For several years now, we have heard economic commentators proclaim the United States had reached “full employment.” And yet the economy just kept adding jobs and the unemployment rate kept falling.

One economist who has consistently opposed that prognosis is Adam Ozimek, and it appears he’s been vindicated. So I invited him on the show to talk unemployment, wage growth, and all things economic policy. We also cover the jobs guarantee proposal, inflation, and Dr. Ozimek’s one out-of-the-box idea to boost US economic growth.

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The denizens of Silicon Valley (and Seattle) have picked up a slew of nicknames: GAFA (for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon); FAANG (add Netflix in there); or, most ominously, the Frightful Five (sub out Netflix, sub in Microsoft). The central charge is these firms are monopolizing their respective markets, and have achieved such dominance that their market positions are now unchallengable. The side effects may include dampened innovation, reduced labor power, and any number of democracy-is-in-peril concerns.

But my guest this episode, antitrust expert Nicolas Petit, argues against this alarmist case against the tech titans. Drawing from his 2016 paper, “Technology Giants, the Moligopoly Hypothesis and Holistic Competition: A Primer,” as well as new research from a forthcoming book, Petit makes the argument these “Frightful Five” firms engage in cutthroat competition with one another, benefiting the economy as a whole — and government regulation against these companies is premature.

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“If stability despite conflict is a lesson from past experience,” wrote economist and trade historian Douglas Irwin last year, “one can easily be led to conclude that the future will look much like the past and that the reciprocity period will continue for some time to come.”

But with President Trump’s trade war so far refusing to relent, is this vision of a free-trading future far too sanguine? Irwin himself joined me to discuss this question, as well as some American economic history, the most pervasive myths people believe about trade policy, and much more on the most recent episode of my podcast.

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Cutting every citizen a monthly check, regardless of whether they work, is no longer as radical an idea as it once seemed. Some form of government-ensured universal basic income — or UBI, as it is more commonly known — is now embraced by some libertarians, futurists, and (of course) socialists. But that’s not to say UBI has grown uncontroversial. It has, however, grown more politically feasible, as the Overton window continues to widen.

To discuss UBI — it’s history, its track record, and its future — I was joined by Annie Lowrey, a contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine, a former economics writer for the New York Times, and author of the new book “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.”

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The backdrop to the escalating US-China trade — and what gives it a salience our squabbles with the EU, Mexico, and Canada lack — is the sense that China is not only an economic rival but also an ideological and military threat. And, exacerbating concerns, the sense that China is rising inexorably, so much so that just as the 20th was “America’s century,” the 21st will belong to China.

So with this on the mind, it seems a good time to revisit my 2017 conversation with Asia expert Michael Auslin, author of “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region.” In this episode we discuss his book, the past and future of the Asian economies, how the US should respond to China’s rise, and much more. Find the transcript of our conversation on AEI’s blog, here.

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December has been credited for kick-starting economic growth and boosting workers’ wages. It’s also been blamed for enriching the already well-off at the expense of labor, and for dooming us all to a life of perpetual deficits. Its supporters tout the bonuses many firms doled out in January as evidence of its success. Its opponents point to stock buybacks and increased dividends paid out to shareholders as proof of its failure.

But what can we really say about the tax law at this point in time? To break it all down, I’m joined by AEI tax expert Alan Viard. He earned his PhD in economics from Harvard University, has worked as a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, and has forgotten more about tax policy than most people will ever know.

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Intro to econ classes usually teach students to understand the economy as the combination of labor, capital, and land. But it might be more fruitful to think of the key players as atoms, energy, and information. So says Cesar Hidalgo, an MIT professor, statistical physicist by training, and author of “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies.

In this episode, we discuss the book the Financial Times calls “the future of growth theory,” and discuss everything from economic development to America’s big tech firms to Friedrich Hayek.

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In April 2016, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Donald Trump was still just one among several contenders for the GOP nomination, I talked with AEI trade expert Claude Barfield about trade deficits, the WTO, US-China relations, and more. Two years later, our conversation may be even more relevant now than it was then.

Claude Barfield is a resident scholar in international trade policy, science, and technology at the American Enterprise Institute. Before coming to AEI, he was on the faculties of Yale and the University of Munich, and worked at the National Journal; in the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee; and as a consultant to the office of the US Trade Representative.

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The United States is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis, especially in its high-productivity cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. In addition to harming individuals, this is also having a deleterious effect on the country’s economic growth. But what is behind this problem, and what can be done to remedy it? Lynn Fisher joins the podcast to discuss.

Dr. Fisher recently joined AEI as a resident scholar and co-director of the Center on Housing Markets and Finance. Before this she served on the faculty at Washington State University and the University of North Carolina, and was director of the Housing Affordability Initiative at MIT.

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This episode’s guest advocates abolishing private property as we know it and ditching one person democracy, one vote democracy. And he does this in the name of saving capitalism and a just, democratic society.

His name is Glen Weyl, co-author with Eric Posner of the new book “Radical Markets,” and he joins me to discuss his main arguments and convince me such radical steps are necessary at a time of steady economic growth and falling unemployment. Agree or not, it’s a fascinating discussion.

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With the United States and China trading threats of escalating tariffs, the world waits to see whether these barbs become a full-fledged trade war between the two largest economies. The Trump administration claims its actions are necessary to deter China from continuing its predatory trade behavior — an objective today’s guest, Derek Scissors, agrees is a worthwhile pursuit — but he doubts whether the means Trump has chosen can achieve this end.

Over the course of our conversation we discuss the likely impact of Trump’s promised tariffs, the different ways China cheats the global trading system, whether the US should have allowed China to join the WTO in the first place, and much more. Derek Scissors is a resident scholar here at AEI, the chief economist of the China Beige Book, the author of the China Global Investment Tracker, and an all-around expert on US-China relations.

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Machine learning is something new under the sun: a technology that builds itself. Right now we have limited algorithms with limited potential, but, if it exists, the Master Algorithm could derive all knowledge in the world from data. Inventing it would be one of the greatest advances in the history of science, speeding up the progress of knowledge across the board and changing the world in ways we can barely begin to imagine.

So says Pedro Domingos, professor of computer science at the University of Washington and author of the book “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World.” He joined the podcast to discuss his book and the possible utopian and dystopian futures of AI.

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For the 100th episode of the Political Economy podcast, James Pethokoukis sat down with Michael Strain and Stan Veuger during the Ricochet – AEI Podcast Summit in Washington, DC.

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Economist and education expert Eric Hanushek has found that a nation’s education level determines a significant chunk of its economic growth. And in a forthcoming paper, his research suggests that if US teacher quality rose to match the level of the world’s best perfoming school systems, such as Finland and South Korea, US economic growth could rise by as much as 0.8 percentage points per year. And yet all our indicators suggest American education continues to lag behind. So what is wrong with our education system, and what can be done about it? Hanushek joins me to discuss this and a lot more.

Eric Hanushek is a visiting scholar at AEI and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where his research focuses on education policy and its impact on economic growth.

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Jason Furman was one of President Obama’s top economists, from the start of his campaign through the end of his presidency, and served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2013 through 2017. He joined me on the podcast to discuss his time in the White House, how he views the recession and subsequent recovery, and his forecast for economic growth going forward. We also cover America’s productivity challenge, the pros and cons of the Big Tech firms, and a host of other questions from Twitter in a rapid-fire finale.

Now out of government, Jason Furman is currently a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

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“Small business is the basis of American prosperity.” “Small businesses are overwhelmingly responsible for job creation and innovation.” “Small business owners are the basis for democracy in America.” All these statements are wrong, argues Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. It’s Big Business that’s responsible for today’s gains in income, productivity, and jobs—and policymakers and voters need to recognize these facts. He joins the podcast to discuss this argument from his new book, “Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business,” co-authored with Michael Lind.

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On this special episode of Political Economy, we structured the podcast around one theme: “Questions you always wanted to ask an economist, but were too afraid to ask.” After soliciting questions from friends, family, and Twitter, we posed them to AEI economist Stan Veuger.

Dr. Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI, where his research is in political economy and public finance. He is also the editor of AEI Economic Perspectives.

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In a recent column for Bloomberg View, Michael Strain concedes “Big Tech” may be monopolistic, but argues that is no reason to break them up. Despite the wide variety of sins Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook stand accused of — promulgating fake news, stifling innovative competitors, and crushing mom-and-pop shops, to name a few — by the standards of consumer welfare, Big Tech is one of the best things to happen to the American economy in decades. He joins the podcast to discuss this argument and the future of the economy more broadly.

 

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Earlier this year, Amazon announced it was teaming up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to change how health care is provided to their 1 million plus employees. Stressing their venture would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” but providing few other details, we now wait to see if Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett can transform the industry. To analyze the announcement, and discuss the state of US health care more broadly, I’m joined by AEI economist and health care wonk Ben Ippolito.

Benedic Ippolito is a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where his research is in public finance and health economics. His recent work has focused on the behavior of health care providers, price regulation, and health care financing.

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The American education system is a waste of both time and money—at least according to Bryan Caplan, author of the new book, The Case Against Education. Rather than actually impart useful skills, education’s benefits stem mainly from “signaling,” implying that as a nation we could drastically reduce years of schooling and be no worse off. It’s an explosive thesis challenging the conventional wisdom of labor economists, but is it right?

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University, a regular blogger at EconLog, and author of the books Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, and The Myth of the Rational Voter.

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