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Can The Government Really Spark Innovation?

Can The Government Really Spark Innovation?

Hello and welcome to Free Money, a podcast/newsletter from Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk about how long-term investors can free themselves from the shackles of short-term thinking.

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This is the 23rd episode of the podcast since we launched last July. More than 380 people tuned into our last episode, which we hope will continue to grow over the coming weeks, months, and years.

So if you like what you read/hear, please share this episode and tell your friends.


And now, it’s time for the episode.

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

Thanks for reading & listening!

Nothing contained in this website or podcast should be construed as investment advice.

Free Money
Free Money with Sloane and Ashby
Sloane Ortel and Ashby Monk explore what's holding the world back from investing in progress, answer the questions on the minds of people in the know, and deliver the Brooklyn-Bay Area consensus about institutional investing that you desperately crave.
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Sloane Ortel