Host Will Wilkinson explores how to think in a complex era full of “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories. The premise of Model Citizen is that the proper care and feeding of our mental models — our subjective maps of our shared world — matters. It’s a duty of good citizenship. We owe it to one another to try to get our beliefs right, because we do share a world, and we’ll all suffer if politics and policy are shaped by lunatic conspiracy theories, braindead dogma, and unabashedly corrupt self-interest. But it’s hard to get it right. Who to trust? Who’s reliable? What’s an “expert,” really? What methods nudge us toward truth and which shove us into a lalaland of nefarious rubbish?

The aim of Model Citizen isn’t to explicitly belabor all this meta-level stuff. We’re not going to catalog fallacies or apply Bayes Law to everything. Instead, the aim is to help listeners build better mental models by learning from trustworthy guests whose challenging ideas will help us revise them in the direction of the truth. We’ll talk about their big ideas, but we’ll also talk about how they arrived at their conclusions, the mistakes they’ve made, the biases to which they’re prone, how they guard against them, and how they’ve changed their minds and why. The idea is that good cognitive citizenship isn’t so much a matter of learning and applying a bunch of rules, but more about cultivating a certain sort of sensibility. Bertrand Russell called it a “robust sense of reality.” Ernest Hemingway called it “a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.” 

Whatever you call it, it’s the opposite of what leads folks to become QAnon enthusiasts, and you can’t be a model citizen without one. Smash that subscribe button on your favorite podcasts app and tune in Thursdays, when new episodes drop. Join us!


Episode 12: The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World
Guest: Virginia Postrel, Columnist, Bloomberg Opinion

Episode 11: The Density Divide: Jazz Odyssey Monologue Edition

Episode 10: Danielle Allen on Pandemic Policy and Constitutional Democracy
Guest: Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Episode 9: Reactionary Conservative Thought after Trump
Guest: Laura Field, Scholar in Residence, American University

Episode 8: Trust in a Polarized Age
Guest: Kevin Vallier, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University

Episode 7: Will Party Unity Break Down After Trump?
Guest: Steven Teles, Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

Episode 6: Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?
Guest: Alexander Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, Harvard University

Episode 5: A Plan for Faster, Fairer Economic Growth
Guests: Samuel Hammond, Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy, Niskanen Center; Brink Lindsey, Vice President, Niskanen Center

Episode 4: The Fight Over “Defund the Police”
Guest: Michael Fortner, Associate Professor of Political Science, City University of New York

Episode 3: The Roots of America’s Lawless Immigration Regime
Guest: Elizabeth Cohen, Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University

Episode 2: Matthew Yglesias on “One Billion Americans”
Guest: Matthew Yglesias, Senior Fellow, Niskanen Center

Episode 1: Why We Honor the Dishonorable
Guest: Jacob Levy, Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory, Professor of Political Science, associated faculty in the Department of Philosophy, McGill University