Family Values Vs. Innovation?: A Friendly “Debate” With Nobel Prize Winner Edmund Phelps


by Jerry Bowyer

Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change by Columbia University economics professor, Edmund Phelps, is an important book filled with brilliant insights. Any reasonably sophisticated and open-minded reader will benefit from reading it. But on a point or two, I found myself skeptical, or at least wondering whether I’d misunderstood the author’s intent. One particular point stands out: Dr. Phelps’ statements about family values and traditionalism being the enemy of economic innovation. This issue came up in the form of a friendly challenging of one another’s ideas. It’s not particularly common for an ivy league professor to engage with a relatively unknown columnist in a way which shows openness to being challenged. It’s even more admirable for an economics Nobel Prize winner to do so. In other words, Ned Phelps is no Paul Krugman.

You can listen to the audio of the entire conversation here.

Below is the transcript, which has been edited for clarity:

Jerry: “This idea of more innovation, more lending or investing in innovation… Isn’t there partly a policy barrier? The regulations say that private equity is only for people who are “qualified investors.” You have to essentially be a millionaire in order to get in on private equity. You can’t be an angel investor or venture capital investor unless you’re at a fairly high income level. So that’s partly something standing in the way on a policy level of what you’d like to see more of, is it not?”

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