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Caleb Watney joins the show to talk about how the rates of innovation in the United States have slowed.

Paul Matzko
Tech & Innovation Editor

Caleb Watney leads R Street’s work on emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, drones and robotics. In this role, he regularly meets with policymakers, files regulatory comments, writes op‐​eds and manages a monthly technology policy working group.

Caleb was previously a graduate research fellow at the Mercatus Center, working with the Technology Policy Program. He has also worked as a policy research consultant for Uber.

Caleb received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Sterling College and his master’s in economics from George Mason University.

Guess what’s bad for innovation? Telling the brightest minds in the world that you don’t want them to come work with you. As obvious as that should be, that’s precisely what the Trump administration’s policy towards high skilled immigrants has done, most recently by attempting to deny visas to foreign‐​born university students. Caleb Watney joins the show to discuss exactly how self‐​harming these policies will be for America’s lead in global innovation, an era that we may soon be speaking of in the past tense instead of in the present.

Further Reading:


0:00:04 Paul Matzko: Welcome to Building Tomorrow, a podcast about how we can build a freer, fairer, and more prosperous future. Those of you who are regular listeners, you know we’re huge fans of immigration here at the pod. That’s both a straightforward outgrowth of our belief in maximizing free markets, our commitment to the proposition that human dignity doesn’t stop at some borderline drawn on a bit of paper, and our practical awareness that immigration has played a vital role of propelling innovation throughout American and global history. Which is why it makes it so very frustrating when our national leaders not only fail to pursue better, more open immigration policies, but actively pursue the opposite.

0:00:48 Paul Matzko: The latest such example is how the Trump administration used an Obama administration rule that prohibited international students from getting visas on the basis of their attendance at online‐​only universities. Now this wasn’t a particularly great idea even back when it was first put in place. But you’ll never guess what happened recently, and by never guess, I’m assuming right now that you’ve just woken from a coma and the first thing you’ve done is start up your favourite pre‐​coma podcast. COVID-19, we’re talking about COVID. It’s led many universities, including prominent places like Princeton and Harvard, to go online only this fall. You can see the rub. If they’re online‐​only, they can’t extend student visas to their international students.

0:01:32 Paul Matzko: And so the Trump Administration, well, it saw its chance to kill two liberal birds with one stone. They could cite the online‐​only rule for student visas, throwing hundreds of thousands of international students into a state of anxiety, whether they’d have to leave the country with only a unfinished and very expensive degree to their name. They might not decide to come back, which is the point for the administration. Now thankfully, under the threat of court reversal, the administration eventually backed down, but the damage was already done for many. To explain why that is and just how sadomasochistic this policy would have been, I’ve invited today’s guest to join us.


0:02:16 Paul Matzko: Caleb Watney is a friend of the pod. We’ve had him on in the past couple of times, and he is a resident fellow for tech & innovation at the R Street Institute. He also has a new essay out with The Atlantic titled, America’s Innovation Engine Is Slowing. Welcome to the show, Caleb.

0:02:33 Caleb Watney: Thanks for having me on, Paul.

0:02:35 Paul Matzko: Okay, so that doesn’t sound great. I mean, I don’t think I’m giving away [chuckle] any spoilers here, but it sounds like a bad thing for America’s innovation engine to slow. What’s going on?

0:02:46 Caleb Watney: Yeah, it’s kind of a scary situation. So obviously, I wasn’t able to look at every factor that is affecting rates of innovation in the United States. But I think historically, three crucially important cogs have been international talent flows, just where do the best and the brightest immigrants from all over the world want to come. Historically, they’ve always wanted to come to the United States. Number two is our world‐​class university system. By most metrics, we… The United States is supposed to have many of the top universities in the world and certainly, you see that in terms of where international students are traveling. But then universities themselves end up being really important for innovation in terms of university patenting offices, in terms of basic science production. And then the third factor is sort of our big industrial clusters or talent clusters, which basically create what economists call agglomeration effects, which basically means that total output is greater than the sum of its parts.

0:03:49 Caleb Watney: So basically, you have big urban cores. Silicon Valley is probably the best example of this, where you have engineers and supply chain managers and academics and product design specialists and people from all different areas, working together, having spontaneous interactions, and then ends up creating new ideas, new collaborations, new companies that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. And yeah, so the piece is basically looking at each of those three trends. I think you can make an argument that each of them was sort of on a slow decline prior to Coronavirus, but the combination of COVID and the administration’s frankly botched response, has been making it much worse and might kind of serve as a breaking point.

0:04:33 Paul Matzko: Let’s start with the student visa, the incoming international students, that pipeline of talent coming to the US. When we talk about decline there, what kind of numbers are we looking at?

0:04:45 Caleb Watney: Good question. It’s hard to know for sure but using one proxy, University of Arizona, is projecting about an 80% decline in new international students coming to their universities, and the amount that are gonna be continued international students, so people that are already enrolled and whether they continue enrolling, that’s a little bit dicier here, but maybe looking at a 40% drop. And those numbers were actually before the Trump administration’s recent moves to freeze a number of visa categories, including H-1B, J-1, and L-1 visas, which are actually pretty important visas that students rely on when they’re making plans to come here in the first place because of course, they’re not coming just for the university education, as good as that is, they’re also coming for a chance of potentially working here afterwards.

0:05:32 Paul Matzko: I was gonna say, I mean as you mentioned in the article, there’s a significant number of students. Even those who don’t intend to stay, they stick. I mean there’s a stickiness to getting an education here and living here for a number of years, but if they don’t come in the first place, it doesn’t stick.

0:05:48 Caleb Watney: Exactly, and so I think… You’ve been saying US immigration policy has not been great for decades, and it’s been getting, I think, pretty significantly worse, especially in the last four years or so.

0:06:01 Caleb Watney: But we’ve kind of maintained our status for the most part as the world’s premier destination for top academics for scientists, for technical practitioners, I think partially through a kind of inertia, just based on the fact that we have been the best place to go in the past, that kind of sticks and in spite of bad policy, we’ve been able to kind of maintain that status. But the Coronavirus could represent I guess a big pause if you have, say, a two‐​year period where international students are hugely in decline and then they still need to get educated during that period, and so then they start looking around for countries that have either gotten the Coronavirus under control more quickly, which doesn’t seem to be the United States, or maybe they decide to go to an education opportunity that’s much closer to home. And once you’re kind of already established, you start to get in the swing of things at a different university or in a different country, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll later end up going to the United States.

0:06:57 Paul Matzko: So it’s this combination of two big factors, so COVID is naturally slowed the rate of students applying for graduate student positions and research jobs here in the US, but then it’s also… You mentioned briefly the Trump administration’s recent… I’m trying to think how to put the right words on this, but the recent requirement that universities that were online only couldn’t extend student visas to students. Am I getting that right?

0:07:31 Caleb Watney: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of pieces here. So in the broad strokes, the administration’s failure to get Coronavirus under control as quickly as other countries has is itself a deterrent for coming to the United States. Two, is as I alluded to, there are a number of work visa categories, like the H-1B, L-1 and J-1 that are on a six‐​month pause, and that reduces the incentive to come here, and then the third thing that you were just mentioning, there was a bit of a tiff with USCIS and universities about whether or not students would even be able to come to the country at all, if they were on a F-1 visa, which is the student visa if all the classes were remote. And so the compromise that’s been worked out there, it seems like, is if you are already a student and this isn’t your first year, you can stay in the country, but if you’re a new international student, and your classes are remote, you won’t be able to get into the country. But even just the uncertainty around all of that, it could have been much, much worse is itself a kind of deterrent from coming here because it’s now unclear. Does the United States as a country really want you as an international student? And that just has to be part of the equation that now students have to weigh when they’re deciding where they wanna go study.

0:08:45 Paul Matzko: Well, this tiff happened at a key moment in the school year.

0:08:49 Caleb Watney: That too, yeah.

0:08:49 Paul Matzko: It’s the summer when students are trying to make those final plans, do I pull the trigger on going there or not, I’m planning on heading in the fall. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s actually interesting, my partner used to work at a for‐​profit community college in central Pennsylvania, lots of first‐​gen college students and the like and I was actually somewhat familiar with this rule, the in‐​person versus online class requirement, and how it affected the international students because it was something… I’m not entirely sure if it was just newly enforced during the Obama administration or if it was actually put in place at the time, but it was an effort to get at for‐​profit schools, many of which are predominantly online, your Phoenix, University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Southern New Hampshire, all those online only schools, the Obama administration was trying to crack down the number of students that they were attracting, thus the student loan debt that was being incurred, and so there’s some kind of irony here that this rule is resurfacing here in the next administration being used for different purposes only it doesn’t seem like the target, but the target certainly isn’t for‐​profit universities.

0:10:05 Paul Matzko: I’m not even sure if universities are the target at all. Is the fact that it’s affecting or that was targeting universities just… Was the real target all along to depress the number of incoming future immigrants or was this… I’m just trying to imagine the logic and the head of the folks at the agency, what are they trying to do here?

0:10:30 Caleb Watney: Yeah. It’s kind of hard to get a good inside scoop in terms of what exactly they were thinking, certainly you’ve seen that this administration has been pretty actively hostile to high skill migrants that would like to come to the United States, and so I wouldn’t totally rule it out that this was, in some sense, a… I thought an Act was meant to deter high skill migrants from coming here, that’s the whole point of this H-1B, J-1 freeze, but it might have also been a negotiating tactic with universities to try to force them to open up. I think there should be a perceived thought that if you can force everybody to open up maybe faster than they otherwise would have, that makes the economy seem like everything’s going back to normal, and especially in an upcoming election year, that might be I think important.

0:11:20 Paul Matzko: Yeah, but I guess whatever the mode of the effect is the same, it’s bad, you provide some really kind of eye‐​opening numbers about the US as a destination for people who file patents, the number of patents that come from immigrant innovators, the number of Nobel prizes that come from immigrant innovators, this could have downside effects, not just for the next couple of years, but for the next generation.

0:11:49 Caleb Watney: Absolutely, if you think about the flows of international students, especially when you’re getting them on the younger side as students tend to be, it’s not just about what is their intellectual output in the next five years, but about their next 20, their next 50, you’re really getting them in some sense in the prime of their intellectual career, you didn’t have to worry about all the child care costs for the first 18 years of their life, but you’re now getting them right as they’re learning and ready to maybe start using their skills in the workforce. So just a couple of stats that’s worth pointing out, over half of our billion dollar tech startups were founded in part by an immigrant and have top immigrants, as their top executives, you see that by some metrics they are responsible for over a quarter of total US innovation and invention.

0:12:35 Caleb Watney: You see that immigrants that come to the United States have much higher rates of patenting. You see that especially for some of our technically‐​minded disciplines, so if you look at STEM studies per se, 79% of our Computer Science graduate students are international students. In Electrical Engineering that’s 81%. In Industrial Engineering, I think it’s 75%. So actually, the vast majority of a lot of the STEM, especially graduate departments, end up being international students. And those are precisely the departments where you’re seeing a lot of the interesting innovative activities happening, and they’re the skill sets that we really need for the companies of the future.

0:13:17 Paul Matzko: And you’ve done a lot of research on… So I think some people hearing those numbers will say, “Well, okay, I feel a little bit bad for these students who aren’t gonna come and stay here and be engineers,” but hey, this will open up opportunities for native‐​born future engineers, the Americans to have those opportunities. And I think you’ve done a lot of work on… No, no, no, no. The shortage here, it’s not as if there’s this giant pool of people who want to do this high‐​skilled stuff, and some people are being prevented from… There’s a shortage. Even if you let all the potential engineers in, we’re facing a both national and global shortage of talent, so the bottleneck is not the positions, the bottleneck is the number of talented people.

0:14:05 Caleb Watney: That’s absolutely right. Yeah, so to make progress on the technological frontier, you really need just the best and brightest minds from those fields working together in a conducive institutional environment that the US provides, and then that’s really what drives progress. And it’s that progress that then creates new jobs, creates new industries, and drives… Certainly increases in living standards that we care about. But also, just out in like a practical level, you see that international students end up being a huge cash boon for universities that may actually be cross‐​subsidizing American students. So international students make up much larger percentage of say tuition revenue towards universities compared to the number of them that are actually coming, and so that allows universities to offer more scholarships towards domestic American students that are paying in‐​state tuition rates. So if anything, I think you end up really cutting off your nose to spite your face, I guess, if you end up cutting off these international students. ‘Cause you’re not only reducing the amount of innovation, not only reducing the number of high‐​tech companies that are gonna be formed and creating jobs for the future, but you’re also cutting off very practically university funds that are cross‐​subsidizing American students.

0:15:18 Paul Matzko: I think this reminds me your point about the importance of America, the American physical plant. Having quality laboratories, quality environments, communities of cities of knowledge, to use Margaret O’Mara’s phrase, that can generate productivity among innovators. ‘Cause I think another objection that some listeners might think of is that well, okay. The number of international students coming to US schools, it’s not good for us but is this just a zero‐​sum transfer of innovation to some other global hub? In other words, will net human progress be the same if we scare away… If we push away international students to the US. And that’s not great for us, but it’ll all be fine in the kind of net global society‐​wide sense. Is that true or not?

0:16:10 Caleb Watney: Good question. So I think one of the most consistent findings across economics in the past couple hundred years, is just that in some sense place matters, and putting together lots and lots of smart people in a close geographical environment ends up making them all smarter, making them all more productive. So as an example, in the lead up to World War II, Germany ended up forcibly removing a bunch of professors from their universities that had Jewish ancestry. And a lot of those professors, which included Albert Einstein and a bunch of the minds that later made up the Manhattan Project, they ended up coming to the United States. And so we can actually look and see what was the productivity increases amongst American inventors in say downstream chemical patents. And they find that there’s actually a 31% increase in the number of chemical patents being filed by American inventors, not even the ones that were coming over so there’s… Yeah, these agglomeration effects that I was mentioning earlier, means that not only do we have more smart people coming into our country, but it also means that the Americans that they’re working with become smarter, more productive, have better ideas, and then that also has global effects.

0:17:21 Caleb Watney: America, in some ways, you could think of it as providing the global public good of faster rates of innovation. And so if you start distributing all of these innovators, these top scientists around the country… You take them away from the agglomeration effects, they’re all less productive. The global technological frontier ends up slowing down and everyone ends up having less progress as a result. So it’s not only good for the United States that we kind of coalesce a lot of this top scientific talent, but it’s also good for the world.

0:17:52 Paul Matzko: On that good for the world point, something you mentioned in an article you’re still working on, is that not only does, do having immigrants in the US provide productivity boost through agglomeration effects to native‐​born American workers, but there’s also a sense that you touch on in an article that you’re still working on, it provides the kind of civic software for how this technology is going to be deployed has a democratizing or liberalizing effect on deploying high‐​tech innovation. And so we’ve seen that in the past. In a sense, so much of our social media was predicated on an assumed First Amendment sense. It was assumed that the Internet should be open and free from the get‐​go, and that might not remain true in the future, but that was kind of built into the DNA of Internet innovation, in part because so much what was happening in the US.

0:18:49 Caleb Watney: Yeah, no, that’s a great point. Technology ends up having a pretty large amount of, I guess, path dependence. Sometimes the things that we think are settled in terms of, oh, technology was always gonna develop in one particular way. VHS’s were always gonna beat out Betamax. Or in the United States, it was always going to be highways instead of trains. End up being pretty path‐​dependent based on what kinds of technologies get more investment, whether this would be public funds or private funds.

0:19:20 Caleb Watney: And also just kind of weird oddities of history, but if we want to affect the direction that technology goes, as you mentioned, social media, especially the big social media platforms that are really used globally end up sort of having an American bias towards free speech, and that’s because it was American companies operating with an American legal system that ended up being the dominant countries. You could very easily imagine that if in the future it’s say AI Chinese companies that end up building the platforms that everybody is using to build new AI products or whatnot, we’ll sort of have a bias towards those both legal systems and in some sense cultural values.

0:19:56 Caleb Watney: And there are big differences between issues like free speech, issues like intellectual property protection, issues like separation between the government and the private sector, that are pretty important. And so if we not only care about affecting the speed of technological innovation, but also its direction, then it’s pretty important for the United States to also try to think strategically about its lead in that that way.

0:20:21 Paul Matzko: Okay, let’s say you’re running for president Caleb. It’s Watney 2020, and I’m the debate moderator, and I ask you, you’ve signaled your support for maximizing or liberalizing immigration policy, and would you be in favour of building a Hong Kong 2.0 somewhere on American soil and giving unlimited visas to refugees who settle there? If so, how would you sell that policy to ordinary Americans?

0:20:55 Caleb Watney: Yeah, I’d be in support of it. You see that the people of Hong Kong are incredibly brave, incredibly smart, they are one of the big both financial and technical hubs of the world, and so there’s tons of human talent there that would be worth cultivating and putting inside of the US institutions, but also they were very much, if you look at the protest, almost looking up to the United States and saying like, I like the slogan that “the United States should try to be the US, that Hong Kong thinks we are.”

0:21:27 Caleb Watney: In terms of us representing certain kinds of liberal democratic ideals of free speech and due process and whatnot, so that seems like exactly the kinds of immigrants that we want in the United States, and you kind of touched on, maybe we could create a charter city of some sort. This is an idea that Mark Lutter has been working on a lot. Usually that’s in terms of the developing world, but there’s certainly no reason why we couldn’t try to experiment with the creation of new cities in the US today, so sure, I’m all for it.

0:21:57 Paul Matzko: The juxtaposition of that with what’s been going on in Portland with non‐​uniformed paramilitary federal agents abducting people, it’s like, no, no, that’s not the lesson we’re supposed to be taking from Hong Kong, it’s the other side we’re supposed to imitate.

0:22:11 Caleb Watney: Absolutely, yeah.

0:22:14 Paul Matzko: It’s pretty bad. Actually, I am reminded too, the historian in me was thinking of the Huguenots as they’re driven out of France by, what was it? The… I can’t remember if it was the 14th, Louis XIV, one of the Louis. As all these French protestants leave, they’re made unwelcome, there’s actually a large body of economic history literature talking about the productivity and innovation boosts they gave to places like England, some of them sell England, some of the United States, some all around the world, you got these little mini innovation hubs of Huguenot refugees. And that was true then. Could be true today, so. Let’s welcome in the 21st century Huguenots. There you go.

0:22:55 Caleb Watney: Absolutely, yeah. Totally in support.


0:23:04 Paul Matzko: Now, okay, so we’re talking about China some here and specifically with Hong Kong, but let’s think about China more broadly, and this is from some work you’ve been working on about techno‐​Hegemony, which is interesting. Hegemony, you know the totalizing power of a Hegemon projecting power. And I suppose it’s related to great power contest, to super power struggle, so obviously China, the US, how does that work into the future of innovation, the rise of a new techno‐​hegemon. What the heck is a techno‐​hegemon?

0:23:42 Caleb Watney: Good question, yeah. As a rough definition, I would say that a techno‐​hegemon is the country that is very clearly and obviously in sort of almost an uncontested way, the leader or the driver of both technological and scientific progress, and then seeks to use that sort of advantage on the world stage, either diplomatically, culturally, economically, in terms of supply chains or whatnot. There are a lot of sort of softer advantages that are conveyed to the country that has a clear and obvious lead in the technological and scientific frontier.

0:24:21 Caleb Watney: So that’s sort of, I think, a basic overview of what techno‐​Hegemony is, and the United States, I think has pretty clearly been in some sense the techno‐​hegemon for maybe the last 30, 40 years, the last time that we were maybe explicitly challenged for that role was by the Soviet Union, that was a pretty totalizing moment when Sputnik launched and another country was able to beat us in terms of getting a man into space, and that became kind of this clear proxy battle where the rest of the world was watching and saying, in some sense, the country that was able to mobilize forces is able to make new scientific discoveries in terms of the space race, that conveyed a kind of cultural signal, both of how productive your economic system could be, but also of the quality of minds that you had in your country.

0:25:13 Caleb Watney: And so the China is kind of challenging us in an explicitly technological way that we haven’t really seen in 30, 40 years. They have this number of big state plans to take official leadership in areas like quantum computing and AI and hypersonic missiles and semiconductor manufacturing. They have various target dates, 2030 is I know a big one. It remains to be seen whether they’ll meet those specific deadlines, but just the fact that they are maybe perhaps willing to make an explicit challenge to lay down the gauntlet in that way is interesting and certainly not something we’ve seen in quite a while.

0:25:51 Paul Matzko: Oh, so you have, in your kind of draft piece, you, I think raised two prospects and I thought did a very good job of this, which was to say, look, it’s entirely possible that China remains on the ascent and steals away from the US kind of the lead. It becomes the techno hegemon and leaves the US in the dust unless the US changes its policy, unless it does something we’ll be left behind, and the bonus case is that even if China somehow stumbles, it’s a self‐​inflicted, shoots itself in the foot with, I don’t know, crack down on… There’s all this buzz coming out of China right now about crack down on university students and kind of a party purity, re‐​emphasis on party orthodoxy and the like.

0:26:41 Paul Matzko: So it’s possible they’ll stumble out of the gate here, but even if they do, just securing America’s place as a global innovation leader, is just good on the face of it. So in the sense it almost doesn’t matter whether China or the US wins, we should have this, have a pro‐​innovation policy because it’s good on the face of it. So you have that one scenario, but then at the back of one moment you mentioned Japan and how in the back in the 1980s and 1990s, and this probably seems somewhat alien to those of us who were just born in the ‘80s or in the ‘90s, but people in the US, policy makers in the US, freaked out constantly that Japan was going to challenge and overthrow America and its role as the techno‐​hegemon. That didn’t end up happening. So I’d like to hear you talk a little bit about that tension between, is China going to challenge the US and take our position as the techno‐​hegemon or are they gonna end up like Japan and does that matter?

0:27:44 Caleb Watney: Yeah, great questions. So, as you mentioned, there was a lot of cultural concern about what happens as Japan continues to rise technologically and economically, are they even as a tiny island nation gonna be able to rival the United States in this way, and really kind of what you saw happen was a combination of factors, but I think maybe the single largest one was just that their birth rates started to plunge and that caught up with them. There’s sort of a long line of economic research showing how both for just economic productivity, but also economic dynamism, having a more youthful population is pretty useful, and I think that makes sense, culturally, it’s typically young ambitious people, the ones that are willing to work 18‐​hour days to try to create a new start‐​up that’s gonna be a great success.

0:28:36 Caleb Watney: There’s fewer people at age 50 or 60 that are gonna be able to do that, partially ’cause they have families, partially ’cause they have fewer years left to work, and so the odds of taking a huge risk or something, a huge gamble will just pay off less if you’ve only got 10 years left in your career. So yeah, there is a pretty well‐​established line of research that these demographic trends can, yeah, make countries slow down both in terms of the economic productivity and their ability to generate new technological innovations.

0:29:06 Caleb Watney: And so, China is in some sense poised for maybe, I like Ross Douthat has the phrasing that “perhaps we’re in line for a Chinese decade,” where they have perhaps a decade of renewed vigour until their demographics maybe catch up with them and they start to see that same slow down that China took, and so, that’s gonna make them in some sense, more aggressive during that time, if they know they only have a limited window to try to claim leadership, and that maybe why they’re kind of going all in. If you wanted to make a football analogy, you could say they’re really just trying to maximize their chance of winning the Super Bowl in the next year or two, because maybe they have a quarterback on a young rookie contract or something.

0:29:46 Paul Matzko: Yeah, that’s great. No, that’s perfect illustration. Yeah, you’ve got a window, your championship window and that might be closing for China before too long.

0:29:54 Caleb Watney: Yeah, but again, I don’t wanna sound too definitive one way or the other, I think that’s certainly a plausible scenario, but it could also be the case that they find ways around that, and obviously, they have a much, much, much larger domestic population than Japan, and so it might take much longer for you to see the effects of that slow down, and so, yeah, certainly there’s a risk that China could end up surpassing the United States if we don’t take necessary reforms and I think that would be bad in terms of the direction that they might take technology.

0:30:27 Caleb Watney: You’ve seen them have a much greater willingness to basically set up a surveillance state within the country and to potentially export that around the world, they’re trying to make a sales of these technologies to countries like Venezuela, and I think there’s also maybe an ideological component to this in the same way that part of what drove the Soviet Union to view the United States with such great distaste was a fundamental view that they wanted to show the world that the socialistic system could be viable and it wasn’t just the end of history and liberal democratic capitalism was the future of the rest of the world.

0:31:02 Caleb Watney: I think there’s an element of this for China too, there’s a China scholar, Tina Guo who’s done a lot of really good translation work looking at what does the Chinese Communist Party want and they certainly make it very explicit internally that they desire to show the rest of the world that you don’t have to bow to liberal democratic capitalism that you can have these systems with Chinese characteristics and certainly their crack down on the Uighur Muslims has been extremely repressive, and it would be, I think, bad for the rest of the world if they realised that that kind of governance model was sustainable.

0:31:36 Paul Matzko: Yeah, I agree. It’s actually, it doubles down on the extent to which immigration policy, especially the last several years under the Trump administration, has been so self‐​defeating, the US is somewhat exceptional in being a developed country that still has high immigration rates. The only reason why our birth rate is 2.1 plus, so why it’s still growing is because of immigration and immigrants who continue to have the, it takes time for immigrant birth rates to fall, it takes a bit of a generation, and so that’s why we have, we still have population growth unlike western, most of western Europe, unlike most of East Asia, or at least developed East Asia, I should say. And so we’re looking…

0:32:29 Paul Matzko: If you think of it as a great power contest. And our competitors are facing a demographic cliff because of declining birth rates, the last thing we should be doing is trying to join them on the cliff by discouraging immigration. It just seems… That’s such a… Such a horrible self‐​defeating idea.

0:32:49 Caleb Watney: No, yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And especially, I think it’s good to recognize that China has been pretty explicit about the fact that talent acquisition is central to their ability to compete with the United States. They have multiple party documents talking about one of the biggest barriers, to say their progress in fields like AI, is the fact that all of their top graduate students want to go live and work in the United States. And so they’re trying to make pretty concerted efforts both to recruit back scientists and university students from the United States. Their program is called the Thousand Talents Program. And then they have a similar program, the Thousand Foreign Talents Program, which is supposed to offer similar set of incentives for other international talents to come and settle in China.

0:33:33 Caleb Watney: But in some sense, their weakness perhaps, if you think about their innovation engine versus ours, is the fact that they are just simply not as good historically assimilating immigrants in the way that the United States has. I sort of described the US innovation system, as it being an open system where we try to take the best minds from all around the world and integrate them. China historically has maybe been a closed innovation system where they’re betting on their much larger domestic population. Perhaps they’re more streamlined state bureaucracy, their willingness to just throw many more resources at the problem through direct straight support. But I think if we play our cards right, we have every reason to think that the open innovation system that we have can outcompete them. But we actually have to play into that, I guess.

0:34:17 Paul Matzko: It’s striking then that because we have this historically open immigration system. And we already have pre‐​existing communities, hubs of high skilled international talent, we can kind of coast and get away with it in the way that China can’t.

0:34:36 Caleb Watney: Yeah, I know, that’s right. The United States has historically been pretty dominant in fields of science and technology. And just having all of the world’s cutting edge researchers, having most of them in the United States. Yeah, creates a kind of momentum, a certain kind of inertia where people wanna keep on being where the top cutting edge research is happening. And actually, there’s an interesting kind of historical story about maybe how we came to occupy that role. I think you could almost say that the story of the 20th century is the story of the US rise to scientific and technological heights by systematically integrating the top scientific minds of the rivals.

0:35:16 Caleb Watney: In 1900, compared to Europe especially, the US was a little bit of intellectual backwater. So if you look at the, say, the Nobel Prize in physics as a proxy here. It started in 1901. And the first 30 prizes, so between 1901 and 1933. There were a couple of years missing there for World War I. The United States was only involved in three of those 30 prizes, so 10%. And then we kind of had three big academic waves of talent that I can talk a little bit more about, but the net effect of those has been that since 1934, the United States has been involved in two‐​thirds of the Nobel Prizes in physics.

0:35:55 Paul Matzko: Wow, wow.

0:35:56 Caleb Watney: So yeah, just absolutely massive scientific domination.

0:36:00 Paul Matzko: Yeah, so we’ve had that work in our favour for decades now. Of course, the downside is, is that it’s possible to get fat and lazy and to think just to assume that we’re always gonna have that advantage where if that flips, if that kind of inertia and the power of the agglomeration effects. If someone else is able to capture that tipping point, it can get real bad real fast in terms of attracting talent.

0:36:26 Caleb Watney: That’s exactly right, yeah. And I think why we need to be so vigilant about it when you could have potential breaking points like COVID, ’cause other countries have had much better policies than us and are trying to pretty proactively poach top talent from the United States. Canada, as far back as 2013, has been putting up billboards in Silicon Valley saying, “Hey, are you having trouble getting immigration visas for your top international talent you want to recruit? Come up to Toronto. It’s so much easier here.” And since then, Toronto has really blossomed. There’s a great tech hub.

0:37:00 Caleb Watney: The UK, just in February, launched a really interesting new immigration visa called the Global Talent Visa, which is an uncapped program so they can accept as many as they think are warranting of it. But it’s really aimed at the top international scientists, the people that show a lot of potential. And they’re trying to pretty proactively tear down barriers and make the UK a welcome place for real top international talent. Similarly Australia has a pretty attractive… They have a startup visa that the United States does not have. There’s really no pathway if you wanna come to the United States explicitly to be a startup founder and you don’t have half a million dollars in personal cash to put towards it. You can get into Australia, but you can’t get into the US.

0:37:43 Paul Matzko: Well, we actually have an example of that from one of our previous episodes. I did a little series on the origins of Silicon Valley, immigration, venture capital, but actually one of the venture… The father of American and really global venture capital is Georges Doriot, who’s French famous French car manufacturing family. His father is a big innovator. He comes to the US to do business school at Harvard. And the whole goal was for him to go back and run the family company. But education… Being here was sticky. And so he ended up staying in the US and invented venture capital without which you don’t have Silicon Valley in anything like its present form. So that was at that transition moment. He comes over in the 1930s, as I recall, late ‘20s, ‘30s. And…

0:38:34 Paul Matzko: So it’s during that wave. It’s that moment when America goes from being a relative innovation backwater, to being on its way to techno‐​hegemon. And at the time, 1920s and ‘30s, if you look at the history of essentially any American chemist or scientist of the late 19th and early 20th century, the place they all went to study was Germany.

0:38:57 Caleb Watney: Yeah.

0:38:58 Paul Matzko: People that… German universities, all those big German petrochemical companies, in fact, as late as… My father’s a chemist, and as late as the ‘70s, your first… They actually had to learn a foreign language to get a PhD at Clemson. In most schools around the country, most… Churning out PhDs in chemistry and the like, you had to learn German, because so many articles were written in German well up until the 1930s, and how quickly that changed. I mean, of course, they had exogenous factors like World War II, and talk about self‐​harm. They killed millions of their own people. That’s a great way to hurt innovation, not just… Yeah. But that being said, it can happen real quick. A betting person in 1930 would, just assumed Central European German dominance in scientific innovation for the foreseeable future.

0:39:49 Caleb Watney: No, yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah, there were a number of interesting waves, so just to maybe put a few numbers to this. So the first wave, I think you were starting to identify is sort of… As the Nazi regime was starting to come to power they were persecuting scientists, especially of Jewish ancestry, and forcibly dismissing them from the university posts. And the United States had an organisation, the Institute for Advanced Studies, that was trying to pretty proactively recruit them to the United States. And then also to a lesser extent, UK got some of that talent, but that included… I think the stat is something like 15% of their physicists were dismissed during that wave, but they made up a remarkable 63% of their academic citations in physics.

0:40:36 Paul Matzko: [laughter] Wow.

0:40:36 Caleb Watney: So just, the absolute superstars of their profession were the ones that were affected, and a lot of them ended up coming to the US. And then the second wave was kind of after World War II, Operation Paperclip. Both the USSR and the US were kind of in a race to attract top German scientists, mathematicians. The US got Wernher von Braun and a few other scientists who ended up being pretty pivotal in the Apollo projects, and helped get us to the moon. And of course, in that first wave, you have the Manhattan project founders. So I think between the Apollo project and the Manhattan project, you could argue that the two greatest technological achievements, and certainly the two that solidified US techno‐​hegemony, were the direct result of international talent in US scientific institutions. And this was just always how we’ve been dominant.

0:41:24 Paul Matzko: Well, this is… I mean, the historical cautionary tale here, is that if you look at just the US history, what we’re currently going through is a resurgence of ethno‐​nationalism unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1920s and the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan, which was… The second Ku Klux Klan clan was primarily targeted at immigrants, especially Jewish immigrants. The very Jewish immigrants trying to flee the Nazi regime often faced persecution from Klansmen and other groups here in the US at the time. And so, in a sense, the mistakes that were made across the world in places like Germany, and to a lesser extent, in the US, thankfully to a somewhat lesser extent, had huge knock‐​on effects for innovation. I mean, of course, there are more important stuff than innovation. There’s the global genocide, there’s… All the other trappings.

0:42:19 Paul Matzko: But it has effects for innovation that echo over the next century, and we’re going through a moment like that right now. We are in the position… We are Germany in the 1920s and ‘30s, and we have to decide… Facing a wave of ethno‐​nationalism. We’re not Germany post‐​1933, thankfully. The Nazis haven’t taken over, but we’re already making the kinds of bad decisions that the Germans made in the late 1920s, 1930s. Driving away top global talent, driving away Jewish talent, driving away… And I… So there’s a direct cautionary tale as well as something, there’s a moment of promise too, that rather than driving away talent, surely we should be doing the opposite which is more actively attracting talent. In fact, in this piece you were writing, you talk about setting up a department of pro‐​migration. What’s pro‐​migration? What’s that department supposed to do?

0:43:16 Caleb Watney: Yeah, so this is kind of a fun idea. A friend of mine, the economic historian Anton Howes based in the UK, has coined the term pro‐​migration, prah‐​migration, depending on how you wanna pronounce it, to basically to make a distinction between a more reactive immigration or migration where you basically let the top immigrants come to you… And then a proactive pro‐​migration, where you’re trying to more actively recruit them and bring them to your country and help them get settled. And so he kind of traces in his original post, the long history of the UK and doing this. They used to basically try to poach off top metallurgists and inventors, especially from Germany and Austria‐​Hungary, and get them to come to the UK But I think you could look at a couple of those academic waves, what the Institute for Advanced Studies was doing with a lot of those top Jewish scientists in trying to actively recruit them to the United States. I think you could count that as a kind of pro‐​migration. And so I was sort of sketching out what it might look like to be more systematic about that.

0:44:26 Caleb Watney: And one of the big problems in our current immigration system is there’s, what economists call, a principal‐​agent problem, where the people that are making the decisions aren’t… They don’t have the aligned incentives with the people that end up getting affected. A lot of the individual USCIS adjudication officers who are the ones that are making a lot of day‐​to‐​day decisions about the kinds of immigrants to let in, who to prioritize, who to give visas to, they come from national security backgrounds, and their mental model seems to be more aligned with, “How can I minimize the chance of, say, a terrorist coming into the United States?” Rather than a growth mindset of, “How can I maximize the possible growth for the United States?” And so yeah, they really have no incentive to consider what does it mean for the US that we are turning away the 17‐​year‐​old drone engineer? And we want them to think about those kinds of incentives. So in the corporate world, you see a lot of companies end up having elaborate talent scouting departments, or they contract with head‐​hunting agencies to try to proactively identify people either, at other firms, or in top universities, and try to actively recruit them to their companies.

0:45:40 Caleb Watney: And you can imagine trying to do something similar on the US level. So in this particular example, I sketch out, maybe you could have advanced talent scouts, called pro‐​migration agents, who try to go out and look at the top academics, the top engineers, the top inventors of various countries, interview them and try to recruit them to the United States and give them an offering of permanent residence or even citizenship. And then, you could almost reward those pro‐​migration agents based on the quality of the applicants that they bring in. So if you have someone who becomes a wealthy startup founder, if they have a very high salary, because they’re such a valuable AI engineer, if they are in academic and they win a prominent award, if they have certain number of patent citations or paper citations. You could imagine any number of metrics of success that we care about, and then ended up giving bonuses to the pro‐​migration agents who can proactively identify the most promising young people and get them into the United States.

0:46:42 Paul Matzko: That’s a great idea. I think your point is well made, which is, I think our listeners will be familiar with the precautionary principle and the bureaucratic logic, which is that… When was the last time you heard someone praise, or the news headlines praise a government department for allowing in someone who is responsible for innovation? What we actually see in the headlines is blank, “Department of Homeland Security”, or blank, whatever government agency will fill in the blank, they missed this terrible, dangerous person who did something bad afterwards. So the incentive structure is to minimize the bad headlines ’cause they don’t get good headlines. So go with zero downside risk, no matter how high the upside opportunity. And so, that makes perfect sense. They have to do something to fundamentally change that incentive structure if you wanna get something done. So I like the idea of the US deploying head‐​hunters to attract top talent. That’s fun. Where did the idea come from? Did you just…

0:47:53 Caleb Watney: Yeah, I was kinda thinking… I think it actually came about, current… USCIS is facing a big budget crunch. Because right now, the way the department is funded is they get some portion of the number of visa applications, and so as there’s been a huge number of visa freezes, they’ve had, understandably much, many fewer applications, and that makes up a huge portion of USCIS’s revenue. And so, that’s causing all sorts of issues. And that got me thinking, yeah, what if you almost… You could also imagine funding the department based on some percentage of the income that their top candidates end up getting. So an income sharing agreement is what you see sometimes with schools that try to increase the talent. Landis school is a big example of this. But you can imagine, yeah, if you let in a number of top AI scientists and then they’re making $500K salaries, if you take a 1% income tax on them for five years or something, based on coming in through a certain kind of visa program, that would be another way. You could try to rearrange incentives for the agents.

0:49:02 Paul Matzko: I like the idea. So I’ll keep our listeners posted if… And we’ll put the article in our show notes if it’s out in time for this episode. But if not, keep an eye out for Caleb’s latest paper.


0:49:22 Paul Matzko: I actually want to revisit an idea that you had a few months back, you and Alec Stapp wrote a white paper in April titled “Masks For All,” in which you called for the Trump administration to use the defense production act to boost Personal Protective Equipment production, so masks and gloves and the like. So explain that, what you argued for in the white paper briefly.

0:49:48 Caleb Watney: Yeah, so this was towards the beginning of the coronavirus situation, we were just realising the huge dearth of personal protective equipment that… Especially, first line responders were gonna be facing, and when faced with the question of, “How can we massively increase the supply of something?” An economist naturally says, “Well, let’s use the price system. If we need lots and lots of orders of something, let’s just be willing to pay a lot, a lot of money to produce things very, very quickly.” And so then we were doing some research and realised that, yeah, the Defense Production Act, which is I think commonly associated with more of a nationalization approach that you can kind of do through Title 1, has another title called Title 3, which enables you to basically, yeah, do pretty massive purchase guarantees or purchase orders. And so, you can imagine the government basically saying, “We’re gonna be willing to accept as many orders as possible up to X million number of masks per week, and we’ll be willing to pay up to this top number.” And then that would massively increase the investment that companies are willing to make, which is, I think the big incentive you’re trying to correct for.

0:51:02 Caleb Watney: Because if you’re a mask manufacturer, you’re unsure what demand for masks look like, not necessarily in two months, you’re pretty sure it’s gonna be pretty high in two months, but if you’re investing a lot into the big expensive factory equipment, you care about what demand looks like in a year from now, in two years from now. And so, without assurances that you’re gonna be able to find the kind of market you need, you’re gonna be unwilling to make the huge investments that you need to really increase PPE production over a longer time horizon than just a two‐​month period. And so we thought, yeah, purchase guarantees, especially if you stipulated them, we’re gonna be buying X number of million masks for at least 18 months or something. That would give manufacturers the kind of certainty they need to actually really massively ramp up production.

0:51:51 Paul Matzko: As I recall, there were some deregulatory aspects using, I think Title 3 as well of the Defense Production Act, to encourage new entrance. ‘Cause as it stood, one of the bottlenecks was the FDA had all these hurdles on, if you wanted to manufacture a mask, you had to certify it, the mask met all these benchmarks. And the requirements to do so were very onerous, which was another way of discouraging a new entrance into starting factories and pumping out masks. So there was a deregulatory component of the plan as well as I recall. I actually was broadly in favour of it, even though a purchase mandate, the purist libertarian isn’t usually a fan of… This is a direct government intervention through purchase guarantee, it’s not like nationalization that some people were calling for the use of the DPA, but at the same time you are going to… You’re skewing the kind of market price signal. But in an emergency, sometimes it’s worth sacrificing efficiency and enduring increased fraud in exchange for brute numbers, sometimes you have to do that in an emergency. You think of this with the military, we all make fun of the Pentagon and $500 toilet seats, but during a war time, we’ll put up with that fraud and inefficiency, because there’s some kind of brute output that’s required.

0:53:19 Caleb Watney: That’s right, yeah, you could kind of think about with either a private sector actor or with the government, the real risk that you’re trying to compensate against is the risk of overproduction. What happens if we make so many masks that we end up having more than we need? And for private sector actors, who are profit‐​maximizing, that’s a pretty deliberating decision. They wanna make sure that they don’t over‐​invest in their fixed costs and then are left with the bag, if the crisis ends up ending sooner than expected, especially if a vaccine were to suddenly come around the corner, and then all of these masks are no longer needed. But for the federal government, the risk of overproduction is much less costly. We’ve actually realised that one of the biggest flaws that we perhaps had in the lead up to this whole crisis was, the government wasn’t stockpiling enough PPE and surgical masks, and N95 masks, and those can keep for quite a while in storage. So our solution was in some sense saying, “Hey, let’s transfer this huge risk of overproduction away from the private sector and towards the government, who in some sense created the problem by not stockpiling enough in the first place.” Yeah.

0:54:29 Paul Matzko: Right. So, I mean the worst case scenario is, we overproduce stacked away in warehouses for a couple of decades until the next kind of pandemic, potentially, yeah.

0:54:41 Caleb Watney: Yeah, absolutely. Or if it ends up being that maybe the US has enough masks, there are plenty of other countries that are gonna end up seeing coronavirus outbreaks, either right now or at some point in the future. So having those on hand, you can either, “Hey, I hear the US likes exporting. There’s an export opportunity.” Or you could even use it as a charitable, “Give it away to low‐​income countries that don’t have the same fiscal capacity as the US”

0:55:08 Paul Matzko: Now, I will say I was a fan of the white paper and the proposal, the government didn’t end up doing it, but I actually was pretty impressed with how quickly it left on its own. Market forces were able to ramp up PPE production to the point that by mid‐​May, you could find masks once again being sold everywhere from the usual masks, the surgical type masks, to Hanes, the underwear company was producing masks that you can find them in Walmart, or any kind of retail outlet now sells masks. So we actually did work through the crunch more quickly than I would’ve thought at the beginning of April and end of March.

0:55:53 Caleb Watney: Yeah, I mean, there were some government actions that were maybe quasi‐​versions of purchase guarantees. So I think our idealized version of the proposal would have basically accepted contracts from almost any manufacturer, even clothing manufacturers that are trying to switch from producing clothing to producing masks. What the Trump Administration instead did, was a bunch of one‐​off contracts with pre‐​existing manufacturers, and so I think that did help alleviate the supply, but maybe not quite as efficiently as it would have in our ideal version of it.

0:56:26 Caleb Watney: You’ve also seen that China has been investing lots of money in increasing their own supplies, and after they kind of handled maybe the first wave of Coronavirus, they started exporting a lot of masks, I think that’s also where some of the additional supply came from. But it’s worth reiterating that still, especially for frontline medical workers, where we’re now facing a second wave of kind of, especially N95 masks, those have been in crucial supply. ‘Cause you just end up going through a lot of them, if you have hundreds of nurses working full‐​time shifts.

0:57:01 Paul Matzko: Do you have any theory for why the second wave… ‘Cause things even for frontline workers, had mostly eased by the end of May, early June, but now here in July, we’re seeing again, critical shortages for hospital workers and the like.

0:57:16 Caleb Watney: Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s hard to… Supply chains are, in some sense, deep and mysterious, [chuckle] and it’s hard to know all of their inner workings. They cross continents, and I think there was also maybe some bubbles of supply that we would suddenly find in a random warehouse that we had forgotten about, or you have lots of tech companies that ended up donating their extra masks that they had, and so I think that ended up helping alleviate some of the supply. But I think we’re still coming back to, kind of, the fundamental barrier, which is, in some sense, that our manufacturing production capacity, especially in the United States, still hasn’t increased to the level that we need.

0:57:57 Caleb Watney: I think the other thing that I would maybe point out is, we’re kind of stuck in this weird equilibrium in the US, where most people of the general public, they are wearing masks, but they’re wearing cloth masks, whereas in countries like South Korea and in Taiwan, where they were more aggressive about trying to increase domestic surgical mask production, everyone there is wearing surgical masks. And as we’ve been seeing a number of studies have come out showing that surgical masks are, in fact, significantly more effective than cloth masks, in terms of slowing down the spread of the virus. So I think that that’s another way in which maybe we managed to get around some of the supply constraints by just basically adopting a worse version of masks, but the ideal world would have had surgical masks for everyone.

0:58:38 Paul Matzko: That’s a good point. One more point of current events I wanted to touch on, there’s been lots of headlines about the Chinese Consulate in Houston, I believe, being dis‐​invited by the US as part of this struggle, concerns over a stealing, industrial espionage and stealing secrets, and the Chinese Consulate burning papers and records and all kinds of drama there. Let’s say, so let’s take our position here. We’re talking about techno hegemony, we’re talking about liberalizing immigration laws, those of us who are broadly pro‐​immigration would do so on the ethical merits alone, or and as well as on the utilitarian output, it’s good for productivity, it’s good for economic growth and so on. How would you pitch this to folks who don’t care about those things as much as we do, but who are concerned about Chinese power, are concerned about diminishing American power? Why should we not be afraid? I mean ’cause I don’t doubt that it’s true, I do not doubt the Chinese consulates are involved in industrial secret stealing and the like.

0:59:56 Caleb Watney: Yeah, that’s a good question, and certainly, it’s kind of a hard one to wrestle with, partially because it’s hard to know what the full scope or scale of Chinese industrial espionage attempts are. You hear lots of one‐​off reports, you hear of isolated incidents, but it’s kind of inherently a hard thing to measure. And so, it’s hard to know what the full scale of these espionage attempts are, or even if Chinese government is actually ordering a lot of these, to what extent are they actually successful, or they’re getting useful information is, I guess a whole another question of efficacy. I think my main point would be that in some sense, it is worth worrying about and it’s worth probably taking stronger stances on to fight back against these. We can have counter surveillance networks, we can try to be more selective about if you have someone closely connected with the Politburo in China, than someone to be much more suspicious of than just an every day, average Chinese person who’s trying to come to the United States to study physics or something.

1:01:01 Caleb Watney: And so, yeah, let’s use discretion, but it’s also not worth, I guess, shooting ourselves in the foot and cutting off our entire access to talent flows, because there are also limits on the kinds of things that you can plausibly steal. I sometimes like to give the example that, if you’re walking down the street and you suddenly had the blueprints for the latest government fighter jet or for a particle collider, it’s unclear exactly what you would do with that, because a lot of the knowledge that’s actually, it takes to build say a new state‐​of‐​the‐​art particle collider, isn’t captured in blueprints. It’s captured in tacet knowledge that the workers have, or in the kind of intellectual infrastructure that ends up being created at these companies that you can’t easily transfer. And so, yeah, I think there’s a whole kind of intangible intellectual capital element of this that’s very difficult to steal. And in general, we want to be the location that is so far on the cutting edge that people are trying to steal from us rather than the other way around. So my top priority would be, I guess, making sure that we maintain our status as the techno‐​hegemon, as the most cutting edge place to do these kinds of research. But I would also be totally in support of more, I guess, one‐​off or more discretionary policies to try to reduce espionage on the market.

1:02:27 Paul Matzko: There is a kind of funny sense in which some of these actions can have a self‐​fulfilling prophecy aspect. Which is if you’re worried about, say, Chinese scientists sending back what they learn while they’re here, you know what, a great way to guarantee they send back everything that they’ve learned is to force them to go back, right?

1:02:48 Caleb Watney: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

1:02:50 Paul Matzko: If you drive out all the Chinese scientists and send them all back to China where they can have wonderful agglomeration effects in their home country, you’ve probably done more damage than could ever have been done by a few one‐​off spies, essentially, right?

1:03:07 Caleb Watney: No, I think that’s exactly right. This is very speculative, but I have half‐​jokingly said before that maybe China’s plan here is to dial up the visuals of industrial espionage next, up to 11, try to make it almost kind of obvious, be a little bit sloppy about it. Because then, on the plus side, if America doesn’t react at all, hey, you have a few more blueprints than you had before. But on the plus side, if they overreact and they shut off all of your talent flows, then they’ve solved this big problem for you of Chinese student retention, which you have been having very limited success in being able to stop.

1:03:44 Paul Matzko: I like that, this is the galaxy brain approach, I like that.

1:03:45 Caleb Watney: Yeah, exactly. That’s the galaxy brain take. Again, I don’t think that that’s necessarily what’s happening, but it almost fits the fact better.

1:03:53 Paul Matzko: Yeah, yeah. Well, Caleb, thank you so much for coming on the show.

1:03:56 Caleb Watney: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great talking with you, Paul.


1:04:00 Paul Matzko: I suspect that after listening to my conversation with Caleb, that you feel, as I do, a sense of deep and utter frustration with how backwards and self‐​defeating the national conversation about immigration often is. We call this show Building Tomorrow in the metaphorical sense, that all of us chipping in with our particular skills and visions in the communities where we live, that we can collectively contribute to a better future for everyone. But in talking of these engineers, scientists, programmers, researchers and the like, we are very literally talking about those who build tomorrow. We are doing our damnedest to drive them away, to send them to build someone else’s tomorrow first. There are times where I wish I could march down to the capital, with one of those, you know those water spray bottles that you use to squirt your misbehaving pet when it’s like, eating its own poop, and just give them a big old squirt in the face saying, “Bad politician! Stop it, bad boy!” Feel real good. [chuckle] Until they arrested me, I suppose, which means I have to settle for the ballot box instead. Until next week, be well.

1:05:16 Paul Matzko: This episode of Building Tomorrow was produced by Landry Ayres for lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. If you’d like to learn more about libertarianism, check out our online encyclopedia, or subscribe to one of our half‐​dozen podcasts.