FREAK-Quently Asked Questions: Tyler Cowen


Tyler Cowen loves travel, hates coffee, and believes in blogging like perhaps no other blogger alive. Those are just a few of the things you’ll learn in the following FREAK-Quently Asked Questions with Cowen, a professor of economics, author, and world-renowned econoblogger who’s also a sucker for ethnic food. Enjoy.

Q: On my deathbed, I will wish that I had spent more time on _________.

A: Travel.

Q: On my deathbed, I will wish I had spent more money on __________.

A: Just about everything, because I don’t believe in large bequests.

Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? What was your best accomplishment by the time you turned 16?

A: Chess champion of New Jersey at age 15; that is the answer to both questions.

Q: What’s one goal you’d still like to accomplish?

A: Visit every notable city in the Americas. I’m closer to achieving that than you might think. Newfoundland beckons, as does Paraguay and big chunks of Colombia.

Q: What is your net worth as a ratio of your parents’ net worth at the time you were 16 (adjusted for inflation if possible)?

A: I don’t have a good sense of this, but perhaps it is comparable. But of course, I have the internet and they didn’t, plus I have much more access to culture. In terms of real income, they can’t come close.

Q: What is the best investment you made in getting to where you are today?

A: Blogging. Plus playing chess at an early age was a very good lesson in objectivity and learning.

Q: What’s the best financial investment you’ve ever made? The worst?

A: Best investment: stocks in Chile and New Zealand, before either was considered “hot.” Inheriting Delta stock and never selling it has to be the worst investment, since it went to zero in bankruptcy.

Q: What talent have you always wished you had more of?

A: Basketball ability. I am an O.K. shot, but cannot really handle the ball at all.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A: Sheer physical invincibility; most of the other superpowers are overrated.

Q: How much would you sell one of your kidneys for?

A: No amount for myself, though I would consider a large enough sum for charity.

Q: Would you rather win a Nobel Prize, an Olympic gold medal, or the Megabucks Lottery?

A: Megabucks. In all cases it might be harder to make new friends in a sincere way. Perhaps all of them are curses of a sort.

Q: How much is too much to spend on a cup of coffee?

A: Any amount. I cannot stand the smell of coffee, and in fact I have never tried it. Not once.

Q: What do you collect, and why?

A: Mexican amates, which are drawings on bark paper from the state of Guerrero. I have the leading collection in this area. There are many wonderful artists in these Mexican villages and I visit them frequently. See my home page for further detail.

I also collect CD’s of many different kinds, but most of all the classical piano repertoire.

Q: What is one item you own that you should probably throw out but never will?

A: My old pillow. But it is just the right size and flatness.

Q: New York or California?

A: Los Angeles remains my favorite city, most of all because of the beautiful aerial views from the streets and freeways and also the ethnic food. But Los Angeles is not California, so it must be a draw.

Q: What will eventually lead to humankind’s demise, and when will it happen?

A: Something we are not at all expecting — perhaps in a few thousand years. Maybe asteroids are one leading candidate at the moment, though catastrophes can take many forms. Changes in the sun are another issue.

Q: What’s the best possible future discovery or invention?

A: The ability to distribute the human race into many different parts of space in such a way as to ensure our survival. But we’re a long way from that.

Q: Happiness is ____________.

A: Ineffable.

Joe L.

With regards to coffee, "Yahoo, I'm not the only one!!!!"

Dennis Rice

Newfoundland welcomes you, Professor Cowen.


the internet is a good response but i think you underestimate the intangible "income" your parents' generation had such as greater social interaction, closer/better interaction between parents/children (people are must too busy these days)...


Never tried coffee? What is the point in doing all that traveling if you can't even be bothered experience the simple things?

Scott Wentland


I like the smell of coffee, but absolutely hate the taste. It's conceivable that you're the reverse. I guess you'll never know until you try it.

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David Chowes, New York City

On my deathbed, I wish that I would have spent more time in bed with women.

Paul from Roanoke

Tyler, you're good at providing a fascinating read, both in blog-form and book-form. Good work on "Discovering Your Inner Economist"...I think I reference that book more so that Freakonomics (and I learned of the book through this blog). I can't wait to use it in raising my eventual kids (in dish-washing and car-driving). I already use the advice in bothering charities I don't like, and in finding decent ethnic food. Ain't incentives grand?


While it was a good interview, I really wish that Tyler Cowen was asked more interesting questions than "what superpower would you have?" He is an influential blogger and we definitely could have gotten some more interesting responses depending on the questions. Other than that, nice interview.