A podcast presented by Harvard Magazine. Managing editor Jonathan Shaw sits down with some of the world’s most thoughtful scholars to discuss everything from academic ethics – to hip hop music and medical marijuana.
Doug Elmendorf and Karen Dynan: How much can the federal budget and the deficit continue to grow?
EVEN BEFORE THE CORONAVIRUS SHIFTED THE U.S. ECONOMY INTO LOW GEAR, demanding a massive stimulus in response, federal debt as a percentage of GDP was as high as it had been since the years following World War II. Simultaneously, given the nation’s aging population, spending on benefits for older Americans was and is expected to skyrocket. Should voters be worried? Why would curbing federal deficits now be a mistake? In this episode, recorded before the coronavirus arrived in the United States but perhaps even more pertinent now, Price professor of public policy Douglas Elmendorf, who is dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and professor of the practice of economics Karen Dynan argue that this is the moment for the U.S. government to borrow.
William C. Kirby: Is China ready for leadership on the global stage?
CHINA IS THE MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY ON EARTH, and until a few hundred years ago, it was also the most economically powerful. Today, China is ascendant on the world stage. What does its government seek in its relationship with the United States? Do China and the U.S. share common goals with respect to nuclear North Korea? How far will China press to reunite with Taiwan? What are the country’s economic prospects, and is the perception that it is governed by engineers accurate? How is China coping with pressing issues of the day, from climate change to coronaviruses? In this episode, William Kirby, Chang professor of China studies and Spangler professor of business administration, considers China’s aspiration to lead internationally in the twenty-first century.
Benjamin Sachs and Sharon Block: When did labor law stop working?
Why would it take an Amazon worker, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have been tax increases on the rich, on the one hand, and campaign-finance reform on the other. But in this episode, we’ll explore the idea that retooling labor laws for the modern economy may be the most effective way to address both these issues. Harvard Law School’s Kestnbaum professor of labor and industry Benjamin Sachs, together with Sharon Block, executive director of the school’s Labor and Worklife Program, explain.
Nicholas Burns: Why Does Good Diplomacy Matter?
What role does diplomacy play in the modern world order, and what are the characteristics of a good diplomat? Which countries are the great powers today, and which will lead in 2050? Does NATO have a role in helping manage the political, economic, and military challenges facing the United States? And why is morale reportedly at a low ebb in the State Department? In this episode, former ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, the Goodman Family professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations at Harvard Kennedy School, answers these questions and more, based on his long career in government service.
Maya Sen: Have U.S. courts become political prizes?
If judges truly are impartial arbiters of justice, why do politicians fight over who will be appointed to the bench? Are the courts actually a political prize? And are judges really akin to umpires, just calling “balls and strikes”? How does the back-and-forth between the legal profession and politicians shape the quality of nominees to the bench? In this episode, Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Maya Sen considers these questions as we discuss the power of the legal profession and the politicization of American courts.
David Cutler: Can the U.S. Healthcare System Be Fixed?
No country in the world spends more on health care than the United States, or has less to show for it when compared to other wealthy nations. The U.S. spends nearly 50 percent more per capita than Switzerland, the second biggest spender among wealthy nations, but consistently ranks near the bottom on measures of population wellness and life expectancy. Is there a better system, and if so, what should it look like? What role does wasteful spending play in this equation? How much is attributable to administrative costs? In this episode, Eckstein professor of applied economics David Cutler considers these questions as we discuss the high price of American medicine.