Last summer, billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson competed to one-up each other’s accomplishments in space flight while Elon Musk’s SpaceX continued to make history with its reusable launches. But are all these efforts nothing more than wasteful vanity projects among the uberrich? I’m joined today by Robert Zubrin to talk about why the emergence of a private space economy and the prospects of colonizing the solar system should excite us.

Robert Zubrin is President of Pioneer Astronautics and the founder and President of the Mars Society, an international organization dedicated to furthering the exploration and settlement of Mars. An aerospace engineer and energy expert, Robert is the author of several books including “The Case for Mars” and “The Case for Space.”

While the scientific community has reached a broad consensus about climate change and the warming planet, just how well does the general public understand this consensus? In this week’s episode of the podcast, Steven E. Koonin is here to discuss what we know about climate change, what we don’t, and how we should respond to the warming planet.

Steve is a professor at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow here at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously, he served as the Under Secretary for Science at the US Department of Energy under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011. This year, he published Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.

When it comes to federal investment in research and development, failures like Solyndra are held up as evidence of wasteful government spending while success stories go largely unnoticed. But what kind of returns do we see on investments in scientific research by government? And should government funding emphasize basic or more practical, applied research? To answer those questions and more, I’m joined today by Benjamin F. Jones.

Ben is a professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Northwestern University as well as the faculty director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. This summer he authored “Science and Innovation: The Under-Fueled Engine of Prosperity.”

NASA last launched astronauts into space with its final Space Shuttle mission in the summer of 2011. But, nine years later, a rocket built by SpaceX lifted off at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and carried two astronauts to the International Space Station. How did this private company, in less than 20 years, go from a fledgling startup to one of the biggest players in space? To answer that question, I’ve brought on Eric Berger.

Eric is the senior space editor at Ars Technica and the author of Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX.

When we think of infrastructure, roads and bridges are among the first things that come to mind. But over the past decade, massive investments in warehouse-scale data centers constitute a new kind of infrastructure build up. And that cloud computing infrastructure might be the beginning of a new economic revolution. My guest today is Mark Mills, and we’ll be discussing the revolution in cloud computing and how it could lead to a New Roaring ’20s.

Mark is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. His latest book is The Cloud Revolution: How the Convergence of New Technologies Will Unleash the Next Economic Boom and A Roaring 2020s.

De-extincted woolly mammoths, genetically engineered livestock, and transgenic crops: Are biologists opening a Pandora’s box that will lead to the further destruction of the natural world? In this episode of “Political Economy,” Beth Shapiro joins the podcast to discuss that question, explain the latest discoveries in synthetic biology, and explore the possibility of bio-engineered conservation.

Beth is a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her latest book is Life as We Made It: How 50,000 Years of Human Innovation Refined—and Redefined—Nature.

On the heels of a summer of billionaire space flights and William Shatner’s recent rocket trip, some Americans are echoing old arguments about the wastefulness of space exploration. Alongside this controversy, massive declines in launch costs and a burgeoning space economy have renewed interest in manned missions to the Moon and Mars. In today’s episode of “Political Economy,” John Logsdon discusses NASA’s history since the Moon landing, billionaires in space, and the path forward for continued exploration.

John is the founder and Professor Emeritus of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He is the author of several books on the space program, including, most recently, Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier.

World’s Fairs hosted in American cities, like Chicago in 1893 and New York in 1964, are remembered as odes to progress. The United States showcased its prowess on the world’s stage and exhibitions awed visitors with the latest technological marvels. But America hasn’t hosted a World’s Fair in nearly 40 years. In this episode, Charles Pappas explores the impact the fairs once had, how they’ve changed since the days of sunny optimism, and whether the United States could again host a World’s Fair in the near future.

Charles is a senior writer at Exhibitor Magazine, where he covers trade shows and World’s Fairs, and the author of Flying Cars, Zombie Dogs, and Robot Overlords: How World’s Fairs and Trade Expos Changed the World.

The Biden administration is pushing forward its legislative agenda with the Build Back Better program, and Democrats have a number of tax proposals to pay for it. Looking to the largest corporations and the wealthiest Americans, congressional Democrats are constrained by President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year. But will Democrats be able to hold to the President’s promise? Today, I’ve brought on Kyle Pomerleau to discuss the Democrats’ tax proposals and what tax changes we should expect from the House’s reconciliation bill.

Kyle is a senior fellow here at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies federal tax policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted supply chains and disrupted the US economy. Production levels are back on track, but the labor force participation rate has remained stagnant since the summer of 2020. And millions of Americans are quitting their jobs in a labor market that was already facing a shortage of workers. What’s going on with this “Great Resignation”? And should we brace ourselves for continued inflation as supply line problems drag on and Congress pumps trillions into the economy? To answer those questions and more, I’m joined today by Michael Strain.

Mike is the Arthur F. Burns Scholar in Political Economy and the Director of Economic Policy Studies at AEI.

The word “order” evokes images of top-down structure and planning. Yet, in the absence of central control, economies almost seem to operate like machines — a concept economists call “emergent order.” How do systems of order emerge? And how can we benefit from the unplanned organization they create? Today, Neil Chilson joins “Political Economy” to explain the concept of emergent order and describe how it can inform everything from leadership to policymaking.

Neil is a senior research fellow for technology and innovation at the Charles Koch Institute and the author of Getting Out of Control: Emergent Leadership in a Complex World.

Futurists of the past dreamed of tapping into the heat of the Earth’s mantle to supply our energy needs, but today’s geothermal provides only a tiny fraction of the power we use. In today’s episode, we’ll be discussing what’s next for geothermal, its possible advantages over solar and wind power, and the obstacles it faces. I’m joined by Jamie Beard to answer those questions and more.

Jamie is the founder and executive director of the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Fusion power is the energy source of the future . . . and always will be,” skeptics joke. But a series of exciting breakthroughs have some experts convinced that we’re nearing a fusion revolution that could deliver abundant, clean energy for the future. My guest today is Arthur Turrell, and we’ll be discussing whether fusion power reactors are on the horizon, the advantages fusion may have over renewables, and what government’s role should be in developing this technology.

Arthur is Deputy Director at the Data Science Campus of the Office for National Statistics in the UK and the author of The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the Planet.

Americans love rags-to-riches stories, believing hard work and talent — not connections — should be rewarded. But meritocracy has come under scrutiny, with some questioning how well America lives up to its ideals, while others ask if they’re even worth striving for. In this episode, we’ll discuss whether meritocracy succeeds in pulling talent up from the bottom, or if the system has become rigged by the already rich and powerful. To answer those questions, I’ve brought on Adrian Wooldridge.

Adrian is the political editor and Bagehot columnist at The Economist. His latest book is The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World.

In 2017, the US announced its intent to return to the Moon for the first time in a half-century. NASA and its international partners in the Artemis program hope to land a crewed lunar mission in 2024, but some experts have cast their doubts. So how did America achieve such a feat in the ’60s? And why haven’t we been back since the Nixon era? My guest today, Charles Fishman, answers these questions and more.

Charles is a journalist and author of One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon as well as The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, among other works.

In the past, great inventions like the internal combustion engine and electrification had huge economic and societal impacts. Today, computing power continues to advance at an exponential rate and artificial intelligence promises to revolutionize the future. But will these innovations transform American society? Or will pessimism and fear slow the pace of technological progress? My guest today is Azeem Azhar.

Azeem is an entrepreneur and investor, and the founder of Exponential View, where his podcast and newsletter deliver in-depth tech analysis. This month, Azeem released The Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology is Transforming Business, Politics, and Society.

What will the American city look like one generation from now? While cities have always been hubs of opportunity, urban landscapes have faced an onslaught of difficulties in recent years. Soaring costs of living, the economic downturn of a global pandemic, and a recent uptick in violent crime are straining America’s urban engines of productivity. And trends toward remote work have some wondering whether cities are over. What can cities do to meet these challenges? And how can we prepare for the next pandemic? To answer these questions and more, I’m joined by Edward Glaeser.

Ed is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University and co-author with David Cutler of Survival of the City: Living and Thriving in an Age of Isolation, released this week.

Today local governments compete to host growing companies in the hope that the opportunities they create will revitalize their home cities. But how much do these urban areas benefit from local innovations? And what changes should we expect given recent increases in working from home? Nicholas Bloom joins the podcast to discuss these questions and more.

Nick is the William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University. This summer he co-authored, along with Tarek Hassan, Aakash Kalyani, Josh Lerner, and Ahmed Tahoun, the working paper “The Diffusion of Disruptive Technologies.” In the spring, he and Jose Maria Berrero and Steven Davis released a working paper titled “Why Working from Home Will Stick.”

July was an exciting month for space enthusiasts of all sorts. From Richard Branson’s suborbital flight to Jeff Bezos’ launch, the era of private space travel has truly arrived. SpaceX and Blue Origin may be making the headlines, but they are far from the only companies involved in the emerging space economy. And at the same time, NASA intends to continue manned missions to the Moon with its Artemis program.

In a recent event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, John Roth, Rich Boling, Mike Gold, and Matthew Weinzierl discussed the present and future of space commerce, from tourism to manufacturing and beyond.

To some, Amazon is a great business that brings opportunity to over a million employees and generates value for hundreds of millions of customers. To others, it’s a company that exploits its workers and destroys small businesses. Similarly, some see Jeff Bezos as a successful visionary, and they look forward to seeing him apply his talents to exploring outer space. Others consider Bezos to be a policy failure, just as they view every other billionaire. Today, I’m speaking with Brad Stone to discuss the accuracy of these perceptions. We’ll also discuss how these views affect Amazon, how Bezos himself has viewed the company during his tenure as CEO, and what the future may hold for this retail giant.

Brad is the senior executive editor for global technology at Bloomberg News, as well as a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the author of four books, the most recent of which is Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire, released last May.