fantastic job exploring the economics, culture, esthetics, and realities of food, and delivers a mountain of compelling facts. Most of all it’s encouraging — not a screed, despite its occasionally serious arguments — and brings the fun back to eating. Delicious!”
Cowen, who has shown up on this blog before, is an economics professor at George Mason University who blogs at Marginal Revolution as well as at Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide. Here, from Part 1 of the podcast, is Cowen on the relationship between economics and food:
COWEN: If you read the early economists like Adam Smith, or Frederic Bastiat, they were obsessed with food and food markets. A lot of early economics, it is a theory of food and the food supply, because at that time food was a very large percentage of national economies. It was an important issue. People could die or starve if the harvest didn’t go well. So economics and food have been intimately related really from the beginning. And I’m trying to put food back in the centerpiece of economics.
Cowen speaks at length about how American food “got so bad” in the early- and mid-20th century, and here he is on the current state of food:
COWEN: If you are a foodie today you have more options than ever before. But there’s also more bad food than ever before. There’s more obesity. There’s more junk food. The food world is getting a lot worse and a lot better at the same time. That’s one way to think about the crisis.
Now Cowen has agreed to field your questions about food. He is a nimble and diverse thinker, so feel free to ask him about specific foods and preferences, prices, the agricultural infrastructure, and anything else you can think of. As always with our Q&A’s, we’ll post his replies in short course.
To help get things started, here’s the Table of Contents from An Economist Gets Lunch:
1. On the Eve of the Revolution
2. How American Food Got Bad
3. Revolutionizing the Supermarket Experience
4. The Rules for Finding a Good Place to Eat
5. Barbecue: The Greatest Slow Food of All
6. The Asian Elephant in the Room
7. Another Agricultural Revolution, Now
8. Eating Your Way to a Greener Planet
9. Why Does Mexican Food Taste Different in Mexico?
10. The Finding Great Food Anywhere Encyclopedia
11. The Stuff and Values of Cooking at Home
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