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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Ajit Pai. Net Neutrality. Spectrum. These and other buzzwords are now circulating not just in the mouths of policy wonks in Washington, but in viral videos, on major network evening talk shows, in Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets.

But seriously, what should tech policy look like for the next generation, or two, or three? Can we continue to have a system largely based on 1930s regulation? 

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With a bill having narrowly passed the House last week to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Senate is revving up for negotiations, reconciliation, and fair to say, a hard journey to a finished product. What does the road look like?

Here to discuss is Ben Ippolito, a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where his research is in public finance and health economics. His recent work has focused on the behavior of health care providers, price regulation, and health care financing.

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After 100 some days of the Trump presidency, the Republican Party and the conservative coalition, broadly understood, are still in flux. Was this election a Pyrrhic victory? Is that even the right question to ask?

Yuval Levin writes in a new essay, “Conservatism in an Age of Alienation”, that “… the problems exposed by this election year call out for a modernized, self-critical, twenty-first-century conservatism—a conservatism that is uncertain if this election has marked a victory or a defeat, and is therefore both aggressive in pursuit of opportunities and alert to dangers.” We discussed this, the future of the movement, and much more in this wide-ranging episode of the podcast.

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The French presidential election might be the last act in a three part play featuring Part I: the Brexit referendum and Part II: the US election. Forces acting against a globalized status quo seem to have played a big role in I and II. Regardless of the outcomes of Brexit and the US election, the French election held this past Sunday, and its final run off on May 7, will have major implications for the future of the Eurozone and world economy, and may add fuel to other fires across the Eurozone – Italy in particular. What do we need to know? What sorts of ripple effects will this economic and political uncertainty have in the US and for the Trump administration?

To answer these, I talked with Desmond Lachman, who joined AEI after serving as a managing director and chief emerging market economic strategist at Salomon Smith Barney. He previously served as deputy director in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Policy Development and Review Department and was active in staff formulation of IMF policies. He has a PhD in economics from Cambridge University.

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Some have argued that we are at Peak America – as in, we’ve hit a plateau economically. What kinds of repercussions does that have for culture and American society more generally? And has postwar American culture itself contributed to decreasing economic dynamism? Tyler Cowen addresses these questions in his new book, “The Complacent Class: The Self-defeating Quest for the American Dream.”

Tyler Cowen is the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University, and serves as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. With colleague Alex Tabarrok, Cowen is coauthor of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and cofounder of the online educational platform Marginal Revolution University.

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Is this really the “Asian Century”? Many have conjectured yes, that China and the Far East as a whole could overtake America, in military might and economic power, if not in global cultural influence. But how realistic is that? Michael Auslin argues in The End of the Asian Century we should be less sure what is in store.  

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in Asian regional security and political issues.

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With a new administration, we have reason to hope that the welfare state may change, morph, make it more simple for us to serve the impoverished and truly marginalized, rather than stay looking like this mess. What is promising, and what is old news?

Robert Doar is the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he focuses on the employment, health, and well-being of low-income Americans and their children.

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In 2013, Joel Kotkin described the state of California as a new bastion of neofeudalism, marked by class division into the serfs, Americans dependent on government for their welfare, the yeomanry or small business owners and middle class citizens, the clerisy of government officials, media elite, and the Ivory Tower, and the oligarchs at the top, in California’s case the rulers of tech and finance. With government policies aimed to help each class that often instead solidify class barriers by giving each different group its own set of handouts, how on earth do we achieve upward mobility for all Americans and create the kind of dynamic economy that rewards risk and pays dividends for all Americans?

I spoke with Joel Kotkin about just these things. He is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism.

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It has been nearly twenty years since the prescient publication of “The Future and its Enemies,” in which author Virginia Postrel painted a picture of a world riven by clash between “dynamism” and “stasism”, between those open-minded enough to seek change, creativity, and free market disruption for the betterment of humanity, and between those who would plan, control, and otherwise restrict the flow of goods, ideas, and people.

I chatted with her about how our politics and economy look today, and what we need to do to remain dynamists in an increasingly stasist world.

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It was “the paper that shook the world of economics,” according to BloombergThe paper, written by David Autor, David Dorn and my guest today, Gordon Hanson, introduced the “China trade shock” into the lexicon and gave the narratives of disintegrating American manufacturing and loss of American jobs – whether seen in campaign trail rhetoric, or in books like Hillbilly Elegy – a hard economic edge. So, now that we know that the China Shock happened, that it dramatically cut American employment, that even those who lost jobs went on welfare and those who kept them took permanent pay cuts, the question is: what now?

Gordon Hanson specializes in the economics of international trade, international migration and foreign direct investment. He holds the Pacific Economic Cooperation Chair in International Economic Relations at UC San Diego, and has faculty positions in the Department of Economics and GPS, where he also is director of the Center on Global Transformation. He is the acting dean of the School and is presently a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and co-editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

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Throughout the recent election, politicians painted Wall Street banks as the reigning lords of the American economy, such that Bernie Sanders urged we break up the banks in order to protect the little guy, the American Main Street. Rana Foroohar argues that this trend of “financialization” has incentivized companies to engineer their balance sheets and their bottom lines – corporate short-termism — to the detriment of real job creation and long term growth. Hillary Clinton would agree. We discussed.

Foroohar was an assistant managing editor at Time and the magazine’s economics columnist, and starts soon at the Financial Times as chief business columnist and associate editor. She is also a global economic analyst for CNN.

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As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to enter office and kick off his 100 days, health care reform is a top priority for many voters and for many Republicans in Congress. Whether this means a complete “Repeal and replace” overhaul, or a more gradual transition, only time will tell. In the interim, a record 700,000 people signed up on HealthCare.Gov in mid-December, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, trying to guarantee coverage for 2017.

James C. Capretta holds the Milton Friedman chair at AEI. From 2001 to 2004, he was an assistant director at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, where he was responsible for all health care, Social Security, welfare, and labor and education issues. He has also worked as a senior health policy analyst at the US Senate Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, and was a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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When we think about our collective economic future, is it dismal or dazzling? Or a bit of both? Chris Kutarna and Ian Goldin argue that we stand on the precipice of transformational change, the likes of which we have not seen since the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, so once in every 500 years. We discussed this and all the paradigm-breaking implications for politics, technology, and the human experience.

Chris Kutarna is a Fellow at the Oxford Martin School. He earned a doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford. One time a consultant with BCG, he is a two-time Governor General’s Medallist, a Sauvé Fellow and Commonwealth Scholar. His new book isAge of Discovery, written with Ian Goldin, who is the Oxford University Professor of Globalisation and Development and a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, and a Professorial Fellow at Oxford’s Balliol College.

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Cash is king, right? There is, after all, some $4,200 in cash circulating for every person in the US, and that’s outside financial establishments. But when is the last time you used cash? Studies show 50% of us carry $20 or fewer in our wallets. How practical will paper currency remain, especially in the age of rising digital currencies?

To find out, I chatted with economist Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University. From 2001–2003, he was Chief Economist at the IMF. His 2009 book with Carmen Reinhart This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly examined patterns and similarities in severe financial crises. His fascinating new book, The Curse of Cash (September 2016), argues we should dramatically cut the world supply of cash to cut down illegal activity and help the economy.

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Democrats often seem obsessed with income and wealth inequality. They blame it for weak economic growth and stagnant middle-class incomes. Plus, many simply don’t like the idea of it.

But are there some big positives to inequality? That’s the argument made in The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class, a new book by Ed Conard, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a founding partner at Bain Capital.

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Ever wonder why some ideas stick, become successful technologies, make a lot of money and embed themselves into our daily lives… and others don’t? Okay, we can generalize and say people fear novelty; maybe there are institutions and groups threatened, and unwilling to overcome inertia and “how business is done” to move along with the latest in science. But is there a more systematic way to understand these forces, and a way we can capture them in the service of technological development and ultimately human betterment?

Calestous Juma may have the answer in his latest book, Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. He is a Professor of International Development and the Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard JFK School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

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The American dream is a fundamental component of our folklore and our policy goals. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may not be technically part of the Constitution, but when America became a beacon of economic mobility for the world in the nineteenth century, Thomas Jefferson’s creed might as well have become the shared DNA of a multi-ethnic, multi-creed, geographically dispersed nation.

All that life, liberty, and happiness, it takes a lot of hard work. But could it be that the American dream is actually not being lived in America anymore? Could it be alive and well, not in our free market, diverse, high stress, high opportunity culture but… in Scandinavia?

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It has been over twenty years since Clayton Christensen proposed the theory of disruptive innovation in the pages of the Harvard Business Review. Our economy has undergone multiple transformations since the 1990s, and his new book, Competing Against Luck, promises to rewrite how businesses tackle innovation by proposing a new approach to driving and predicting innovation. It’s called “Jobs theory”, and he joined me to discuss this and more.

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What will history ultimately record as the most dramatic industrial revolution? Ryan Avent makes his case in The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century that we are living through it. According to him, the nineteenth century, while offering crucial lessons in how such moments undermine and eventually force a transformation across socioeconomic life, will be nothing compared to what comes next.

So what comes next? Take a listen to our conversation

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