On Monday, Russ Roberts of EconTalk sat down to talk with Sam Quinones about his book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opium Epidemic. That book has been on my radar for a couple of years (and was how I discovered that book on Area 51 mythology, also titled Dreamland), so I was excited to give a listen. Quinone opens with two subjects: first, the history of one Mexican town which became the headquarters of a new wave of heroin addiction in southern California, then spread easterly towards the Mississippi. They made heroin cheaper and safer to purchase, and according to the author shunned violence to prevent undue police attention. The second subject concerns the rise of painkiller addiction in the United States, owing to a change in healthcare culture that convinced itself powerful opioids could be made safe for consumption. The two meet together in Appalachia and other areas of the central US as people addicted to painkillers begin using cheaper and readily-available heroin to feed the beast inside him.
About the podcast: EconTalk interviews generally last an hour, but Roberts posts transcripts below his play button for those who are interested, but would prefer to skim through the discussion. I stumbled upon EconTalk back in 2011 or so when I was looking for professional podcasts that would let me absorb ways that people like doctors, lawyers, and economists interpreted the world. (I found EconTalk and Lawyer2Lawyer, but nothing for healthcare. Yet.) The first interview I listened to was an interesting one on the areas in which industry was returning to the United States. Although in those days I was much more of an interventionist, I found the reliably free-market Roberts to be so genial, thoughtful, and nice that I kept listening to him. I’ve been rewarded with some of the most interesting books ever, works like David Owen’s The Green Metropolis, Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, and a book on digital medicine that I will be reading soon. Despite the name, EconTalk isn’t just about economics — as those book titles, and Dreamland‘s, indicate. Roberts’ interviews are often conducted with people he disagrees with, as when he invited Thomas Piketty on to talk about Capital. He’s a gentleman and a scholar, well worth listening to — or reading.
Note: once my own computer is up and running I will edit this post to include some links to books featured on EconTalk that I’ve read here. In the meantime, just click the “EconTalk” label if you’re curiou.