It’s a perennial story. The demise of mom-and-pop stores, the shuttering of small businesses across the country, the undercutting of local sellers by massive corporations — in short, the retail apocalypse. But economist Michael Mandel has looked at the data and finds a much different story. Not only is the economy adding more jobs than it’s shedding thanks to the massive online retailers allegedly wreaking havoc across the United States, these new jobs actually pay more as well.

His work cuts against the conventional wisdom, and he joined the show to explain his case. We also discuss America’s productivity problem, whether the official stats are mismeasuring it, and how we think we’ll look back on the economy 25 years from now.

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Byron Reese, author of the new book “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity,” organizes human history so far by framing it around three main inventions. We entered the first age when we learned to harness fire and language, the second when we mastered agriculture, and the third came with the invention of writing and the wheel. Now we are on the verge of a fourth age, thanks to developments in artificial intelligence, and to hear Reese tell it, this fourth age promises to be just as transformative as its predecessors.

Byron Reese is the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, and the founder of several high-tech companies.

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How permissive should US immigration policy be? What attributes should we require of the immigrants the United States does admit? And how does immigration affect those already living in the US, both native and foreign born? Reihan Salam answers all these questions and more in his new book, “Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders,” which he joined the show to discuss with me.

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute fellow. He’s also a contributing editor at The Atlantic and National Affairs, and is the coauthor with Ross Douthat of “Grand New Party: How Conservatives Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.” You can follow him on Twitter @Reihan.

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Imagine the elites of China, Turkey, Britain, and all the other great powers of the day meeting in Davos in 1600 to discuss who among them would emerge as the world’s greatest economic power over the next few centuries. None would have even considered North America, and yet it is the United States that today produces the plurality of world GDP with less than 5 percent of the world’s population. How did that happen? In the excellent new book “Capitalism in America: A History” Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge provide the answer.

Adrian recently joined me on the show to discuss his book, American and world economic history more broadly, and the lessons voters and policymakers should draw today. Adrian Wooldridge is the political editor and Bagehot columnist at The Economist and the author of “Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England, 1860–1990.” You can follow him on Twitter @adwooldridge.

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“The entitlement crisis is real, and it is worse than you think.” So argue James Capretta and Yuval Levin in a recent cover story in The Weekly Standard. As they write, the CBO projects that under plausible assumptions, the government’s cumulative debt will grow from 78 percent of GDP this year to 148 percent in 2038 and to 210 percent of GDP in 2048 — and even a total repeal of last year’s tax cuts won’t come close to mitigating that rise. To discuss how deleterious this debt load will be for the United States, and what steps can be taken to prevent it, I am joined by my AEI colleague James Capretta.

James is a resident fellow and holds the Milton Friedman Chair at AEI, where he studies health care, entitlement, and US budgetary policy. An associate director at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004, he was responsible for all health care, Social Security, welfare, and labor and education issues. You can download the episode by clicking the link above, and don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. Tell your friends, leave a review.

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Last week President Trump announced a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which he has christened USMCA — but most people refer to simply as NAFTA 2.0. President Trump understanably wants to differentiate his trade deal from the one he deemed the worst trade agreement in this country’s history, maybe ever. But many trade analysts say NAFTA 2 is not much different than NAFTA classic. One such analyst is Claude Barfield.

In this episode, we talk about the differences between the two deals: how it has improved, and the updates that make it worse (at least from a free-trade perspective). We also discuss US trade policy more generally, and close with the subject of US policy toward China.

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For several years now, we have heard economic commentators proclaim the United States had reached “full employment.” And yet the economy just kept adding jobs and the unemployment rate kept falling.

One economist who has consistently opposed that prognosis is Adam Ozimek, and it appears he’s been vindicated. So I invited him on the show to talk unemployment, wage growth, and all things economic policy. We also cover the jobs guarantee proposal, inflation, and Dr. Ozimek’s one out-of-the-box idea to boost US economic growth.

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Economic growth — and the hope of better things to come — is the religion of the modern world. Yet its prospects have become bleak. In the United States, eighty percent of the population has seen no increase in purchasing power over the last thirty years and the situation is not much better elsewhere.

So argues Daniel Cohen in “The Infinite Desire for Growth,” a whirlwind tour of the history of economic growth, from the early days of civilization to modern times. Drawing on economics, anthropology, and psychology, and thinkers ranging from Rousseau to Keynes and Easterlin, Cohen examines how a future less dependent on material gain might be considered and how, in a culture of competition, individual desires might be better attuned to the greater needs of society. He joined me on the show to discuss his argument.

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The denizens of Silicon Valley (and Seattle) have picked up a slew of nicknames: GAFA (for Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon); FAANG (add Netflix in there); or, most ominously, the Frightful Five (sub out Netflix, sub in Microsoft). The central charge is these firms are monopolizing their respective markets, and have achieved such dominance that their market positions are now unchallengable. The side effects may include dampened innovation, reduced labor power, and any number of democracy-is-in-peril concerns.

But my guest this episode, antitrust expert Nicolas Petit, argues against this alarmist case against the tech titans. Drawing from his 2016 paper, “Technology Giants, the Moligopoly Hypothesis and Holistic Competition: A Primer,” as well as new research from a forthcoming book, Petit makes the argument these “Frightful Five” firms engage in cutthroat competition with one another, benefiting the economy as a whole — and government regulation against these companies is premature.

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“If stability despite conflict is a lesson from past experience,” wrote economist and trade historian Douglas Irwin last year, “one can easily be led to conclude that the future will look much like the past and that the reciprocity period will continue for some time to come.”

But with President Trump’s trade war so far refusing to relent, is this vision of a free-trading future far too sanguine? Irwin himself joined me to discuss this question, as well as some American economic history, the most pervasive myths people believe about trade policy, and much more on the most recent episode of my podcast.

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Cutting every citizen a monthly check, regardless of whether they work, is no longer as radical an idea as it once seemed. Some form of government-ensured universal basic income — or UBI, as it is more commonly known — is now embraced by some libertarians, futurists, and (of course) socialists. But that’s not to say UBI has grown uncontroversial. It has, however, grown more politically feasible, as the Overton window continues to widen.

To discuss UBI — it’s history, its track record, and its future — I was joined by Annie Lowrey, a contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine, a former economics writer for the New York Times, and author of the new book “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.”

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The backdrop to the escalating US-China trade — and what gives it a salience our squabbles with the EU, Mexico, and Canada lack — is the sense that China is not only an economic rival but also an ideological and military threat. And, exacerbating concerns, the sense that China is rising inexorably, so much so that just as the 20th was “America’s century,” the 21st will belong to China.

So with this on the mind, it seems a good time to revisit my 2017 conversation with Asia expert Michael Auslin, author of “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region.” In this episode we discuss his book, the past and future of the Asian economies, how the US should respond to China’s rise, and much more. Find the transcript of our conversation on AEI’s blog, here.

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The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December has been credited for kick-starting economic growth and boosting workers’ wages. It’s also been blamed for enriching the already well-off at the expense of labor, and for dooming us all to a life of perpetual deficits. Its supporters tout the bonuses many firms doled out in January as evidence of its success. Its opponents point to stock buybacks and increased dividends paid out to shareholders as proof of its failure.

But what can we really say about the tax law at this point in time? To break it all down, I’m joined by AEI tax expert Alan Viard. He earned his PhD in economics from Harvard University, has worked as a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, and has forgotten more about tax policy than most people will ever know.

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Intro to econ classes usually teach students to understand the economy as the combination of labor, capital, and land. But it might be more fruitful to think of the key players as atoms, energy, and information. So says Cesar Hidalgo, an MIT professor, statistical physicist by training, and author of “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies.

In this episode, we discuss the book the Financial Times calls “the future of growth theory,” and discuss everything from economic development to America’s big tech firms to Friedrich Hayek.

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In April 2016, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Donald Trump was still just one among several contenders for the GOP nomination, I talked with AEI trade expert Claude Barfield about trade deficits, the WTO, US-China relations, and more. Two years later, our conversation may be even more relevant now than it was then.

Claude Barfield is a resident scholar in international trade policy, science, and technology at the American Enterprise Institute. Before coming to AEI, he was on the faculties of Yale and the University of Munich, and worked at the National Journal; in the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee; and as a consultant to the office of the US Trade Representative.

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The United States is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis, especially in its high-productivity cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. In addition to harming individuals, this is also having a deleterious effect on the country’s economic growth. But what is behind this problem, and what can be done to remedy it? Lynn Fisher joins the podcast to discuss.

Dr. Fisher recently joined AEI as a resident scholar and co-director of the Center on Housing Markets and Finance. Before this she served on the faculty at Washington State University and the University of North Carolina, and was director of the Housing Affordability Initiative at MIT.

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This episode’s guest advocates abolishing private property as we know it and ditching one person democracy, one vote democracy. And he does this in the name of saving capitalism and a just, democratic society.

His name is Glen Weyl, co-author with Eric Posner of the new book “Radical Markets,” and he joins me to discuss his main arguments and convince me such radical steps are necessary at a time of steady economic growth and falling unemployment. Agree or not, it’s a fascinating discussion.

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With the United States and China trading threats of escalating tariffs, the world waits to see whether these barbs become a full-fledged trade war between the two largest economies. The Trump administration claims its actions are necessary to deter China from continuing its predatory trade behavior — an objective today’s guest, Derek Scissors, agrees is a worthwhile pursuit — but he doubts whether the means Trump has chosen can achieve this end.

Over the course of our conversation we discuss the likely impact of Trump’s promised tariffs, the different ways China cheats the global trading system, whether the US should have allowed China to join the WTO in the first place, and much more. Derek Scissors is a resident scholar here at AEI, the chief economist of the China Beige Book, the author of the China Global Investment Tracker, and an all-around expert on US-China relations.

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Machine learning is something new under the sun: a technology that builds itself. Right now we have limited algorithms with limited potential, but, if it exists, the Master Algorithm could derive all knowledge in the world from data. Inventing it would be one of the greatest advances in the history of science, speeding up the progress of knowledge across the board and changing the world in ways we can barely begin to imagine.

So says Pedro Domingos, professor of computer science at the University of Washington and author of the book “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World.” He joined the podcast to discuss his book and the possible utopian and dystopian futures of AI.

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For the 100th episode of the Political Economy podcast, James Pethokoukis sat down with Michael Strain and Stan Veuger during the Ricochet – AEI Podcast Summit in Washington, DC.

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