Edmund, Ned, Phelps certainly did not need to write Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change to make a name for himself. His work on labor market economics was both solid and itself innovative enough to earn him the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2006. But Phelps is concerned about his country. He sees a US which has gotten itself stuck in a low innovation rut, and to make matters worse, he sees a public discussion which itself is stuck in a rut of old ideas which looks to government planners, and the college professors as the bearers of the Promethean flame which will once again ignite our engine of new development.
I sat down across a Skype (a good example of modern innovation, clever, but not a true economic game changer) connection with Dr Phelps recently. If you are a regular reader of this column, you may notice some overlap between Dr. Phelps’ book and George Gilder’s recent Knowledge and Power, at least I did.
You can listen to the whole sprawling conversation here.
Or, you can read the first part of the transcript (edited for clarity) below:
Jerry Bowyer: “Hi, I’m Jerry Bowyer, thanks for joining us today. I’m honored to have as my guest Edmund Phelps; Professor Phelps is the 2006 Nobel laureate in economics; he is the author of numerous books of great influence; he is the Director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University; and his latest book, which is absolutely fascinating — insights are jumping off every page, there’s hardly a page in this book that I don’t have one or two sentences underlined – this book is Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. Professor Phelps, thank you so much for joining us today.”
Prof. Phelps: “Thanks for interviewing me.”
Jerry: “Let’s start off with a topic that I think will be of interest to our Forbes readers: the great economist Joseph Schumpeter is rather a hero among my Forbes colleagues and is to me as well. But a significant part of this book is you taking issue with Schumpeter on some important points, especially regarding economic history and the nature of knowledge. Can you kind of fill us in on where Schumpeter gets it wrong?”
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