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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Entitlement programs, policies fighting discrimination of specific classes of workers such as working parents or the disabled, the government issuing tax credits to ensure FDR’s dream of freedom from want. It all sounds fair and good, right? But what happens when the evidence – contrary to reveries dreamed up by American would-be Scandianvians – shows that these policies hurt employment and can prevent workforce re-entry? If your goal is stimulating wealth and economic growth for everyone, rather than providing wealth redistribution for a few, these welfare programs seem off the mark. Are there market oriented approaches to make work work better for Americans?

I spoke with Stan Veuger about this. Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI, where his research is in political economy and public finance. Currently, he is also a visiting lecturer of economics at Harvard University for the 2016 fall term.

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One pillar of the Democratic platform this election is universal pre-K, lauded by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and followers as a necessary improvement to an “embarrassment” of an early childhood education system and necessary to ensure every child has “the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential” – not to mention get parents of young children back into the workforce. While the GOP platform included no such commitment, many early contenders in the race as state governors had accepted federal funds for early childhood education.

But what exactly is the research landscape of early childhood education? Is there any evidence that federally funded pre-K will be a magic salve for families across the country? And more generally, what does government need to do, and what can government do, to make sure children are well cared for in their most vulnerable years?

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We heard a lot this election cycle, from the Democrats especially, about making college education affordable if not free. And it seems the media is full of stories of students graduating with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and in this economy, no clear job path to allow them to pay it off. Meanwhile, public university tuitions are rising to unprecedented levels, levels on par with their private counterparts, while private institutions around the country are going belly up. How do we fix this?

Jason Delisle is a resident fellow at AEI where he studies higher education financing with an emphasis on student loan programs. He started out on Capitol Hill, working for Representative Thomas Petri and then the Senate Committee on the Budget. Before joining AEI, he was the director of the Federal Education Budget Project at New America.

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Is America coming apart? Some days, it certainly seems so. Take the tumultuous 2016 election cycle, and add to it Brexit, fears over globalization and automation, a reaction on the left against Wall Street and the big banks, and a million other news items, and you have a brew that smells of a spoiling American — maybe even Western — economic, social, political, and cultural order. If America and the West are being exposed for their divisions between mainstream and elite, between those disenchanted by the 21st century and those eager to embrace it, we will need to pull some seriously innovative public policy and cultural levers to fix the situation. Will something like the universal basic income do the trick? What are we not thinking of that could?Few are better poised to answer these questions than award-winning intellectual Dr. Charles Murray, who seemed to prophecy many 2016 phenomena in his 2012 book Coming Apart:The State of White America, 1960-2010.

 

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It is one thing to talk about how robots will change economics, or how they might take our jobs. But how will they change our human society? What will it be like to live with robots, who may be vastly superior to us intellectually if not also in other ways? What can we predict?

Robin Hanson has a new book out just to this effect, called The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth, available on Amazon.

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The twenty-first century economy is a rapidly evolving creature. What with automation, driverless cars, drones, aviation, the app economy, and social media, among other things, how we live and think about economic output is being transformed — causing no end of questions about labor market productivity. You’d think we’re living in an age where such economic development and creativity go unrestricted by the hands of government. Yet government is attempting to regulate it. When you read a new study out of theMercatus Center that government has regulated innovation out of the economy to the tune of $4 trillion less growth from 1980 to 2012, you wonder: what would attempted regulation of these exciting new industries lead to? What will America lose?

NQfOz2Kf_400x400Here to discuss these sectors and the specter of government regulation is Eli Dourado, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program. He specializes in Internet governance, intellectual property, cryptocurrency, Internet security, and the economics of technology. He has written for The New York TimesThe Washington PostForeign PolicyThe GuardianArs Technica, and Wired, among other outlets, and is a member of the State Department’s International Telecommunication Advisory Committee and has served on several U.S. delegations to UN treaty and policy conferences.

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1099a59Recently quite a lot has been made of the tech world’s involvement in politics — from accusations that social media sites such asFacebook are politically biased, to questions over certain Silicon Valley leaders’ endorsements, to wondering whether VP picks could sway these very influential donors and public figures to one candidate or another. Some figures on the right bemoan that Silicon Valley tends to go blue. However, Silicon Valley boasts a unique culture that emerges from an environment of competition, innovation, and collaboration. As my guest Greg Ferenstein has written, these “hippies who dig capitalism and science” – many of them millennials – are hard to label as Democrat or Republican. They go with the public policies that make their ventures possible.

So what is the “political philosophy” of Silicon Valley? And what do these tech leaders want from public policy? Here to discuss is Greg Ferenstein, a California based writer, editor of the Ferenstein Wire, and author of The Age Of Optimists, a free book on Silicon Valley’s political endgame, available on Medium.

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Almost 200 years after Mary Shelley made AI an object of fear and awe in Frankenstein, humanity is looking at a proliferation of super-smart creations: robots. As tech and publishing guru Kevin Kelly writes in his brand new book The Inevitable, out in June, automated technology of all sorts – from industrial to humanoid to seemingly harmless conveyors of “artificial smartness” – will soon transform our lives. (Some already have, like your calculator, the automatic braking in your cars, or Siri). But need we fear it? Will AI take our jobs away? Or will robots, by handling all the mechanics and rote work necessary for economic productivity, liberate us to be more creative, caring and “humanly intelligent”? What, in the end, can humans do that machines cannot?

KK4Aug15I sat down with Kevin Kelly to get some answers, as he lays them out in his new book.

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bio_pic3Just this week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in a series of tweets, announced its plan to reach Mars in unmanned missions by 2018. While NASA has announced its own plan for landing humans there by 2030, Musk is not alone among private entrepreneurs – Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson included — aggressively advocating for more R&D into space exploration. And these innovators are not just thinking about exploration, but serious colonization. In Musk’s words: “It’s a fundamental decision we have to make as a civilization. Mars is the next, natural step. In fact, it’s the only planet we really have a shot at establishing a self-sustaining city on.”

Sounds like the stuff of science fiction is on its way to becoming science fact. To get our heads around these developments and what the next steps in space exploration could look like, I spoke with Allen Steele, an award winning writer whose most recent book, Arkwright, was published in March. Arkwright, all too timely given Musk’s high-profile announcement, follows the fictional Arkwright Foundation through multiple generations, from its founding by wealthy science fiction writer Nathan Arkwright, as the foundation builds a human colony beyond Earth.

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Trade and trade partnerships hit the American public in a big way this past summer in the form of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, with voices on right and left chiming in on a deal positioned as President Obama’s NAFTA. Signed this past February by twelve nations representing 40% of the world economy, it produced a wide variety of opinions even within my home base at the American Enterprise Institute.

But China – one half of the world’s two economic superpowers — wasn’t part of the TPP, and Donald Trump’s campaign trail emphasis on failed American deal-making seems to stoke popular fears that trade with that country hurts the American worker. So did “trade [make[ America great,” as one CEO opined in the WSJ? “Are Trade Agreements Good for Americans”? Is America losing a trade war that will see China crowned the world’s strongest economy?

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Earlier this week Californian legislators reached a “landmark deal” to become the first state to proceed with a $15 minimum wage, the fifteenth to initiate minimum wage increases this year. While some California municipalities had already moved in this direction, this measure would mean a raise for one in three California workers. And in some low-wage areas still struggling post-recession, it would mean a raise for one in two workers. But in the country’s most populous state – where the economic recovery has been almost completely a product of Silicon Valley – many fear this massive experiment will devastate already weak sectors and the general business climate, and mean major job losses for those who need jobs most.

To figure out just what the prognosis is for California, I talked with my AEI colleague Michael R. Strain. Strain is the deputy director of economic policy studies and resident scholar at AEI, focusing on labor economics, applied microeconomics, public finance, and social policy. He publishes regularly in academic journals and policy journals, is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, and often writes for The New York Times, National Review, The Atlantic, and other publications. Prior to AEI, he worked at the US Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University.

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Polls show Americans are skeptical about tax cuts, free trade, and may even be warming to socialism (at least in the Democratic Party). Is free-market capitalism still considered the best path to prosperity here in the U.S.? To find out, I chatted with capitalism evangelist Larry Kudlow, CNBC’s senior contributor and previously host of “The Kudlow Report” on CNBC. He also hosts the nationally syndicated “The Larry Kudlow Show” on WABC Radio and is co-host of the “Money and Politics” podcast here on Ricochet. Among the topics we covered: Donald Trump-onomics, tax policy, and the future of the GOP.

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zhong_weifengChina often seems to be the only country that can possibly compete with or overtake the US in economic horsepower. This isn’t just international opinion; the Chinese seem pretty optimistic about how they are doing too. In 2015, 90% of Chinese citizens ranked their economy as good or very good, and 88% think their children will be better off than they are.

But will this last any longer? Given recent movements in the market and the Chinese government’s suppression (maybe even alteration) of crucial economic data, it seems like a real possibility things are taking a turn for the worse.

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