To solve climate change, we need to do more than cut emissions. Almost all optimistic climate forecasts rely either on negative emissions or finding a way to mask the effects of emissions. In other words, carbon capture or some form of geoengineering. But of course, these are controversial, risky solutions. And the same can be said for other modern conservation projects, such as electrifying a river to keep out Asian Carp, or using gene-editing to combat an invasive species. These initiatives represent a new kind of environmentalism, which focuses less on reversing past human action and more on protecting the planet through more action. Today’s episode discusses this new approach with Elizabeth Kolbert.

Elizabeth is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at The New Yorker, as well as the author of several books, the most recent of which is Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, released this past February.

We have a lot to learn from the COVID pandemic. From our success in rapidly generating vaccines, to our failure to implement a widespread test-and-trace system, to Americans’ responses to lockdown orders and other public health measures, the policy debates over the past year and a half have involved trade-offs, thinking on the margin, and accounting for many measures of public well-being. In other words, understanding the COVID pandemic necessitates an understanding of economics. That’s why I’m excited to have Ryan Bourne on the podcast today to discuss his new book, Economics in One Virus: An Introduction to Economic Reasoning through COVID-19.

Ryan is the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute. Previously, he was the head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs and the head of economic research at the Centre for Policy Studies.

As the Biden administration continues to work with Congress on a massive overhaul of US infrastructure, several questions come to mind: How much should infrastructure policy focus on building new projects as opposed to maintaining and repairing our current assets? How can policymakers ensure that infrastructure is regularly maintained without difficulty? And how should promising new technologies — such as high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles — factor into future infrastructure plans? Today’s episode discusses these questions, and many more, with Rick Geddes.

Rick is a visiting scholar at AEI, where he focuses on infrastructure policy and corporate governance. He is also a professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, as well as the director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy.

As a share of GDP, federal support for science research in America has fallen from about 2 percent of GDP during the 1960s to about 0.6 percent today. Policymakers should reverse this trend in order to boost productivity growth, raise living standards, compete with Chinese innovation efforts, and manage future problems like climate change. Fortunately, Congress appears to be moving in this direction, and so I’m excited to discuss what the future of federal R&D policy should look like with Matt Hourihan.

Matt is the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where he focuses on past, present, and future federal science budgets.

While economists form a relatively strong consensus on some policy questions, they certainly don’t agree on everything. One of the more prominent examples of this is the minimum wage. Some studies find large negative employment effects from raising the minimum wage, while others find negligible or even positive effects on employment. And all economists recognize that there are trade-offs at play, but they disagree about whether the benefits of raising the minimum wage outweigh the costs. It’s a complicated question. And because of the Biden administration’s pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it’s an issue of great relevance. So I’m delighted to discuss it on today’s episode with Jeffrey Clemens.

Jeff is an associate professor of economics at the University of California San Diego, where he specializes in public finance, health economics, and labor economics. He is the author of several analyses of the minimum wage, including “The Minimum Wage and the Great Recession: Evidence of Effects on the Employment and Income Trajectories of Low-Skilled Workers” and “The Short-Run Employment Effects Of Recent Minimum Wage Changes: Evidence from the American Community Survey.”

China is often regarded as a success story of market economics, since it began lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty once the Communist Party began easing economic restrictions and opening its economy to the world. But to this day, even though it has achieved impressive economic growth for decades, China remains a totalitarian country. So here are the key questions going forward: First, how successful will China’s mixed economy be at generating growth and innovation once the low-hanging fruit of industrialization has been picked? And second, how should the United States react to the rise of China as an economic and geopolitical competitor? Today’s episode discusses these questions with David Dollar.

David Dollar is a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution and host of the Brookings trade podcast, Dollar & Sense. He is also the co-editor of China 2049: Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power, released in June of last year.

In the United States, restrictive land-use regulations prevent developers from building housing in cities throughout the country. This has led to a shortage in housing supply and exorbitantly high housing costs — particularly in high-productivity cities. So on today’s episode, Emily Hamilton explains how zoning reforms can make it easier to build housing, increase opportunity for individuals, and boost economic growth nationwide.

Emily is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, where her research focuses on urban economics and land-use policy. She’s the author of the recent report, “Opportunities for Better Federal Housing Policy: How the Biden Administration and Congress Can Improve Housing Affordability.”

Forecasting the future is difficult. It requires awareness of several technological, demographic, and geopolitical trends, as well as the ability to imagine how those trends can intersect with each other in unexpected ways. So today’s episode covers a lot of ground, including the rise of remote work, an aging population, the development of China and Africa, climate change, and the blockchain. As we exit the COVID pandemic, these are just some of the trends that will radically transform the world over the next decade. And I’m pleased to discuss them with today’s guest, Mauro F. Guillén.

Mauro is the Zandman Professor of International Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He is also the author of 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything, released in August of last year.

Since the early 1970s, Americans have seen disappointing levels of economic growth and technological progress. But the potential of artificial intelligence, gene editing, blockchain technology, clean energy, and many more innovations on the horizon provide great reason to be optimistic about the future of the US economy. I recently discussed this potential in a recent AEI online panel discussion, which I now present in podcast form.

Tyler Cowen is the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University, and he serves as chairman and faculty director of the Mercatus Center. He is the author of several books, including 2011’s The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better. Michael Strain is the director of economic policy studies here at AEI, as well as the Arthur F. Burns scholar in political economy. And he’s the author of The American Dream is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It), released last year. Catherine Tucker is the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management Science and Professor of Marketing at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She is also a cofounder of the MIT Cryptoeconomics Lab and a co-organizer of the Economics of Artificial Intelligence intiative. And Dietrich Vollrath is a professor of economics and the chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Houston. He is also the author of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy is a Sign of Success, released last April.

Since the 1980s, the United States has prioritized low inflation, to great success. Policymakers have regularly kept inflation at or below their 2-percent targets, even during periods with record-low interest rates. As a result, many observers have been — and continue to be — pretty comfortable with spending trillions of dollars on pandemic relief… and now infrastructure projects. But what if the low inflation we’ve experienced has been temporary? What if an aging workforce and diminishing returns from globalization will cause wages and prices to begin rising more steeply? That’s the argument made by today’s guests, Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan.

Charles is a financial markets professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. Manoj is the founder and chief economist of the independent macroeconomic research firm Talking Heads. They are the co-authors of “The Great Demographic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival,” released last August.

On both sides of the aisle, calls for industrial policy seem to be gaining momentum. Americans have grown more skeptical about markets in the aftermath of the Great Recession. And China’s more managed economy seems to be growing faster and rivaling the US as the technological leader of the world. Many policymakers have reacted by saying that the US government needs to embrace industrial policy and take a more hands-on approach to promoting innovation. Today’s guest, Scott Lincicome, disagrees, holding that an adoption of stronger industrial policy would be unnecessary and even counterproductive.

Scott is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Cato Institute, where he writes on international trade, industrial policy, and economic dynamism. And he is the author of the recently released policy report, “Manufactured Crisis: ‘Deindustrialization,’ Free Markets, and National Security.”

Is spending $1.9 trillion as the economy emerges from the COVID recession a wise move? At what point will policymakers begin paying for their spending initiatives? And what kinds of taxation will we engage in to collect more revenue when the time comes? On today’s episode, I discuss these questions and many more with Alex Brill.

Alex is a resident fellow at AEI, where he studies the impact of tax policy on the US economy, as well as the economic and political consequences of public policy. Previously, he served as the policy director and chief economist of the House Ways and Means Committee.

On today’s episode, Alex Nowrasteh explores the effect of immigration on cultural and political institutions in developed countries, as well as the future of immigration policy under the Biden administration.

Alex is the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He is also the coauthor, along with Benjamin Powell, of Wretched Refuse? The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions, released in December of last year.

In response to the demands of World War II, America generated an impressive amount of innovation in a short time span. Policymakers look back on this record as a model to aspire to, claiming that we “need a new Manhattan Project” to tackle the looming crises of the present. So what lessons should we take away from World War II-era innovation policy? On today’s episode, I discuss this question with Daniel P. Gross.

Daniel is an assistant professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and he’s also a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He’s the author of several papers examining innovation policy in the World War II era, the most recent of which is “Organizing Crisis Innovation: Lessons from World War II,” which he co-authored along with Bhaven Sampat.

After beating the Soviet Union in the race to the moon, America lost much of its drive to explore space for several decades. However, with the rise of private pioneers such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, this has begun to change. And as the US resumes its exploration of outer space, many questions have been raised. Can a private space economy be profitable? Do we have good reason to return to the moon and travel to Mars? And what new discoveries await us that we have yet to predict? I discussed these questions and many more in a recent AEI online panel discussion, which I now present in podcast form.

Tim Fernholz is a senior reporter at Quartz, and he is the author of the 2018 book, Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the New Space Race. Sara Seager is a professor of planetary science and physics at MIT, where she is known for her research on extrasolar planets. Stan Veuger is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at AEI, as well as a visiting lecturer of economics at Harvard University. And Matt Weinzierl is the Joseph and Jacqueline Elbling Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where he has recently launched a set of research projects focused on the commercialization of the space sector and its economic implications.

Despite wide agreement that America’s infrastructure quality is relatively low, per-unit infrastructure costs are higher in the US today compared to the rest of the world and to America 50-60 years. Why is this? Are regulations and rent-seeking to blame? Could it reflect some kind of improvement in quality? Today’s guest, Leah Brooks, provides an in-depth exploration of this topic for today’s episode.

Leah is an associate professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University, as well as the Director of the Center for Washington Area Studies. She is the co-author, along with Zachary Liscow, of the 2019 paper, “Infrastructure Costs.”

How can research institutions promote growth, other than simply spending more money on basic R&D? Today’s guest, Don Braben, argues that we need to promote scientific freedom by easing up on the strictures of peer review and the demands of obvious applicability. Only then can we enable scientists to generate more of the revolutionary discoveries that we took for granted in the twentieth century.

Don Braben is an honorary professor and vice president of research at University College London. He’s the author of several books, including Scientific Freedom: The Elixir of Civilization, which was originally published in 2008 and was, in 2020, republished by Stripe Press. Don, welcome to the podcast.

America’s university system is the envy of the world, and a major reason for this is that this higher education system is crucial to our innovative capacity. So in today’s episode, Korok Ray explains how universities promote innovation and, more importantly, what they can do to boost their contribution to the US economy even further.

Korok is an associate professor at the Mays Business School of Texas A&M University, and he is the director of the Mays Innovation Research Center. He is also the author of the recent National Affairs article, “The Innovative University.”

America’s adoption of the consumer welfare standard since the late 1970s has led to the rise of innovative Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon. Other countries, particularly in Europe, would love to have massively successful tech firms of their own, but they’re constrained in part by their more restrictive antitrust doctrines. And yet, many conservatives have begun to sound like progressives on this topic, rejecting a more laissez-faire approach to antitrust out of concern that these tech companies have acquired too much power. So today’s episode explores the current state of US antitrust doctrine, as well as the resurgence of calls to reform it, with Joshua Wright.

Josh is a law professor at George Mason University, as well as the executive director of the Global Antitrust Institute and a former member of the Federal Trade Commission. He is the co-author, along with Jan Rybnicek, of the recent National Affairs article, “A Time for Choosing: The Conservative Case Against Weaponizing Antitrust.”

With every year, artificial intelligence becomes increasingly advanced. Innovators are creating and refining applications for AI in industries ranging from health care to transportation. Many economists are optimistic about this developing technology, viewing it as a means of finally escaping the disappointing productivity growth of the past few decades. Other observers are concerned, anticipating massive job loss and disruption. So today’s interview with Darrell M. West explores the impending application of artificial intelligence in the economy, as well as the difficult public policy questions surrounding it.

Darrell is the vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, where he is also a senior fellow at the Center for Technology Innovation. He is the co-author, along with John Allen, of Turning Point: Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence.