Is the US falling behind China and the world in innovation and technology? Why doesn’t America expand public funding for scientific research? And what stops the government and private sector from investing in ideas that could eventually be worth billions? On this episode, economics professor Jonathan Gruber discusses his new book “Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream.”

Jonathan Gruber is the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT. Jonathan has long been involved in crafting public health policy, and is considered a key architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare.

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There are 7 comments.

  1. Joe D. Lincoln

     So, does this guy have any opinions on the deficit?

    • #1
    • May 21, 2019, at 1:06 PM PDT
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  2. Joe D. Lincoln

    Ah yeah, what we need to do is spend massive amounts of research money on clean energy, even though serious problems from global warming won’t hit us for a coupe hundred years and we will have fusion power in less than 50 years. Maybe, I can pay even more taxes via a carbon tax to help fund this amazing and necessary research.

    • #2
    • May 21, 2019, at 1:17 PM PDT
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  3. Cato Rand Reagan

    I really think you should have challenged him on cherry picking.

    It’s fine to say a $3BN investment in the human genome project has been a huge home run. Great and no doubt true. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether we should invest $200BN or $300BN/year in a widespread portfolio of ideas. A lot of investment portfolios have a big winner here or there. Heck, if you go to the casino often enough you’ll have some big winner nights. I once won $17K in an evening at the blackjack table at Harrah’s in New Orleans. Does that mean I should give up my day job for blackjack?

    Those big winners – viewed in isolation – tell you not one thing about the wisdom of or the returns on the strategy or the portfolio.

    Venture capital funds famously lose on most of their investments and rely for their portfolio level returns on a small percentage of their investments producing out sized returns. That works sometimes, but a lot of venture funds bomb and close and a lot of would be venture fund managers fail and go do something else – because the market disciplines them. It’s a very risky business model and if they don’t produce, they can’t raise more investment money.

    The funding Gruber advocates is essentially very early stage venture funding and it seems more than a little unlikely that the political process is going to do a better job allocating that investment capital than the private sector, and so it’s a safe bet that a fair amount of it will go for naught. Fine – if the the returns on the human genome project like home runs in the portfolio are large enough to make the whole thing make sense in the aggregate – but who’s going to discipline the government investors with no market discipline? What are the odds this doesn’t become just another government trough that the rent seekers feed at?

    • #3
    • May 21, 2019, at 2:09 PM PDT
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  4. Duane Oyen Member

    Joe D. (View Comment):

    Ah yeah, what we need to do is spend massive amounts of research money on clean energy, even though serious problems from global warming won’t hit us for a coupe hundred years and we will have fusion power in less than 50 years. Maybe, I can pay even more taxes via a carbon tax to help fund this amazing and necessary research.

    Basic research is incredibly cheap, and the Feds are really the only source- do you really want to eliminate phone competition to re-start Bell Labs?

    The problem has been when they go from basic research to funding product implementation (e.g., Solyndra).

    • #4
    • May 21, 2019, at 2:21 PM PDT
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  5. mildlyo Member

    This all sounds so familiar. 

    “Give me billions to spend on smart guys thinking up new stuff. I’ll take a cut and spread it around. I don’t understand anything these guys will be doing, but did I mention that my cut will be come off the top?”

    • #5
    • May 21, 2019, at 8:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Joe D. Lincoln

    mildlyo (View Comment):

    This all sounds so familiar.

    “Give me billions to spend on smart guys thinking up new stuff. I’ll take a cut and spread it around. I don’t understand anything these guys will be doing, but did I mention that my cut will be come off the top?”

    Did anyone say ‘Beltway Bandit’!

    • #6
    • May 22, 2019, at 6:19 AM PDT
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  7. Joe D. Lincoln

    Duane Oyen (View Comment):

    Joe D. (View Comment):

    Ah yeah, what we need to do is spend massive amounts of research money on clean energy, even though serious problems from global warming won’t hit us for a coupe hundred years and we will have fusion power in less than 50 years. Maybe, I can pay even more taxes via a carbon tax to help fund this amazing and necessary research.

    Basic research is incredibly cheap, and the Feds are really the only source- do you really want to eliminate phone competition to re-start Bell Labs?

    The problem has been when they go from basic research to funding product implementation (e.g., Solyndra).

    I don’t see where I said I was against funding research and basic science in general. I am however against funding ‘clean energy’ projects that don’t have something to do with nuclear power, and I am very against a carbon tax (or any other new tax) – almost to the point of joining a revolution. How about instead of raising taxes we find some expenditures to cut.

    • #7
    • May 22, 2019, at 6:22 AM PDT
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