The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.


The free-market century is over

Sean Illing talks with economic historian Brad DeLong about his new book Slouching Towards Utopia. In it, DeLong claims that the "long twentieth century" was the most consequential period in human history, during which the institutions of rapid technological growth and globalization were created, setting humanity on a path towards improving life, defeating scarcity, and enabling real freedom. But... this ran into some problems. Sean and Brad talk about the power of markets, how the New Deal led to something approaching real social democracy, and why the Great Recession of 2008 and its aftermath signified the end of this momentous era.

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

Guest: J. Bradford DeLong (@delong), author; professor of economics, U.C. Berkeley


  • Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century by J. Bradford DeLong (Basic; 2022)
  • The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek (1944)
  • The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi (1944)
  • Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter (1942)
  • "A Short History of Enclosure in Britain" by Simon Fairlie (This Land Magazine; 2009)
  • "China's Great Leap Forward" by Clayton D. Brown (Association for Asian Studies; 2012)
  • What Is Property? by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1840)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order by Gary Gerstle (Oxford University Press; 2022)
  • Apple's "1984" ad (YouTube)
  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes (1936)
  • "The spectacular ongoing implosion of crypto's biggest star, explained" by Emily Stewart (Vox; Nov. 18)
  • "Did Greenspan Add to Subprime Woes? Gramlich Says Ex-Colleague Blocked Crackdown" by Greg Ip (Wall Street Journal; June 9, 2007)
  • "Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same," from President Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address (Jan. 27, 2010)
  • "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" by Karl Marx (1852)
  • Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein (Simon & Schuster; 2020)
  • The Paradox of Democracy: Free Speech, Open Media, and Perilous Persuasion by Zac Gershberg and Sean Illing (U. Chicago; 2022)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2022-11-21  57m