Do politicians behave worse when they’re up for re-election? How effective and accountable can non-elected policymakers be? And has the government’s response to COVID-19 bolstered or weakened the case for democracy? I explore these questions, and many more, with Garett Jones.

Garett is an associate professor of economics and the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He is the author of two books: Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own and 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less.

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How will the coronavirus downturn be different from normal recessions? And what can we do to mitigate the harm through public policy? Today I discussed these questions with economist Stan Veuger.

Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in political economy and public finance. He is also the editor of AEI Economic Perspectives, as well as a fellow at the IE School of Global and Public Affairs in Madrid and at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

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How entrenched are America’s biggest tech companies — will they remain dominant 10 or 20 years into the future? In the meantime, how should these companies handle concerns surrounding data privacy or controversies regarding content moderation? And how likely is China to surpass America on the tech frontier? In today’s episode, Ben Thompson and I explore each of these questions at length.

Ben is the author and founder of Stratechery, a subscription-based newsletter focused on business and strategy for the technology industry. He also co-hosts the Exponent podcast about tech and society, along with James Allworth.

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How would a “corona stimulus” impact the economy? What should we make of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’ respective tax plans? And what is the future of Republican tax policy? To discuss these, and many more questions, I’m delighted to be joined by Kyle Pomerleau.

Kyle is a resident fellow on federal tax policy here at AEI. Previously, he was the chief economist and vice president of economic analysis at the Tax Foundation. His writings have been published in numerous trade and policy journals, such as Tax Notes and the National Tax Journal.

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What is the future of capitalism: a democratic American-style model or something closer Chinese state capitalism? This week,
Branko Milanovic and I explore that question at length. In the process, we also talked about the political significance of inequality and the compatibility of capitalism and democracy.

Branko is a visiting professor at the City University in New York’s graduate center, and he’s a senior scholar at the Stone Center on Socio-economic Inequality. He’s also the author of several books, including Worlds Apart, Global Inequality, and, most recently, last year’s Capitalism, Alone.

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The debate in Washington about the American technology sector has shifted in recent years, going from “Big Tech is leading us to the future” to “What does tech done for us lately?” So has the technology sector failed to deliver for the past few decades? And what should policymakers and scientists be doing to maximize technological advancement? Hal Varian joins me on today’s episode of Political Economy to explain why he is much more optimistic about the few decades’ worth of innovation.

Hal is the chief economist at Google. He is also an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was the founding dean of its School of Information. He’s also the author of two economics textbooks, and the co-author of the bestselling business strategy book, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy.

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Will artificial intelligence be as important an innovation as technologists have predicted? Will machine learning improve productivity? Will it exacerbate inequality? And how can policymakers best promote innovation in this field while preparing the labor force for its widespread adoption? On today’s Political Economy, Erik Brynjolfsson and I discuss these questions, and many more.

Erik is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He’s also the author of several books, including Machine Platform Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future (2017) and The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies (2014), both of which he co-authored with Andrew McAfee.

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Does blockchain technology have applications beyond cryptocurrency? After all, the blockchain is an immutable record of transactions and contracts, maintained by a completely decentralized network. This means that, if the promise of blockchain comes to fruition, humanity may one day have access to a permanent record for all transactions and contracts, without needing to rely on banks or Big Tech companies. So what are the possible applications and implications of blockchain technology? Paul Vigna joins me to discuss.

Paul is a markets reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covers equities and the economy. He is also a columnist and anchor for MoneyBeat, and he is the co-author — with Michael Casey — of both The Age of Cryptocurrency and, most recently, The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything.

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According to the conventional wisdom, America’s economy has not delivered for most Americans over the past few decades. Pessimistic observers on both sides of the aisle claim that — as a result of globalization, automation, immigration, or elitist policymakers — wages have stagnated, economic mobility has evaporated, and the middle class has hollowed out. And so a new wave of populism has led to politicians ranging from Marco Rubio to Elizabeth Warren to Donald Trump to claim that the American Dream is no longer available to regular Americans.

But, according to Michael Strain, this is not true. While America faces many challenges, our economy still delivers for regular workers, and populists should not try to tear down what isn’t broken. He outlines this argument in his upcoming book, The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It), which will be out at the end of the month.

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How concentrated is corporate power in America today? How big of a problem is this? According to Thomas Philippon, the answers are “more concentrated than in Europe, and more concentrated than any other time in recent American history,” and, more simply, “yes, it’s a big problem.” On today’s podcast, Thomas and I delve into this argument, outlined in his recently released book, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. We explore how industry concentration has affected various American markets — from air travel to health care. We also explore the difference between good and bad concentration, and discuss which label better applies to big technology companies.

Thomas is a professor of finance at New York University’s
Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He is also an associate editor of the
American Economic Journal and a research associate at the National Bureau of
Economic Research.

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America’s ten largest metro areas combine for 34 percent of total GDP, and some 80 percent of the nation’s 5,000 fastest-growing businesses are located in large urban areas. Simply put, cities are critical to driving growth and innovation. Yet cities also offer unique policy challenges. They require energetic local government, but too often such energies are channeled into restrictive regulations that raise living costs and stifle opportunity. So how can city planners effectively manage their cities? Today’s guest, Alain Bertaud, argues that a healthy respect for markets — for the tendency for human action to generate an “order without design” — is key to a well-managed city.

Alain is a senior research scholar at the Marron Institute at NYU. He is the former principal urban planner for the World Bank, and he has worked as a resident urban planner in cities throughout the world, including New York, Paris, Bangkok, and Port au Prince. Most recently, he is the author of Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities.

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As the Democratic presidential primary unfolds, it appears that many progressives are critical of globalization. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren accuse trade deals like NAFTA of allowing multinational corporations to sell out American workers and exploit residents of developing countries. But at the same time, support for trade and immigration among Democratic voters has dramatically increased during the Trump administration. So what can we expect for the future of the Democratic party? And how much should globalization’s advocates adjust their messaging and policy proposals to better care for domestic workers adversely affected by free trade? I discuss these questions and more with Kimberly Clausing.

Kimberly Clausing is the Thormund Miller and Walter Mintz Professor of Economics at Reed College, where she studies international trade, international and public finance, and the taxation of multinational firms. She has worked on economic policy research with the International Monetary Fund, the Hamilton Project, the Brookings Institution, and the Tax Policy Center. She is also the author of Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital.

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How will economists look back on the economy of the 2010s — as the longest economic expansion in US history, or as a period in which the US was stuck below three percent growth for ten years? And looking to the future, how might population growth, trade, Big Tech, and new innovations all affect America’s capacity for economic growth? On today’s podcast, I discuss these questions and much more with Professor Peter Klenow.

Peter Klenow is the Ralph Landau Professor in Economic Policy at Stanford University, as well as the Gordon Moore Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. In the past, Klenow served as a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. His work focuses on the macroeconomics of growth, productivity, and prices.

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With the recently announced Phase One trade deal between the United States and China, it’s worth looking back on the effects of the trade war over the past two years. How much have the trade patterns of the US and China changed since the tariffs were first implemented? Will these patterns revert to normal at the close of the trade war, or have US industries permanently lost their Chinese customers? To answer these questions, Lori Ann LaRocco joins me.

Lori Ann LaRocco is the senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She is also the author of many books, including Thriving in the New Economy, Dynasties of the Sea, Opportunity Knocking, and, most recently, Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster.

Learn more: The impact of the trade war: A long-read Q&A with Scott Lincicome | Will Rinehart: Big Tech, broadband access, and artificial intelligence | Bryan Caplan on open borders

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Why do so many politicians and ideologues suddenly dislike Google, Facebook, and Amazon? Are they too monopolistic, and are they using our data ethically? Also, how can we make broadband more accessible for rural America? And what policies should we put in place in order to fully benefit from the rise of artificial intelligence. Will Rinehart joins me to explore all of these questions in today’s wide-ranging podcast.

Will is the director of Technology and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum, where he specializes in telecommunication, Internet, and data policy. He is also a Frédéric Bastiat Fellow at the Mercatus Center, and was previously a research fellow at Tech Freedom.

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Why have housing costs skyrocketed in the past few decades? To what extent do these costs keep people from moving to prospering cities in search of opportunity? And how can we combat this issue through both local and state policy? Daniel Shoag explores these questions in his recent policy analysis for the Hamilton Project, “Removing Barriers to Accessing High-Productivity Places.”

Daniel is an associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, a visiting professor at Case Western Reserve University, and an affiliate of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government. He was selected as one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 in 2012. Daniel has worked as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, a visiting professor at Tel Aviv University, and was selected as a rising new scholar by the Stanford University Center on Poverty and Inequality.

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In an era of nationalism in American politics, can globalists still make an effective case? What do international institutions like the UN and EU even do for America in the first place? And why is it worth preserving them — besides the fact that we set many of them up in the first place? AEI’s Dalibor Rohac joins the podcast to answer these questions and more.

Dalibor is a Resident Scholar at AEI, where he studies European political and economic trends. He is concurrently a visiting junior fellow at the Max Beloff Centre for the Study of Liberty at the University of Buckingham in the UK and a fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. Most recently, he is the author of In Defense of Globalism.

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What caused living standards to dramatically rise in the nineteenth century, after thousands of years of stagnant poverty? And is the world on track to continue this wealth explosion, or are we abandoning course in the name of stability? On this episode, Dr. Stephen Davies joins me to explore these questions.

Stephen Davies is the Head of Education at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, and was previously a program officer at George Mason University’s Institute for Humane Studies. He has also been a lecturer and a scholar at Manchester Metropolitan University and at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, where he taught both economic history and social philosophy. He is the author of 2003’s Empiricism and History, as well as the recently released The Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity.

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What would an actual open borders regime look like? How would it affect those already living in the United States? And why is the case for open borders stronger than the case for restrictionism, or at least the prioritization of high-skill immigrants? Bryan Caplan explores these questions in his most recent book: a work of graphic non-fiction co-produced with illustrator Zach Weinersmith, Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and a regular blogger at EconLog. He’s also the author of three previous books: The Case Against Education, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, and The Myth of the Rational Voter.

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Why do innovative businesses tend to “cluster” together in tech hubs like Silicon Valley? Why do these companies stay in these expensive cities when they could go to another city with significantly cheaper costs? Can these tech hubs be better governed? And how might other cities catch up? To explore these questions, I am delighted to speak with Enrico Moretti.

Enrico Moretti is the Michael Peevey and Donald Vial Professor of Economics at Berkeley. He is also an associate with NBER and a Fellow for the Centre of Economic Policy Research and the Institute for the Study of Labor. And he is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. His 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, brought to light much of the data showing that high-tech industries tend to cluster together in small areas, and he has repeatedly returned to this subject in his academic work since then, including in his new paper, “The Effect of High-Tech Clusters on the Productivity of Top Inventors.”

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