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This is Capitalism: Up Close, Inspired, Explained

Jun 23, 2021

Patricia O’Connell interviews Christina Elson, Executive Director for the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University, and Patrick Reasonover, the lead producer of the movie, They Say It Can’t Be Done. They discuss the movie, innovation, and the proper role of regulation in a free market capitalist system.

Listen in to learn more about innovation and regulation and how you can promote innovation in the market.

Key Takeaways:

[:21] Patricia O’Connell introduces Christina Elson, Executive Director for the Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University, and Patrick Reasonover, the lead producer of the movie, They Say It Can’t Be Done, and welcomes them to This is Capitalism.

[1:34] Patrick discusses innovation, regulation, optimism, and pessimism as themes of the movie They Say It Can’t Be Done. Innovators are working on problems that people believe cannot be solved, such as global warming. Regulators use an outdated industrial model and not the digital, innovative model of capitalism we see today.

[3:30] We have to decide between optimism and pessimism. Can these things be done? Should we regulate and stop them from moving forward?

[4:00] Christina addresses the roles of regulation, both positive and negative, in a capitalist free market economy. Regulators do not fully understand the new technology economy they regulate. We need to protect people when it’s appropriate without creating issues that are difficult to resolve in our economy.

[6:12] Patrick speaks of the histories of capitalism and regulation since the Industrial Revolution. With industry, came regulation. Regulation trails innovation as the future is unseen. The ultimate decider of an industry’s success is when the consumers choose them in the market. When regulation tries to manage innovation, it’s a problem.

[7:34] Regulations should not solve problems; they should empower and facilitate the innovators and businesses that are solving the problems.

[8:04] Patrick searched on Google to find the four companies he followed in the film They Say It Can’t Be Done. They began by finding the biggest problems everyone shares. When they settled on the problems, they went researching and found organizations that had been working on these problems for years or even decades.

[9:16] Patrick and his team talked to many people in the process. The four companies that the film follows are symbolic of multiple others working on the same problems, such as, how do you solve global warming? One person, Klaus Lackner, has developed a plastic tree to suck CO2 from the atmosphere at thousands of times the rate of a living tree.
[10:35] Wake Forest University has been working at the forefront of personalized medicine for over a decade. They are working on growing bones, organs, or other tissues you may need from your existing cells. This works with 3-D printing technology in biomedicine. The medical regulatory system is not based on personalized medicine.

[12:01] A business that builds organs needs to scale its ability for the hundreds of thousands of people that need organ donation. The process of scaling has been extremely complicated because of the regulatory system. The innovators spend many hours trying to work through very complicated regulations, instead of innovating.

[14:31] Most of the regulatory agencies and the acts which created them are decades old. They are outdated. There needs to be a fundamental revisiting of how we regulate any of these businesses, particularly new ones. New businesses are particularly vulnerable at the start. Once they are global, they are not as vulnerable.
[16:17] Do we trust that most innovators are devoting their time and resources trying to contribute and do good? Or do we look at the world with fear?
[16:48] We need to encourage innovation and new businesses in the US. Patricia talks about Eat Just, one of the businesses in the film, producing chicken meat. They have a great product with some important breakthroughs. They launched in Singapore instead of the US because of Singapore's clear regulatory system.

[19:20] What about the workers displaced by the creative destruction? What happens to the food processing workers when we grow meat from cells? Many companies are heavily involved in retraining workers. Our schools are emphasizing training for the new economy. There are always jobs that will be replaced by other, better jobs.

[22:16] Animal husbandry and slaughter are jobs that are not pleasant. Other jobs will appear that are less hazardous, better paying, and better for the environment as well. The American beef industry is trying to use the regulatory apparatus to delay and shut down Eat Just and its competitors from launching this product.

[23:30] Instead of trying to regulate them, Tyson invested in Eat Just. Tyson has an international distribution system. Eat Just does not. By working together, and producing a better product, they both profit. Eat Just has made meat better and less expensive.

[26:07] We are ready for permissionless innovation. We are responsible for the government we have. We need to have advocacy for the kind of world in which we want to live and take the steps to figure out how to get there. As consumers, we can demand products that we believe will provide us with a better, healthier lifestyle.

[28:20] Advocacy is based on need. If enough people demand 3-D printed organs, the system will eventually provide for them to be made. The first step is awareness. The movie presents real solutions that address real problems.

[29:20] Christina tells why she is an optimist. Optimists believe in a locus of control and are natural leaders. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic today. Patrick is an optimist but he says we all need to be self-aware. Sometimes, you need to be cautious. The negativity of the media makes people overly cautious.

[31:35] We have a tort system in the US. Why not let this meat go to market? Why does the FDA need to approve foods that we eat? If it is harmful, they will be sued. We are in Innovation Land. Capitalism has freed people to create new things. The future is always going to be different and when people are free, it is going to be better.

[32:33] Be optimistic when it is called for and be cautious when it is called for. There are millions of people all around the world, working on amazingly cool stuff to solve the problems you are worried about, right now. The best thing you can do is to help them.

[32:58] Patricia thanks Patrick and Christina for giving us reasons to be optimistic and for being on the podcast; This Is Capitalism CEO Stories.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Christina Elson

Patrick Reasonover

Wake Forest University

Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake Forest University

They Say it Can’t Be Done

Eat Just

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association