Our American Discourse, Ep. 36: The End – Death, Cemeteries, and Remembering

Though we are sad to bid farewell to “Our American Discourse,” we welcome the opportunity to talk about farewells—indeed, the hardest farewells of all: those that happen after death. How do we say goodbye to the past? And what does our farewell mean for the lives gone before us and for the future that will come after them? It is time to break the “death taboo” and have one last real conversation about the one last real experience we all must confront.

In this episode, David Charles Sloane tells the history of the American cemetery, and in that story, we find the evolution of our own existential approach to life, death, and beyond.

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Our American Discourse, Ep. 35: It’s Not Just Where You’re Going, It’s Also How You Get There

If the old saying is true that “life is a journey, not a destination,” then it stands to reason that the way we travel matters a great deal. In fact, that’s what the latest evidence has shown: Transportation choices and systems play a crucial role in our economy and our environment. You may think that your car or bike or walk or train ride is only about you, but it’s really one piece of a giant moving puzzle, in which we’re all trying to access the American dream in the same urban landscape at the same time — and that means it’s imperative to do it smartly, justly, and sustainably.

In this episode, Marlon G. Boarnet weighs the pros and cons of different transportation modes and shows how the infrastructure we build now will shape our quality of life for generations to come.

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Bedrosian Book Club Podcast: “Draft No. 4”

Anyone who reads or watches the news might feel like we are in a news assault. The news happens so fast, technology helps us disseminate and consume with speed, and media outlets are in a relatively new competition: a competition for relevancy. As “papers of record” are being attacked as “fake,” the question of how to communicate with fairness about important issues has never been more relevant.

John McPhee has had a long, storied career in writing for magazines “of record” using in-depth long-form journalism. Draft No. 4 is McPhee’s 32nd book of nonfiction. It is a series of essays on his writing process.

In today’s episode, we use McPhee’s thoughts on structure and nonfiction to discuss some of the difficulties of communicating policy and research in today’s frenetic climate of news and propaganda and anti-elitism.  Policy communication should be nuanced and deep, how can we do this in an age of immediate consumption and tribalism? How do we know what we know, and how do we tell others how we know what we know?

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Bedrosian Book Club Podcast: “The Myth of Independence”

Congressional historian Sarah Binder joins neighbor and investment manager Mark Spindel in a look at the history of the relationship between the Federal Reserve and its legislative parent, Congress. The result is the Princeton University Press book The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve.

Central to the book is the notion that the two institutions are interdependent rather than independent. The authors advocate that through legislation over the years, Congress has set up the Federal Reserve to bear the brunt of blame during times of financial crisis. This blend of political science, history, and economics was a hit for our panel. Why is it important to realize the relationship between Congress and the Fed is interdependent? What roles do transparency and accountability play in the relationship?

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Our American Discourse, Ep. 33: How to Take Risks, Make the World a Better Place, and Get Paid

Think of all the public policy problems that the government hasn’t been able to solve. Now imagine that you had a solution for one of them. The government should be interested, right? If your solution really works, they should want to invest in it. They should want to encourage you to make it happen, perhaps monetarily if possible. Well, until recently, they didn’t have many avenues to do so. Enter…“social impact bonds,” and the new system of “payment by results.”

In this episode, Gary Painter walks us through some examples of these new “outcome-based” payment systems to encourage innovative risk-taking to solve wicked problems in public policy.

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