Where do innovative products and services come from?

You might imagine that we have the “invisible hand” of the free market to thank. But in lots of cases, the answer is government-supported research.

Consider your smartphone. It uses technologies like GPS, advanced transistors, active-matrix liquid-crystal displays, voice recognition, and graphical web browsers. All of these began their lives as government projects.

But not all government agencies are natural innovators. Public pensions, which we talk about a lot in these pages, are notoriously stuck in their ways. In fact, Ashby shared at the beginning of this episode that “the only way you get fired from a public pension plan is if you innovate.”

Clearly, this sucks and is bad. Is there any hope for these organizations?

Our guest Tom Kalil offered plenty.

He spent sixteen years at The White House leading science, technology, and innovation oriented policy programs under Presidents Clinton and Obama, and now works as the Chief Innovation Officer at Schmidt Futures, the group led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy.

He shared why he identifies as a Meliorist, talked about various mechanisms the government has employed to boost innovation in the past, and the extent to which the work he and his colleagues did has survived the Trump Administration. You can check out the transcript here or click above to listen in your favorite podcast app.

We also talked about the many delightful things available for sale at the Free Money Atelier. And as usual, we answered questions from listeners:

  • Given the rise in “SPAC” issuance, should we expect to see the Free Money podcast float a “blank check” IPO of its own anytime soon?
  • Is it true that a pension funding debate plays a significant background role in the ongoing US Post Office debacle?
  • It’s been a year since that famous/infamous business roundtable statement about the purpose of a corporation. How are firms doing? Is there a meaningful difference between corporate social responsibility and corporate actual responsibility

If you’d like us to answer a question from you on an upcoming show, write to freemoneypod@gmail.com.

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