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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robert-gordon-168x210Not only is this an historically weak recovery, but there are deeper signs of trouble. A big one: Productivity growth — a key indicator of technological innovation — has been basically flat since the Great Recession.

Are things ever going to get better? Or as singer-songwriter Merle Haggard once put it, “Are the good times really over for good?”

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SG_5840Is America smart enough? In his new book, Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own, economist Garett Jones explores the important role of national IQ in creating national prosperity. I recently sat down with him to discuss how exactly a country’s cognitive firepower translates into a better economy — and what we can do about, if anything.

Jones is the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at The Mercatus Center, and associate professor at George Mason University. He has worked on Capitol Hill, and has contributed to C-Span’s Washington Journal, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business Week, Fox Business, and the New York Times. He holds a BA from Brigham Young University, a MPA in Public Affairs from Cornell University, a MA in Political Science from UC-Berkeley, and a PhD in Economics from UC-San Diego.

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Kevin_Corinth_300x225Should you give a homeless person money or food, or just keep walking? It’s a quandary many Americans face, especially those who live in big cities. Homelessness raises other questions as well. How can we reduce the problem? How do the data misrepresent the issues? In what cities are there real “states of emergency”? And are shelters for the homeless – a seemingly obvious solution to the profile – actually effective in solving the greater social problems that homelessness embodies?

I sat down with AEI’s Kevin Corinth to get some of the answers. Kevin Corinth is a research fellow in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on homelessness and the programs and policies put in place to assist the homeless. Corinth has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Boston College and a master’s and doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, where he was also a lecturer.

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Wvt135w6People joke about the world being taken over by robots. But when someone as high profile as Steven Hawking says “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” and that “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, can’t compete, and would be superseded” by constantly improving machines, you stop joking and you start to wonder. You ask: What would a world run by robots look like? Will that world materialize in one hundred years? In fifty? How do we ensure robots, AI, and automation support our basic social and economic human needs rather than undermine them?

For that, we turn to Martin Ford, software developer, entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley-based author of The New York Times Bestselling Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future and The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future. He has a degree in a computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate business degree from the UCLA.

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fskaplanAnyone following the news knows income inequality is at the front of political debate.

New findings from Pew Research Center show that the middle class has been in steady decline since 1971, and that while median incomes for the middle class have risen 34% since 1970, upper income households have seen a 47% increase. Since 1971, each decade has a decrease in the number of middle-income households, and no one decade signals a rapid decline.

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