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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taking the Scare out of Scarcity

Review of Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think, New York: Free Press, 2012.

The human community occupies a planet of finite resources. As population grows, people and nations will necessarily compete with increasing ferocity. Scarcity-driven crises will provoke dramatic oscillations in human welfare, leading almost inevitably to a collapse of civilization.

Got that?

Welcome to the world of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, author of An Essay on the Principle of Population. The core thesis of Malthus’s 1798 masterwork is neatly summarized in a line early in the book: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” 

The logic behind the argument advanced by Malthus was compelling. For over two centuries  An Essay on the Principle of Population has not only been studied, but has been endlessly copied and revived in various forms. Early twentieth century eugenicists employed Malthusian arguments to justify inhuman controls on the reproductive freedoms of other people ... and worse. Malthusian fears came back in a widely read book by Paul and Anne Ehrlich published in 1968 and titled The Population Bomb; the Ehrlich's message was updated as recently as 2010 in a lead essay in Foreign Affairs titled "The New Population Bomb."  Woven throughout this two-centuries old body of work is a single unifying theme: the reproductive power of people is a paramount problem for society as a whole. Beware the future.

So much for the theory of demographic doom. What of the facts?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Collaborative Advantage

Here's the video from a panel I moderated at the launch event for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011. The topic of the panel was "Collaborative Advantage: How Diaspora Entrepreneurs Are Creating Connections for Shared Prosperity." The panelists are:

You can decide for yourself after viewing how awesome these folks are. (Hint: Very.)

"Collaborative Advantage" is also the title of chapter 11 of The Coming Prosperity. Here's an excerpt: