Random Thoughts
The modern world is a history of ideas meeting, mixing, mating and mutating,” Dr. Ridley writes. “And the reason that economic growth has accelerated so in the past two centuries is down to the fact that ideas have been mixing more than ever before.
The Urbanophile » Blog Archive » Detroit: Urban Laboratory and the New American Frontier
“Smartphones are hot,” she says, “and tablets are as hot as microprocessors were a generation ago. The next big thing could be cloud computing, and farther out, three-dimensional printers ” (which would be able to create objects in three dimensions, starting with basic plastic devices). Whatever the next innovation is, though, Arrison thinks that it will happen in the Valley.
To renew our cities, we have to build on what they are, not what they aren’t. The lesson of Portland is not the physical things Portland did. The lesson of Portland is that they went their own way and did what was right for them. Other cities need to find their own paths.
It’s what I call “the power of brand Detroit”, and it is overwhelming. Has Cleveland, Buffalo, or any other struggling city gotten one tenth the national and international media coverage of Detroit? Did Time magazine set up a “Project Toledo”? No. Detroit is simply a city and brand unlike any other, one that has the power to grab the eyes of the world.
Deep down, the crisis is yet another manifestation of what I call “the political trilemma of the world economy”: economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along with globalization, we must shove the nation-state aside and strive for greater international governance.
SPIEGEL: Would it not be good if a country such as Greece were able to leave the euro area? Trichet: No. This is excluded. If a country joins the euro area, it shares a common destiny with the other members. There is a need for a quantum leap in the governance of the euro area. There need to be major improvements to prevent bad behavior, to ensure effective implementation of the recommendations made by “peers” and to ensure real and effective sanctions in case of breaches (of the Stability and Growth Pact). The ECB is calling for major changes, and I will explain this in the task force chaired by (European Council President) Herman van Rompuy.
In his view, Americans would have had a much clearer picture of our progress over the past decade if we had focused on median income rather than G.D.P. per capita, which is distorted by top earners and corporate profits. “When you have increasing inequality, median and average behave differently,” Stiglitz said. Real median household income has actually dipped since 2000. But G.D.P. per capita, he noted, has gone up. A president could go on the podium, Stiglitz said, and point to G.D.P. as proof that Americans are doing very well. But if you looked instead at median income, he said, “you could say, a) it’s not sustainable; and b) most people are actually worse off.” We need to focus on those median figures, he insisted.
But criticisms of G.D.P. go deeper than just its use, or misuse, by politicians. For years, economists critical of the measure have enjoyed spinning narratives to illustrate its logical flaws and limitations. Consider, for example, the lives of two people — let’s call them High-G.D.P. Man and Low-G.D.P. Man. High-G.D.P. Man has a long commute to work and drives an automobile that gets poor gas mileage, forcing him to spend a lot on fuel. The morning traffic and its stresses aren’t too good for his car (which he replaces every few years) or his cardiovascular health (which he treats with expensive pharmaceuticals and medical procedures). High-G.D.P. Man works hard, spends hard. He loves going to bars and restaurants, likes his flat-screen televisions and adores his big house, which he keeps at 71 degrees year round and protects with a state-of-the-art security system. High-G.D.P. Man and his wife pay for a sitter (for their kids) and a nursing home (for their aging parents). They don’t have time for housework, so they employ a full-time housekeeper. They don’t have time to cook much, so they usually order in. They’re too busy to take long vacations. As it happens, all those things — cooking, cleaning, home care, three-week vacations and so forth — are the kind of activity that keep Low-G.D.P. Man and his wife busy. High-G.D.P. Man likes his washer and dryer; Low-G.D.P. Man doesn’t mind hanging his laundry on the clothesline. High-G.D.P. Man buys bags of prewashed salad at the grocery store; Low-G.D.P. Man grows vegetables in his garden. When High-G.D.P. Man wants a book, he buys it; Low-G.D.P. Man checks it out of the library. When High-G.D.P. Man wants to get in shape, he joins a gym; Low-G.D.P. Man digs out an old pair of Nikes and runs through the neighborhood. On his morning commute, High-G.D.P. Man drives past Low-G.D.P. Man, who is walking to work in wrinkled khakis. By economic measures, there’s no doubt High-G.D.P. Man is superior to Low-G.D.P. Man. His salary is higher, his expenditures are greater, his economic activity is more robust. You can even say that by modern standards High-G.D.P. Man is a bigger boon to his country. What we can’t really say for sure is whether his life is any better. In fact, there seem to be subtle indications that various “goods” that High-G.D.P. Man consumes should, as some economists put it, be characterized as “bads.” His alarm system at home probably isn’t such a good indicator of his personal security; given all the medical tests, his health care expenditures seem to be excessive. Moreover, the pollution from the traffic jams near his home, which signals that business is good at the local gas stations and auto shops, is very likely contributing to social and environmental ills. And we don’t know if High-G.D.P. Man is living beyond his means, so we can’t predict his future quality of life. For all we know, he could be living on borrowed time, just like a wildly overleveraged bank.
Newsweek became a “better” magazine - but a kind of magazine whose natural audience is smaller by definition. It would be as if McDonald’s or Applebee’s became a tapas bar — yet still needed to fill the same number of seats.