Americans pride themselves on being exceptional. And one of the qualities that makes this nation exceptional is its proclivity to innovate. But from whence does America’s unique capacity for producing inventors arise? To discuss this question, I’m joined by Kevin Baker, author of America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World.

Kevin Baker is a renowned historical fiction novelist, a frequent contributor to various newspapers and magazines, and a 2017 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship.

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Welfare, entitlements, safety net—these terms are often used interchangeably, but they have different connotations and stigmas attached to them, and people often use them to describe different things. To help us navigate this complex web of federal programs, I’m joined by AEI fellow Angela Rachidi.

Before joining AEI, Dr. Rachidi served as a deputy commissioner in New York City’s Department of Social Services, and spent nearly a decade researching benefit programs for low-income individuals. In this episode we cover the state of the safety net today, lessons learned from her time in New York, why we don’t just copy the Scandinavian system, the arguments for and against a guaranteed income or jobs program, and much more

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2017 saw a meteroic rise in the value of cryptocurrencies — followed by a disappointing start to 2018. Here to explain the mechanisms and purpose behind these new cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, as well as commonly-used but little-understood words like blockchain, is Jerry Brito.

Jerry Brito is the executive director of Coin Center, a research and advocacy organization that focuses on the public policy implications of cryptocurrencies. He was also a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University, and he is the co-author of the book Bitcoin: A Primer for Policymakers.

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Americans are no longer moving. And that’s a problem for the economy, adversely affecting everything from productivity growth, to income inequality, to monetary policy. At least, that’s the argument of law professor David Schleicher, author of the recent Yale Law Journal article, “Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation,” an insightful study of how state and local governments are hindering labor market mobility, why that’s a problem, and what can be done about it.

Professor Schleicher is an expert in election law, land use, local government law, and urban development, among other fields, and he writes frequently for both academic journals and more popular outlets such as The Atlantic and Slate.

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Have poverty levels and inequality in the US soared in the past quarter century, or are we just looking at them through the wrong lens? Economist Bruce Meyer joins the podcast to discuss his research on income inequality, the earned income tax credit, and the best methods for reducing poverty.

Bruce D. Meyer is a visiting scholar here at AEI, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, and a fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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The Wall Street Journal has described Hal Varian as the Adam Smith of Googlenomics. As the tech giant’s chief economist, he revolutionized Google’s business strategy, and is known now as perhaps the most prominent skeptic of America’s official, sluggish productivity numbers. He joined the podcast to discuss the tech industry, the future of the economy, and much more.

In addition to serving as Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian is a professor emeritus at the University of Berkeley and a fellow at the Guggenheim Foundation, the Econometric Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He’s also the author of two economics textbooks, and the co-author of the bestselling business strategy book, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy.

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Over the last few decades, the American economy has seen stagnating growth and increasing inequality. Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles think they have a partial explanation: The economy has been captured by the rich and well-connected. In this episode, we discuss their new book, The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality. We cover a lot of policy ground: Occupational licensing and zoning restrictions, financial regulations and subsidies and patent reform, and federalism and public choice. We close by discussing how their reforms can be put into practice when none are being loudly or broadly championed by either the left of right.

Brink Lindsey is the libertarian-leaning Vice President of the Niskanen Center and former Vice President for research at the Cato Institute. Steve Teles ia a liberal-leaning professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and a Senior Fellow at the Niskanen Center.

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The world is on its way to ending traffic, and that’s in part thanks to the pioneering work of transportation researcher and thought leader David Levinson. In this episode, we discuss how autonomous vehicles and other breakthrough tech will affect the future of transportation, and how infrastructure policy can keep up with the coming changes. We also discuss whether America has reached peak car ownership, if human driving will be eventually banned, and if we are culturally ready for a driverless future.

David Levinson teaches at the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney, he’s an honorary affiliate of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, and he serves as an adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota.

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In the new book, “WTF: What’s the Future, and Why It’s Up to Us,” founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media Tim O’Reilly argues Silicon Valley and the innovation it’s fostering can be either a fount of amazement or a source of dismay. The direction technology leads our society is ultimately up to us, the policymakers and the public they represent. He joined the podcast to discuss how Americans should respond to the coming changes, and whether our government is up to the task.

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“Start-up” has become a buzzword in the 21st century, but according to a new book, start up culture has been endemic to American culture since the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company. In Americana: A 400 Year History Of American Capitalism, author Bhu Srinivasan contends it was this spirit of innovation and ambition that drove American economic growth and helped make the US into the superpower it is now. He joined the podcast to discuss his book and what history’s lessons can teach policymakers today.

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Technological innovation is already transforming the economy, and this change will accelerate in the future. To discuss what these changes mean for business and society at large, I’m joined by MIT’s Andrew McAfee.

Andrew McAfee is a principal research scientist at MIT, where he studies how technology is changing business, the economy, and society. He is also the co-author of several books, including: Race Against the Machine and The Second Machine Age, and his most recent one: Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future.

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As the next generation of robots arrive in the workplace, will they enable workers or replace them? According to MIT’s Daron Acemoglu, one of the most frequently cited economists in the world, this distinction is the difference between technology that raises workers’ wages versus tech that merely reduces overall employment and wage growth.

Daron Acemoglu is a professor of economics at MIT, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy Magazine, and co-author of Why Nations Fail. He joins me today to discuss his research and what technological innovation means for the future of work.

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Why did the West grow rich in the 18th century after thousands of years of nearly zero economic growth? Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University, contends that it was the culture in Western Europe that sparked the Great Enrichment.

Joel Mokyr is the author of the recent book, A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy. He joins me on the podcast to discuss his argument, what the lessons of economic history can teach us about the future of innovation, and whether the techno-optimists or -pessimists are right about the future.

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Marriage is one of society’s oldest institutions, and research suggests its importance hasn’t faded with time. Here to discuss the numerous benefits of marriage, as well as its role in the “Millennial Success Sequence,” is Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox.

 

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Looking at Silicon Valley today, you might think the US is poised for a technological explosion. That’s certainly animating many of the fears of mass joblessness once artificial intelligence arrives in the workplace, and why many people are beginning to advocate a universal basic income. But my guest today says these techno-optimists have far too rosy of an outlook.

Fredrik Erixon is an economist and the director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, a think tank based in Brussels. He’s also the co-author of the recent book “The Innovation Illusion: How So Little is Created by So Many Working So Hard.” He joins me to discuss why productivity growth has been so lackluster, why he thinks returning to the glory days of dynamism will be so difficult, and how policymakers should deal with this.

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The US economy appears to be stuck at around 2% GDP growth, much less than the 3.5% it has averaged between World War II and the Great Recession. One reason is that productivity growth – that is, output per worker — is barely rising. Why is the American economy apparently not as productive as it used to be? Are we, despite tech giants such as Apple and Google, somehow less innovative than in the past? If so, why are we so worried about robots taking our jobs?

To help us answer those questions and others, I’m delighted to have as my guest today Bret Swanson, an AEI visiting fellow and president of Entropy Economics, a strategic research firm specializing in technology, innovation, and the global economy. Bret is the co-author of the recent report, “The Coming Productivity Boom,” and he joins us today to discuss why he thinks much higher productivity growth is just around the corner.

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Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan constantly. They sing his praises every chance they get, and seem to believe there is no public policy problem that a good dose of Reaganism can’t fix. But has the Right got Reagan wrong all this time? In his new book, The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism, Henry Olsen argues the classic conception of Reagan as an arch-libertarian on economic policy is misguided. Only by understanding the real Reagan can Republicans forge a lasting coalition capable of governing America well into the future.

Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how to address the electoral challenges facing modern American conservatism, while staying true to conservative principles. Before joining the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Mr. Olsen most recently served from 2006 to 2013 as vice president and director of the National Research Initiative at AEI. He previously worked as vice president of programs at the Manhattan Institute and president of the Commonwealth Foundation. His work has been featured in many prominent publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Review, and The Weekly Standard.

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We’ve grown accustomed to hearing a lot about the one percent. Yet it’s the “favored fifth” – the top 20 percent of the income distribution – that Brookings Senior Fellow Richard Reeves asserts is the greater problem. “The rhetoric of ‘We are the 99 percent,’” Reeves writes, “has in fact been dangerously self-serving.” From supporters of Elizabeth Warren to Donald Trump, upper middle class Americans everywhere claim they want to unrig the system. But far more than they’d like to admit, they are the ones who are rigging it. From exclusionary zoning policy to the mortgage-interest deduction to the 529 college savings plans, the upper middle class constructs glass floors for their children, perpetuating inequality and impeding social mobility for the remaining 80 percent of Americans. Richard Reeves joins me to discuss all this and his recent book, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About it.

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Has America ever had a true conservative tradition? We are here with Patrick Deneen to discuss that question, and his book, Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents.

Patrick J. Deneen holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University. From 1995-1997 he was Speechwriter and Special Advisor to the Director of the United States Information Agency. He has held professorships at Princeton University and Georgetown University, before joining the faculty of Notre Dame in Fall 2012.

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With increasingly populist figures gaining traction across the world (even winning or nearly winning major elections), it seems as if the values of western liberalism are on the decline. But are these leaders and their policies the direct cause of populism, or rather a manifestation of years of brewing anxiety? Here to discuss this and his recent book, “The Retreat of Western Liberalism,” is Financial Times columnist and commentator Edward Luce.

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