Episodes
Rivaling even the death toll of COVID-19, opioid abuse has wreaked havoc in countless American communities. Some have suggested that these deaths are the result of an economy that left Americans behind and feeling trapped. In their desperation, they reached to oxycontin and fentanyl to cope with the insecurity of a global economy. But is this the full story? My guest today is Ed Glaeser, whose analysis offers a different account. Ed is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard...
Published 07/21/21
The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed an economic downturn on the United States, forcing workers and businesses to adapt. Now that Americans are getting vaccinated and the country is opening up, what is the state of the US economy? How has the pandemic — and our public policy responses to it — affected the labor market? Has the pandemic brought about new opportunities and entrepreneurship that will boost productivity going forward? Today, Michael Strain returns to the Political Economy podcast to...
Published 07/14/21
Is economic growth compatible with environmentalism? One key to answering this question is clean, renewable energy. The cheaper it becomes, the easier it is to reduce our impact on the planet while still raising living standards for people around the world. So what does the future of the energy industry look like? How affordable have solar and wind energy become? And how should that influence our willingness to embrace a more optimistic vision for humanity? Today's episode discusses these...
Published 07/07/21
America's biggest tech companies have revolutionized work, entertainment, and just about every aspect of life. But some in Washington are raising concerns about Big Tech, hoping to make the tech sector more competitive using antitrust action. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are seen as too powerful, anticompetitive, or politically biased. Today, I'm joined by Mark Jamison to discuss the possibility of antitrust action against some of our biggest companies. Mark is the director and...
Published 06/30/21
Milton Friedman famously argued that the social responsibility of a company is to maximize its profits. Today, Friedman’s argument is coming under fire from both sides of the aisle. Shareholder capitalism is viewed with suspicion, and many Americans think workers and consumers are getting a raw deal. Greedy business practices are enriching the few but leaving the rest of us behind, the narrative goes. But are the interests of shareholders and the interests of workers and consumers really...
Published 06/23/21
Should humanity become a space-faring species? Should we colonize the moon, Mars, and beyond? The vast benefits to society that could come from embracing this final frontier are not fully known, which is very exciting. At the same time, however, we do not fully understand the risks involved with this endeavor either. How certain can we really be that exploring space is the best path forward? Today’s guest, Daniel Deudney, is confident that it is not the right path — and that we should focus...
Published 06/16/21
To solve climate change, we need to do more than cut emissions. Almost all optimistic climate forecasts rely either on negative emissions or finding a way to mask the effects of emissions. In other words, carbon capture or some form of geoengineering. But of course, these are controversial, risky solutions. And the same can be said for other modern conservation projects, such as electrifying a river to keep out Asian Carp, or using gene-editing to combat an invasive species. These initiatives...
Published 06/09/21
We have a lot to learn from the COVID pandemic. From our success in rapidly generating vaccines, to our failure to implement a widespread test-and-trace system, to Americans’ responses to lockdown orders and other public health measures, the policy debates over the past year and a half have involved trade-offs, thinking on the margin, and accounting for many measures of public well-being. In other words, understanding the COVID pandemic necessitates an understanding of economics. That’s why...
Published 06/02/21
As the Biden administration continues to work with Congress on a massive overhaul of US infrastructure, several questions come to mind: How much should infrastructure policy focus on building new projects as opposed to maintaining and repairing our current assets? How can policymakers ensure that infrastructure is regularly maintained without difficulty? And how should promising new technologies — such as high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles — factor into future infrastructure plans?...
Published 05/26/21
As a share of GDP, federal support for science research in America has fallen from about 2 percent of GDP during the 1960s to about 0.6 percent today. Policymakers should reverse this trend in order to boost productivity growth, raise living standards, compete with Chinese innovation efforts, and manage future problems like climate change. Fortunately, Congress appears to be moving in this direction, and so I’m excited to discuss what the future of federal RandD policy should look like with...
Published 05/19/21
While economists form a relatively strong consensus on some policy questions, they certainly don’t agree on everything. One of the more prominent examples of this is the minimum wage. Some studies find large negative employment effects from raising the minimum wage, while others find negligible or even positive effects on employment. And all economists recognize that there are trade-offs at play, but they disagree about whether the benefits of raising the minimum wage outweigh the costs. It’s...
Published 05/12/21
China is often regarded as a success story of market economics, since it began lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty once the Communist Party began easing economic restrictions and opening its economy to the world. But to this day, even though it has achieved impressive economic growth for decades, China remains a totalitarian country. So here are the key questions going forward: First, how successful will China’s mixed economy be at generating growth and innovation once the...
Published 05/05/21
In the United States, restrictive land-use regulations prevent developers from building housing in cities throughout the country. This has led to a shortage in housing supply and exorbitantly high housing costs — particularly in high-productivity cities. So on today’s episode, Emily Hamilton explains how zoning reforms can make it easier to build housing, increase opportunity for individuals, and boost economic growth nationwide. Emily is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center,...
Published 04/28/21
Forecasting the future is difficult. It requires awareness of several technological, demographic, and geopolitical trends, as well as the ability to imagine how those trends can intersect with each other in unexpected ways. So today’s episode covers a lot of ground, including the rise of remote work, an aging population, the development of China and Africa, climate change, and the blockchain. As we exit the COVID pandemic, these are just some of the trends that will radically transform the...
Published 04/21/21
Since the early 1970s, Americans have seen disappointing levels of economic growth and technological progress. But the potential of artificial intelligence, gene editing, blockchain technology, clean energy, and many more innovations on the horizon provide great reason to be optimistic about the future of the US economy. I recently discussed this potential in a recent AEI online panel discussion, which I now present in podcast form. Tyler Cowen is the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at...
Published 04/14/21
Since the 1980s, the United States has prioritized low inflation, to great success. Policymakers have regularly kept inflation at or below their 2-percent targets, even during periods with record-low interest rates. As a result, many observers have been — and continue to be — pretty comfortable with spending trillions of dollars on pandemic relief… and now infrastructure projects. But what if the low inflation we’ve experienced has been temporary? What if an aging workforce and diminishing...
Published 04/07/21
On both sides of the aisle, calls for industrial policy seem to be gaining momentum. Americans have grown more skeptical about markets in the aftermath of the Great Recession. And China’s more managed economy seems to be growing faster and rivaling the US as the technological leader of the world. Many policymakers have reacted by saying that the US government needs to embrace industrial policy and take a more hands-on approach to promoting innovation. Today's guest, Scott Lincicome,...
Published 03/31/21
Is spending $1.9 trillion as the economy emerges from the COVID recession a wise move? At what point will policymakers begin paying for their spending initiatives? And what kinds of taxation will we engage in to collect more revenue when the time comes? On today’s episode, I discuss these questions and many more with Alex Brill. Alex is a resident fellow at AEI, where he studies the impact of tax policy on the US economy, as well as the economic and political consequences of public policy....
Published 03/24/21
On today's episode, Alex Nowrasteh explores the effect of immigration on cultural and political institutions in developed countries, as well as the future of immigration policy under the Biden administration. Alex is the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He is also the coauthor, along with Benjamin Powell, of https://www.amazon.com/Wretched-Refuse-Political-Immigration-Institutions/dp/1108477631 (Wretched Refuse? The Political...
Published 03/17/21
In response to the demands of World War II, America generated an impressive amount of innovation in a short time span. Policymakers look back on this record as a model to aspire to, claiming that we “need a new Manhattan Project” to tackle the looming crises of the present. So what lessons should we take away from World War II-era innovation policy? On today’s episode, I discuss this question with Daniel P. Gross. Daniel is an assistant professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, and he’s...
Published 03/10/21
After beating the Soviet Union in the race to the moon, America lost much of its drive to explore space for several decades. However, with the rise of private pioneers such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, this has begun to change. And as the US resumes its exploration of outer space, many questions have been raised. Can a private space economy be profitable? Do we have good reason to return to the moon and travel to Mars? And what new discoveries await us that we have yet to predict? I discussed...
Published 03/03/21
Despite wide agreement that America’s infrastructure quality is relatively low, per-unit infrastructure costs are higher in the US today compared to the rest of the world and to America 50-60 years. Why is this? Are regulations and rent-seeking to blame? Could it reflect some kind of improvement in quality? Today’s guest, Leah Brooks, provides an in-depth exploration of this topic for today’s episode. Leah is an associate professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public...
Published 02/24/21
How can research institutions promote growth, other than simply spending more money on basic RandD? Today’s guest, Don Braben, argues that we need to promote scientific freedom by easing up on the strictures of peer review and the demands of obvious applicability. Only then can we enable scientists to generate more of the revolutionary discoveries that we took for granted in the twentieth century. Don Braben is an honorary professor and vice president of research at University College London....
Published 02/17/21
America’s university system is the envy of the world, and a major reason for this is that this higher education system is crucial to our innovative capacity. So in today’s episode, Korok Ray explains how universities promote innovation and, more importantly, what they can do to boost their contribution to the US economy even further. Korok is an associate professor at the Mays Business School of Texas AandM University, and he is the director of the Mays Innovation Research Center. He is also...
Published 02/10/21
America’s adoption of the consumer welfare standard since the late 1970s has led to the rise of innovative Big Tech companies like Google and Amazon. Other countries, particularly in Europe, would love to have massively successful tech firms of their own, but they’re constrained in part by their more restrictive antitrust doctrines. And yet, many conservatives have begun to sound like progressives on this topic, rejecting a more laissez-faire approach to antitrust out of concern that these...
Published 02/05/21