The dominant narrative about the US economy posits that income and wealth inequality have exploded, wages have gone nowhere in 30 or 40 years, and upward mobility has declined dramatically, leaving too many Americans mired in poverty. But are these claims accurate? What is the state of poverty and economic opportunity in the United States? I explore these questions in today’s episode with Scott Winship.

Scott is a resident scholar and the director of poverty studies at AEI, where he researches social mobility and the causes and effects of poverty. Previously, he served as the executive director of the Joint Economic Committee, where he spearheaded the Social Capital Project.

The Trump administration’s economic policy has been a mix of tax cuts, deregulation, trade wars, and proposals to restrict immigration. How much of this agenda is populist in nature, and how much of it is indistinguishable from establishment Republicanism? Casey Mulligan and Michael Strain explored this question in a recent AEI web event, which has been adapted into this extended episode of Political Economy.

Casey Mulligan is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and he served as chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Trump Administration from September 2018 to August 2019. He is also the author of the recently released book, You’re Hired! Untold Successes and Failures of a Populist President. Michael Strain is the John G. Searle Scholar and director of economic policy studies at AEI. He is the author of The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It), released in February of this year.

In the last eight years, geneticists have figured out how to edit humanity’s genetic code by harnessing a natural phenomenon known as CRISPR. This innovation has the potential to let us cure horrible genetic diseases, and perhaps augment humanity even further. But this also raises the ethical question: How far should genome editing go, if it’s permitted at all? On today’s episode, I speak with Kevin Davies about the new practical capabilities and ethical questions of this new era of genome editing.

Kevin is the executive editor of The CRISPR Journal and the founding editor of Nature Genetics. He is also the author of several books, including “Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing,” which will be out in the first week of October. Kevin, welcome to the podcast.

Should corporations be run for their shareholders or for a broader set of stakeholders, including customers, workers, and the broader community? Moreover, how incompatible are these two ends? Does shareholder capitalism result in self-serving short-termism or responsible corporate governance? And is stakeholder capitalism viable without a company’s managers being directly accountable to its owners? On today’s episode, I discuss these (and many more) questions with Sanjai Bhagat.

Sanjai is a professor of finance at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, and he worked previously at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. He is also the co-author, along with R. Glenn Hubbard, of a recent AEI Economic Perspectives paper, “Should the modern corporation maximize shareholder value?

America has many problems to contend with over the next few decades, including consistently stagnant economic growth, the progression of climate change, and the rise of China as a rival power. Today’s guest, Matthew Yglesias, believes Americans can begin taking steps to tackle these problems by thinking bigger. Specifically, policymakers should expand immigration and enact more policies that support children and parents — all with the goal of rapidly growing America’s population to one billion people by 2100.

Matthew Yglesias is the co-founder of Vox.com, where he is currently a senior correspondent and the host of Vox’s “The Weeds” podcast. He is also the author of the newly released One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.

For the 200th episode of Political Economy, I spoke with economist R. Glenn Hubbard on a wide range of important economic questions. Among them: the state of the economy as the Great Pandemic continues, the lessons to be learned from the past 15 years’ worth of economic developments, and the difficulties and opportunities that the future of the US economy holds.

Glenn is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers for the Bush White House. He is also both dean emeritus and the Russell L. Carson Professor of Economics and Finance at Columbia Business School.

Ideally, America will come out of the COVID pandemic with a better understanding of how important innovation is. The more we support technological progress, the more prepared we’ll be for the next pandemic — or for other unexpected emergencies. However, it’s also possible that we’ll come out of this pandemic as a weaker, less dynamic country with a drawbridge-up mentality and less tolerance for technological change.

Today’s guest, Caleb Watney, is particularly concerned that COVID has placed America’s capacity for innovation under extreme stress. To this effect, he recently wrote an important article for The Atlantic: “America’s Innovation Engine Is Slowing.” Caleb is the director of innovation policy at PPI, where he focuses on how US policymakers can best promote innovation. He is also a former technology policy fellow at the R Street Institute.

Should federal support for research and development be expanded? If so, what form should this expansion take? Is it better to emphasize basic science or applied research? Should policymakers use some of this money to create more tech hubs across the country in order to expand economic opportunity? Today’s extended episode of Political Economy explores these questions and many more by presenting an online panel discussion conducted last month with Jonathan Gruber, Tony Mills, Margaret O’Mara, and Bret Swanson.

Jonathan Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and the co-author of “Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream.” Tony Mills is the director of the R Street Institute’s science policy program, which aims to equip policymakers with scientific expertise and to advance public policies that stimulate scientific innovation. Margaret O’Mara is the Howard & Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington and the author of “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America.” And Bret Swanson is a visiting fellow at AEI, where he focuses on the impact of technology on the US economy, telecommunications, and internet regulation.

Progress and innovation make society much better off in the long run, even though they can also be disruptive or alarming in the near term. So it’s important to study progress because we need to know how to promote more progress and reap its benefits faster, and we also need to explain why progress is important to those who are alarmed by it. On this episode, I discuss these questions, and much more, with Jason Crawford.

Jason is the author of the Roots of Progress blog, where he writes about the history of technology and industry and the philosophy of progress. He is also the creator of Progress Studies for Young Scholars, an online program for high schoolers about the history of technology, and he was formerly a software engineering manager and tech startup founder. Jason, welcome to the podcast.

Global poverty, hunger, and violence are declining. The world is becoming a better place, year by year. So why are so many people afraid of the future and nostalgic about the past rather than optimistic about what’s to come? I’m delighted to discuss that question today with Ronald Bailey.

Ronald is the science correspondent for Reason magazine and Reason.com. He’s the co-author — along with Marian Tupy — of the upcoming book, Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting. He’s also the author of the 2015 book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century.

COVID-19 cases are surging in the US, even after a costly two-month lockdown. What does this resurgence mean for the economy, which is currently struggling to recover from a deep recession? How will schools operate this fall amid the uncertainty? And how far out are we from discovering, manufacturing, and distributing a vaccine? In this special episode of Political Economy, I explore these questions — and many more — in an online panel discussion conducted last week with Scott Gottlieb, Rick Hess, and Michael Strain.

Scott Gottlieb is a resident fellow at AEI, and he is also the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Rick Hess is a resident scholar and the director of Education Policy Studies at AEI, and he is the author of several books, including Letters to a Young Education Reformer and Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling. And Michael Strain is the John G. Searle Scholar and director of economic policy studies at AEI. He is also the author of The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It).

Many Americans think about the future with trepidation. Broadly speaking, our culture lacks a hopeful view of the future — one in which human ingenuity continues to make our lives better. So today I’m speaking with Ed Finn to discuss his work: pursuing better, more optimistic understandings of the future.

Ed is the founding director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University where he is an associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering. He is the co-editor of many books, including Future Tense Fiction and Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future.

Why are innovation and economic growth so important to well-being? What can policymakers do to maximize the benefits of this innovative dynamism going forward? I discuss these questions and more with today’s guest, Arthur Diamond.

Arthur is a professor of economics at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and he’s a senior fellow for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of “Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism,” released last year.

Should we reevaluate global supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Does a more hawkish trade policy toward China now make more sense? Today’s guest — Douglas Irwin — explores these questions and many more.

Douglas is the John French Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of both “Clashing over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy” and “Free Trade under Fire” — the fifth edition of which released this past spring.

Are techno-optimists correct that artificial intelligence will bring about a fourth industrial revolution and bring back strong productivity growth in America? My guest today, Nicholas Crafts, examines this question from a historical perspective by looking at the nature of the previous industrial revolutions and evaluating whether artificial intelligence may serve as a new general purpose technology in the same manner as steam and electrification.

Nicholas is a professor of economics and economic history at the University of Warwick, where he studies economic growth, the Industrial Revolution, and the history of general purpose technologies. He recently gave a fascinating presentation to the Bank of England, titled “AI as a GPT: An Historical Perspective.”

Why has productivity growth slowed down in the past five decades, and how big of a problem is this? How important is public support for R&D to solving this problem? And how should this R&D be dispersed by policymakers? My guest today, John Van Reenen, answers these questions and more while discussing his proposal for the US to create what he calls a “Grand Innovation Challenge Fund.”

John is the Gordon Y Billard Professor in Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Economics and a Professor of Applied Economics at MIT’s Department of Economics. He is the author of the recent Hamilton Project policy proposal: “Innovation Policies to Boost Productivity.”

Since the invention of nuclear weapons, humanity has had the power to wipe itself out. And with the rise of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, this capability is expanding over time. Beyond these risks, long-term challenges like climate change are testing our willingness to look ahead and stave off distant disasters, and our response to the COVID pandemic is not much of a reassurance that we will handle this test well. So today I’m speaking with Toby Ord, who argues that safeguarding humanity’s future from these natural and manmade threats is the defining challenge of our time.

Toby is a senior research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, where he studies the long-term future of humanity. He is the author of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, released earlier this year.

How will cities be affected in the long term by the COVID-19 pandemic? Will transit systems and real estate markets revert back to normal any time soon? And how can policymakers handle the impending state and local budget shortfalls? In today’s podcast, I discuss these questions with Nicole Gelinas.

Nicole is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, where she writes on urban economics and finance. She is also a columnist for the New York Post and the author of “After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street — and Washington.”

What kind of jobs will artificial intelligence create, and how will new technologies affect our lives — for better or for worse — going forward? Even many techno-optimists have difficulty answering questions like this with any specificity, because the future is hard to predict. So today I’m speaking with Mike Masnick to explore how technology will affect the future, with respect to employment and other topics such as content moderation.

Mike is the founder and CEO of Floor64 and the editor of the Techdirt blog. Recently, he co-edited a volume of short stories released by the Copia Institute — Working Futures: 14 Speculative Stories about the Future of Work. This collection of stories portrays a wide variety of possible worlds that technological progress could create, with both optimistic and pessimistic predictions.

Despite the best of intentions, regulations often hold back our economy, allowing entrenched interests to block innovations which would benefit consumers and promote human progress. But some companies — particularly
in the tech sector — have refused to accept this and skirt local and federal
rules in order to innovate without permission. So how much does regulation hold back innovation in America? And how are entrepreneurs challenging this trend? I’ll be exploring these questions today with Adam Thierer.

Adam is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he focuses on the public policy concerns surrounding emerging technologies. He is the author of “Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom” (2014) and “Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Governance: How Innovation Improves Economies and Governments” (2020).