Hi everyone, I'm Gonzalo Schwarz, founder and CEO of the Archbridge Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington DC focusing on economic mobility and inequality. You can see my full bio below and I invite to ask me anything related to economics, think tank management, think tank startups, parenthood and most importantly soccer.
Before founding the Archbridge Institute I worked at the Atlas Network. My last position was director of Strategic Initiatives and during my six years at Atlas I managed key projects focusing on outcome measurement, research and think tank best practices including the prestigious Templeton Freedom Award, the Leveraging Indices for Free Enterprise Reform program, the Sound Money Project and managing the relationship with Atlas partners in Latin America. I have an extensive network of collaborators which include public policy institutions, academics, and current and former policymakers all around the world.
My research interests are economic mobility, economic development and monetary policy. I have an MA in economics from George Mason University and a BA in economics from the Catholic University of Bolivia. I've lived in five countries throughout my life including Uruguay, Israel, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the United States.I'm married and my wife and I have two amazing children ages six and three.
Hi Gonzalo -- you have two small kids and you've started this new think tank -- how DO you do it (and still have time for soccer)??
and a follow up question -- with two small kids, how to you manage traveling for fundraising (and programs?)?
My wife is just great and understanding so we try to complement each other around the house. She also works full time but I actually come back earlier from work to pick up the kids from school ( 1st grade and preschool) and then when my wife gets back home if I need to do something urgent she takes care of the kids. But mostly she’s understanding because I work a little bit after they go to sleep instead of watching tv or a movie on the couch. And I wake up early to get a head start which doesn’t work all the time but it’s part of the plan.
The good thing about watching soccer is that it’s usually on Saturday and Sunday morning so I get to watch it when the kids are doing their thing in the morning, either playing with their toys or watching a little tv of their own. More often than not I don’t get to finish the games but it comes with the territory, kids come first.
in terms of playing it I’m just too old and slow to do it proficiently so I just watch.
And another question because I'm curious and you say "ask me anything" -- was there something that pushed you or enabled you to take the leap? Were you preparing for some time, did Atlas fund your start-up, or what??
I had some startup funds from Atlas at first but it didn’t last long, maybe a month or two. I was able to work at Atlas part time for three months after I left which helped complement the income. A week after that part time ended, serendipitously I received the first big donation followed by a bigger one the month after that which gave us enough funding for a year. I did send many applications and talked to many donors but it was mainly luck and good timing that the two main founders we had the first year came around as my personal funds were dwindling down.
And as I said earlier an understanding wife that was willing to trust me and take the chance of making the leap without any real security.
For me it was and continues to be the case that if you believe in your product and are ready to take the risk, your drives pushes you forward and doesn’t let you give up despite many unknowns and barriers along the way. Sounds very cheesy but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
In terms of trips and programs I’ve learned during the first year to prioritize and I mainly travel the least amount of days possible during the trip. So arriving to an event in the last flight possible and leaving on the first flight out. Same for donor visits.
I also try to make most of my trips when we have relatives in town that are able to help my wife around the house and with our kids duties.
But when needed we just make it work with my wife and she either asks for time off or we get the help of other friends or relatives that live close by.
Thank you for giving your time. My questions deal with economics. As technology advances and more people attend college, what do you think will happen to “unskilled positions” ? Additionally, will automation increase inequality?
Hi Jewel, thank you very much for your question. Undoubtedly many people believe that innovation and technology will increase inequality and leave people without jobs. I'm more positive about the future and techonology and believe that we're in the middle of a creative destruction wave which we just feel more pessimistic about precisely because we're in the middle of it in contrast with other episodes of creative destruction that we praise as great moments of innovation just because we think about them in hindsight.
I haven't written anything about this and how it relates to economic mobility or inequality. But if I would write something about it, it would look very similar to this article by a great Sillicon valley entrepreneur called Joe Lonsdale (protege of Peter Thiel): http://www.wired.co.uk/article/jobs-of-the-future
I think the last two paragraps summarize everything very well and I whole heartedly agree with what is being said:
"Fear is the wrong response to technological unemployment. Focusing on economic flexibility and adaptability — with special attention to eliminating the barriers we’ve accidentally created to the mobility of the working classes — is the right response to technological disruption. With sound policy in the context of a free and open society, I am optimistic that the coming advances in AI will massively reduce the cost to live a good life, and increase wealth and opportunity for all.
Technological unemployment is scary for those affected — but has always gone hand in hand with economic progress. In the next few decades, we will continue to invent new ways to entertain, educate, serve and delight others, employing billions in the process. Populists will predictably vilify innovation — fear and hatred are powerful political weapons. But as our society grows more prosperous in absolute terms, raising the bar on the very definition of poverty, we will continue to create opportunities for people from all walks of life. The human mind and body remains the most complex, powerful machine on the planet, and we will adapt and thrive in a world of accelerating technological change. We owe it to our grandchildren to continue innovating."
I think there are two additional points to highlight. First of all not because more people attend college that means that they are getting the right education and education. Even though higher education will always matter, employers and researchers are paying more and more attention to soft skills that are not what we usually learn in college. Here is a good article about it: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/02/employers-are-going-soft-the-skills-companies-are-looking-for/
Second, there are types of education that are more in demand and those positions are not getting filled. Here are two links that might explain the bigger problem that doesn't have to do too much with automation:
Short video by the great Mike Rowe:
Second, this longish article from the HBR: https://hbr.org/2014/08/employers-arent-just-whining-the-skills-gap-is-real
I'll stop here because it's already a lot of information but I hope it makes sense and answered your question, at least somewhat.
Ok, you said "anything". So here goes. What would be the main tenets of a sustainable healthcare system? My own choices would include "always some copay", to avoid "unlimited use". Plus the ability of hospitals to force non-emergency patients to an "urgent care center" on site. Let people buy as much insurance as they want and need, with those who cannot afford ANY insurance being on Medicaid. Your thoughts?
You got me there Alan. I'm not an expert in the heralthcare debate and don't know enough to make an informed opinion. I do however like the people who run this group and they're trying to link the debate on opportunity and economic mobility to healthcare. So maybe they have a better answer?