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Our hosts speak with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.

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The End of the American Dream?

HKS Professor Robert Putnam explains how the United States has become a class-segregated society with a growing stratification between the educated and uneducated. He describes how upward mobility has nearly vanished over the last few decades and what can be done to turn things around.


11 Mar 2015

Rank #1

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206 David Deming on Why Free College is a Good Investment

Harvard Kennedy School Professor David Deming, whose research focuses on the economics of education, recently wrote a New York Times op-ed titled “Tuition-free College Could Cost Less Than You Think.” Making college education widely affordable in the U.S. is vital, Deming says, because a degree will likely be a prerequisite for the labor market of the not-too-distant future. Professor Deming recently sat down with PolicyCast host Thoko Moyo to discuss not just how to lower college costs, but also how to improve educational quality and what that could mean for students across the socioeconomic spectrum. In addition to being a professor at HKS and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Deming is also the new faculty director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at HKS and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He recently won the David Kershaw Prize, which is given to scholars under the age of 40 who have made distinguished contribution to the field of public policy and management. To learn more about the Malcolm Wiener Center, please visit: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/wiener PolicyCast is hosted by Harvard Kennedy School Associate Dean of Communications Thoko Moyo. The show is produced by Ralph Ranalli and Susan Hughes.


28 Oct 2019

Rank #2

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A Primer on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

HKS Professor Robert Lawrence explains what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is, how it could transform the global economy, what makes it controversial, and why its ratification has sparked a heated political discussion within both parties.


9 Mar 2016

Rank #3

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182 The Mueller Investigation

HKS Lecturer Juliette Kayyem provides context to the endless stream of news regarding Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In addition to giving a brief on what we now know, Kayyem also discusses the potential ramifications if President Trump were to attempt to fire Mueller in a move reminiscent of Nixon’s infamous Saturday Night Massacre.


13 Dec 2017

Rank #4

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201 Predicting the Future Through Know-How

Professor Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Kennedy School’s Center for International Development, and Tim Cheston, a research fellow with the center’s Growth Lab, explain how they leveraged data from the Atlas of Economic Complexity to assess the knowhow of more than 130 countries and predict their economic growth over the next eight years. Learn more about CID's new growth predictions: http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/rankings/growth-projections/


30 May 2018

Rank #5

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The Power of Protests, Propaganda and Religion

HKS Associate Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott’s quantitative analysis of three seemingly disparate topics shows the power of protests to change policy, the power of propaganda to induce violence and the power of religion to create happiness despite reducing GDP. You can read more on Professor Yanagizawa-Drott’s research on the HKS Faculty Research Connection website: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/faculty_name.aspx?PersonId=256


28 Oct 2015

Rank #6

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Finding Agreement on Climate Policy in Paris

Professor Robert Stavins, Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements out of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, explains why the COP21 in Paris is a critical step in addressing anthropogenic global climate change. He discusses the history of past climate summits and lays out both his markers for success and potential impediments to a deal. More from Professor Stavins and other Kennedy School scholars can be found at http://hkscop21paris.tumblr.com.


2 Dec 2015

Rank #7

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The Criminal Injustice System

HKS Alumnus Bryan Stevenson spent his career working to address issues of racial and wealth inequality in the United States’ justice system. He believes this inequality stems from a failure of the nation to reconcile its dark history with regard to slavery and Jim Crow. His work as Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative focuses on defending those without the means to properly defend themselves. This episode was originally published on November 19, 2014.


29 Dec 2015

Rank #8

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The Pain is Real: The Emotional Toll of Losing an Election

HKS Associate Professor Todd Rogers demonstrates the drastic emotional impact electoral wins and losses have on political partisans, influencing their overall happiness even more than national tragedies. He also discusses our tendency to believe in a favorable future and introduces the concept of paltering, which describes the active use of truthful statements to mislead.


9 Nov 2016

Rank #9

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196 Europe's Evolving Stance on Russia

Cathryn Clüver-Ashbrook, executive director of both the Future of Diplomacy Project and the Project on Trans-Atlantic and European Relations out of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, describes the changing nature of relations between Europe and Russia, providing historical context, examining contemporary factors such as the Syrian civil war and Russian election meddling, and describing how the new Project on Trans-Atlantic and European Relations, chaired by HKS Professor Nicholas Burns, seeks to find solutions to the emerging challenges.


18 Apr 2018

Rank #10

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Big Data; Better Cities

HKS Professor Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Data-Smart City Solutions Project at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center, describes how city and state governments can improve service to citizens by harnessing new technologies.


4 Feb 2015

Rank #11

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183 Stop Calling It Fake News

The Shorenstein Center’s Claire Wardle and journalist Hossein Derakhshan explain how information disorder has taken the world by storm, breaking down how it’s created, produced, and distributed, paying particular attention to the ways in which social media has exacerbated the problem, and making the case that the term F*** News isn’t just inaccurate, but actively harmful to democratic institutions. Wardle, the research director for the Shorenstein Center’s First Draft News project, and Derakhshan are co-authors of Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking.


20 Dec 2017

Rank #12

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173 Xi Jinping’s Dreams for China

Professor Tony Saich, director of the Kennedy School's Ash Center, lays out the challenges and tensions China faces just before the Communist Party gathers to choose its leadership at the 19th Party Congress, and how President Xi Jinping hopes to overcome them.


11 Oct 2017

Rank #13

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149 Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

As Donald Trump prepares to take office, three HKS faculty members discuss the challenges he’ll face in pursuing his unique brand of politics on the world stage. Featuring former US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, former Department of Homeland Security Official Juliette Kayyem and Foreign Policy Columnist Stephen Walt.


4 Jan 2017

Rank #14

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Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?

HKS Lecturer Chris Robichaud takes us through a new case study (coauthored with Laura Winig) exploring the question of whether NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was justified in leaking classified materials exposing the breadth of the US government’s surveillance activities. Originally published in May 2014.


27 Jan 2016

Rank #15

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Designing Smarter Policy

HKS Professor Asim Khwaja, Co-Director of the Evidence for Policy Design program, explains the benefits of bringing academics into the field to develop policy in collaboration with practitioners.


17 Dec 2014

Rank #16

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Is Transparency Bad for Politics?

Professor Michael Ignatieff of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy makes the case that increased transparency in government makes it harder for politicians to find compromise by relating his experience as the leader of the opposition in the Canadian Parliament. He also laments the tendency to argue over the standing of those who make arguments on various issues, as opposed to the substance of the issues themselves. This episode originally published in December 2014.


20 Jan 2016

Rank #17

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150 Donald Trump and the Economy

Three HKS faculty members discuss the broad economic challenges facing President Donald Trump as he takes office, including the cumulative effects of decades of wage stagnation, rising healthcare costs, and declining economic mobility, as well as the growing challenges posed by automation and the gig economy. Featuring Dean Douglas Elmendorf, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Professor Brigitte Madrian, a behavioral economist focused on household savings and investment behavior, and Professor David Ellwood, director of the Wiener Center for Social Policy, where he is currently focused on inequality and mobility. This is the second in a three-part series of roundtable discussions, produced in collaboration with HKS Magazine, on the challenges facing President-elect Trump in foreign policy, economics, and leadership.


11 Jan 2017

Rank #18

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189 Bringing Economics to the People

Tufts Professor Michael Klein explains how he’s using http://www.econofact.org to better inform the broader public about economics. The non-partisan publication features easily-digestible briefs on topical economic issues authored by a network of economists around the country, including HKS Professors David Deming, Jeffrey Frankel, and Mark Shepard.


7 Mar 2018

Rank #19

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167 Ban Ki-moon on Global Leadership

For the last few months, former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been working with students and faculty at HKS on the deeply complex problems he grappled with during his decade-long tenure as the world's top diplomat. In this episode, Ban discusses the experiences that drove him to pursue public service as a young man - including a high school encounter with John F. Kennedy; the skillset that sets effective world leaders apart; the oft-overlooked connection between climate change and an increase in violent conflict; his reaction to the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement; and his advice for young people who are eager to make the world better and more prosperous. Ban is currently at HKS as an Angelopolous Global Public Leaders Fellow.


22 Jun 2017

Rank #20