Daily Archives: March 18, 2016

Why Are Some Countries Poor and Others Rich?


Why Nations Fail, Authors: Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson.

By Louis Putterman – Acemoglu and Robinson dismiss the idea that culture has anything to do with national economic success. If Germans are more industrious than, say, Mexicans, they argue, this isn’t a cause of differences in their countries’ respective economic performance but instead a consequence of another variable, the quality of their political and economic institutions.

But separating the quality of institutions from culture, and especially from the norms which underlie aspects of social interaction such as trust and reciprocity, is a daunting challenge. It may in fact be that norms influence the effectiveness of institutions as much as the reverse.

Country rankings in surveys of trust, government quality, prevalence of corruption, and actual incidence of theft in society, are all similar, as are their rankings for per capita income.  So this experiment too supports the idea that the internalizing of pro-social behavioral norms by a society’s members, reinforced by confidence that most others will also behave according to such norms, may indeed be an important factor underpinning the wealth or poverty of nations. more> http://goo.gl/rECEwv

Tech Fuels the Winner-Take-All Economy

By Noah Smith – Several new pieces of research have investigated the cause of declining dynamism among U.S. businesses.

The decreasing success of ambitious companies should be worrying, especially because influential figures in industry have been warning us about it for quite some time. Andrew Grove, former chief executive officer of Intel, has written that U.S. companies struggle to achieve large scale, especially in manufacturing. He largely blames the short-termism of the financial system and the lack of a domestic manufacturing ecosystem.

I would like to suggest a third — and more worrying — possibility. The changing nature of technology may have altered the structure of competition in the U.S. economy, encouraging more monopolies.

Why are today’s growth industries more likely to be winner-take-all? The Internet.

If the Internet breeds natural monopolies that crowd out competition, it could spell trouble for the U.S. economy. more> http://goo.gl/Df2DGZ

Updates from GE

This Scientist’s Got The Power (Plant) In His Hands
By Todd Alhart – Though small in stature, the turbine in the photo could contribute to solving some of the world’s biggest energy challenges, not to mention powering an entire town, says Doug Hofer, a steam turbine specialist at GE Global Research.

“This compact machine will allow us to do amazing things,” Hofer says. “The world is seeking cleaner and more efficient ways to generate power. The concepts we are exploring with this machine are helping us address both.”

Here’s how: The medium spinning this turbine isn’t steam but carbon dioxide, squeezed and heated so high that it forms a supercritical fluid. At that level, the difference between gas and liquid basically disappears and gives the CO2 marvelous properties that the turbine harnesses for superefficient power generation. more> http://goo.gl/7kO8rO

“Nailing Jell-O To The Wall”: How China Shut Down The Open Internet

By Steven Melendez – Not so long ago, techno-utopians and mainstream politicians agreed that trying to censor the Internet was essentially impossible.

China’s government, in particular, realized early on that the Internet was both vital to the country’s economic growth—and a threat to the stability of the Communist regime, says Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Once you actually instill a bit of uncertainty in users, they begin to self-censor,” Segal says.

“I just think a lot of people really thought about the implications of technology but didn’t really think about how all of these things are still rooted in a place and [there’s still] a jurisdiction and sovereignty over them,” he says.

“Companies still had people that could be arrested, and users still could be arrested.” more> http://goo.gl/oPr9s9