Friday, April 13, 2012

In Praise of Punctuality (... or Why I'm Not an Optimist)

We'll, I can't say I didn't ask for it. When you title your book The Coming Prosperity, you can expect to be called an "optimist" at minimum--even "Dr. Boom" or the "Permabull."
You also can't be surprised at a bit of reflexive skepticism, as evidenced by this announcement of a talk I'm giving on April 18 at Artisphere in Arlington, VA: "With a title like that, one should expect some 'happy talk...'"
Fine. But, just for the record, I don't see my book as being optimistic, nor do I regard myself personally as "an optimist." Why not?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reconciling The Coming Prosperity with the Great Stagnation: Excerpt from my Interview with Richard Florida

Richard Florida and I have been friends, and at times colleagues, since the late 1990s. He was insightful and articulate back then, as he is now. Back when Richard first started working on the "three Ts"--talent, technology, and tolerance--he was just about the only economist seriously looking at the role of creative individuals in driving the development of regions and nations. That's changed ... though, as the continued fixation with industrial policy and clusters indicates, the technocratic tendency is still to relegate actual human beings to the footnotes.
Richard generously offered to write a blurb for The Coming Prosperity. A couple of weeks ago he interviewed me about the book, and posted the exchange to Atlantic CitiesRichard's questions were great. Here's an except that gave me that chance to reconcile my view of the next quarter century with the seemingly opposite view offered by my George Mason University colleague Tyler Cowen in his Spring 2011 bestseller, The Great Stagnation:
Why specifically do you disagree with economists and others who believe that we are entering an age of prolonged stagnation and decline?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Growthology: The Neutron Book?

On Friday I posted a review of Acemoglu and Robinson's new book, Why Nations Fail to the Kauffman Foundation's Growthology blog:

Growthology: The Neutron Book?: "The advertised central thesis of the book (in contrast with what I think is the core idea in the book) is introduced a bit later, on page 42, when the authors state:
Economic institutions shape economic incentives… It is the political process that determines what economic institutions people live under, and it is the political institutions that determine how this process works… As institutions influence behavior and incentives in real life, they forge the success and failure of nations.
Institutions shape behavior, so institutions matter. Politics shapes institutions, so politics matters.

From that point forward, Why Nations Fail alternates awkwardly between lively storytelling and frequently unpersuasive attempts to shoehorn narrative nuance into conformity with The Point of the Book.

... As it stands, Why Nations Fail comes close to being a neutron book. It describes wondrous worlds full of clever people after then, after the detonation of The Point of the Book, leaves only the buildings standing... The people: gone."

Bottom line: Great (narrative) content, weak (conceptual) packaging.